With origins dating back to the Middle Ages, the present-day Roman Carnival, promoted by Roma Capitale, is an 11-day calendar of highly varied cultural events for all age groups, in which horses still play such an important role that it is the equestrian event with the largest audience in Europe (600,000 attended in 2011).

The program was inaugurated by a huge opening parade (with more than 100 horses, coaches, performers in period costumes supplied by the Eternal City’s Teatro dell’Opera, and reenactment groups) and, although other world-famous locations—Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona, and Castel San’Angelo—hosted key events, Piazza del Popolo (once the starting point for the Berber races) was the main center of attraction. This year, the square hosted an arena featuring a series of spectacular equestrian events, with high-impact HD video projections on the façade of the gate leading into the square and on its famous Neptune Fountain. Called in by Zètema-Progetto Cultura, the company that organizes all the events for Roma Capitale, Unità C1 was responsible for the projections and the show arena’s highly suggestive lighting. In addition to the fanfare of the 8th Regiment of Lancers of Montebello, the 4th Regiment of horseback Carabinieri, and horseback groups from Italy’s National Police and Forest Rangers, there was also an exciting show by the Maremma butteri, Italy’s horseback cowboys.

Unità C1 project manager Lorenzo Lopane says, “For the projections and lighting, we interacted with our client, Zètema, the equestrian program’s artistic director Marco Lepre, and the directors of the shows alternating in the arena during the Carnival, Gianluca Coppetta and Umberto Scotti.” The video content projected on the gate consisted of HD recorded images with green-screen footage of Res Extensa dance company’s Elisa Barrucchieri and Anna Moscatelli wearing period costumes. 2D and 3D graphics were added to form an eight-minute show repeated during the evening projections. Live coverage of the arena events was also screened on the gate. Two Christie Digital Roadie HD+30K DLP® digital projectors were stacked on a scaffolding tower at a height of 6m (20') for the bottom part of the gate, while a single Christie Roadster HD18K projected on the upper part, installed 8m (26') high on the same tower. The tower was set up 75m (246') from the center of the gate and also hosted the control room. Content was controlled via two coolux Pandoras Box Media Server Pro 5.0 systems. The concept, storyboard realization, recording, mapping, warping, and executive production were by Unità C1 staffers: Gianni Stabile (graphic production manager and media server programmer), Roberto Santoro (video director and graphic producer), Eugenio Laddago (cameraman), Ezio Antonelli (storyboard and artistic direction), Andrea Mordenti (production manager), and Lopane.

Loud Professional gear, supplied by Gianchi Srl, handled the sound reinforcement system for the projections’ soundtrack. This included eight VH Layer 112H line array systems stacked on a platform at a height of 3m (10') and four floor-installed VH Sub218R subwoofers, powered by Lab.Gruppen fp series amps and digitally processed via XTA Electronics DPA 448 units. For the fountain projections, a pair of Christie Roadster S+16K SXGA DLP digital projectors, side-by-side for edge blending, covered the base of the fountain, and a Sanyo PLC-XF47 XGA unit handled the group of statues on its summit. All three projected from an angled position on the lighting towers at the corners of the performance arena, at a distance of approximately 63m (207'), and the setup was controlled by three Dataton Watchout 4.0 Display PC systems. Video hardware was supplied by Elettronica ‘83 Se.Di.Co. Srl and Gianchi Srl.

For the lighting of the performance arena, an area of the square 50m long and 30m wide (164'x 98') covered with a layer of compacted earth, Lopane explains, “The design submitted to us by Zètema, based on their experience in previous years, featured a scaffolding tower at each of the four corners of the arena, 40m (131') of tiered seating on the long sides, and two curtains also on the long sides through which performers and their horses entered from the zones hosting backstage dressing rooms and stables. The short ends of the arena were marked off by the Egyptian obelisk, brought to Rome in 30 BC, at one end and the fountain at the other. We integrated the design with scenographic projections on the fountain’s wall and statues, creating a more compact visual front, and added four bars of ACLs and ten Clay Paky Alpha Wash 1200 units on the trussing supporting the curtains. Using the lighting and architectural video projections on the fountain, we created a large trapezium front with the road up to the Pincio gardens as a backdrop, framing the equestrian shows to great effect.” The snow that arrived was unusual for Rome, and the shows had to remain outdoors for two weeks in February, so additional bracing, roofing, and “packaging” were necessary for the scaffolding towers, supplied, as was all the rigging, by Hathos.

The arena lighting rig had to ensure a high color impact, with no compromises or dark zones. Lopane continues, “I chose a highly effective Italian architectural product with a 2,500W HMI lamp, Griven’s Kolorado MK3, and installed eight on the four towers and four on the ground. They did a great job, also providing ‘arena-style’ white light. Over this base, we used 20 Martin MAC 2000 wash units for the white and colored cues, and 20 MAC 2000 Performance plus 10 MAC 2000 Profiles for gobos, effects, etc.” Conventionals included four bars of ACL and 16 DeSisti Leonardo 2kW Fresnels. Atmosphere was added by two Proel hazers and a pair of SGM smoke machines. There were also four 2,500W HMI followspots, and control was via two Avolites consoles: a Pearl 2008 and a 2004. The arena’s sound system, provided by New Sound Service (also the lighting contractor), comprised 24 Electro-Voice XLC DVX systems, a Yamaha LS9 console, and a NetMax control system. After the event, Lopane enthuses, “Apart from the extremely positive feedback from spectators and media for our projections, as far as the lighting was concerned, the challenge was to limit the use of floor-installed fixtures, which are very widespread and often requested for this type of show, to color the arena. We managed to accomplish this with the combined use of the Griven fixtures and the wash units, ensuring very effective visual results without disturbing the horses.”

Mike Clark, ex-sound engineer, road manager, radio personality, and club DJ, is a UK-born journalist residing in Italy and specializing in entertainment-related technology. He has contributed to LD under its four names for 15 years, and he also works as a technical translator for audio and lighting manufacturers.