Four Wholehog® 3 lighting consoles from High End Systems are controlling the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

The Opening Ceremonies on February 10 drew a TV audience of 2 billion and a spectator crowd of 35,000 for the artistic spectacle at the Olympic Stadium in Turin.

Lighting is by Durham Marenghi, whose previous designs include The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the Ceremony of Annexation of Hong Kong to China. His team included lighting coordinators Eneas MacKintosh and Nick Jones, and programmers Ross Williams, Mark Payne, Pryderi Baskerville, and Emiliano Morgia. Production designer is Mark Fisher, known for Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, the Superbowl and more mega-events.

Williams says the LD Marenghi decided from an early stage he would use four programmers-–each on a console--to bring his concept to life for the opening and closing ceremonies.

“This was a wise decision given the scale of the event, allowing a continuous workflow with any or all operators at one time, however it posed its own problems technically,” Williams explains. “The idea was simple--that no one console was the ‘main’ desk, rather that the rig and workload were shared in all areas across the system. Thus the blueprint for the control design was born: four consoles, each with their own tracking backup, controlling lights via 10 dimmer areas stadium wide. Furthermore, each operator needed the ability to program the lights at floor level, plugging directly into the network at any location. Each console needed to connect to one or all of 3 WYSIWYG systems running in the lighting design sky booth.”

“Armed with these requirements,” Williams says, “we turned to High End Systems and their Wholehog 3 console. It was an obvious choice as all operators-–myself, Mark Payne, Pryderi Baskerville and Emiliano Morgia--were experienced long-time Wholehog 2 programmers, and although in some cases relatively new to the Wholehog 3, the transition was an easy one to make.”

The design included more than 900 moving heads, almost 1,000 LED fixtures, and 400 odd dimmers, from various manufacturers, or to put it another way, 24,500 DMX channels. This required no fewer than 21 DP2000s (Data Processors) with the Wholehog 3s to distribute each console’s data to the required areas.

Says Williams, “As so often the case with large shows, the programming was relatively straightforward. Getting to the point where we could start was the real challenge; however we were all pleasantly surprised with how easy the Wholehog 3 system was to plug and play. Some of the fixtures were relatively new, having been tested previously on a handful of shows only, and a large amount of library modelling was required to accommodate this. All things considered we were up and running very quickly from a control point of view.”

The weather on the other hand, was not quite so controllable, Williams points out. “This is where the WYSIWYG connectivity really came into its own,” he says. “Meanwhile, the system had to endure harsh outside temperatures with snowfall and some very damp days, which thankfully it did. It ran for between 12 and 20 hours per day for well over a month. Response time and synchronous playback were both impressive across the whole rig, which was really important as the show was ‘in the round’ and opposite ends of the stadium were clearly visible at the same time.

He adds, “It’s not every day you get to light a show with a cast of 6,000 for an audience of 2 billion. We are very grateful for the support of High End Systems on this project assisting us to achieve this.”

High End Systems’ Chris Ferrante, Frank Schotman and Jason Potterf were on the scene as programming support for the opening. They return for the Feb. 26 closing ceremonies, a production design based on the carnival and circus world, inspired by Frederico Fellini.

This is not the first time a console in the Wholehog family has performed at the Olympics. A number of Wholehog 2 consoles controlled both ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Complete coverage of the events will be in the April issue of Live Design.