Large format projection specialists E/T/C London created spectacular large-scale images and produced the soundtrack for a special large-scale outdoor event to launch the new Sunderland Aquatic Center, the Northeast England’s first Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Working closely with show producers Magnetic Events, and soundscape producer Karen Monid, E/T/C’s Ross Ashton interpreted an original storyboard by Magnetic’s Robin Morley to create a 15-minute collage of images based on aquatic themes, interwoven with water-related elements from the City’s past and present, with “the swimmer” at its core.
The show, titled A Poem To Sunderland, took an abstract, non-narrative format and the projections were beamed onto the side of the futuristic building (designed by The Red Box Design Group) located adjacent to the City’s Stadium of Light.
E/T/C London supplied 6 PIGI 6kW projectors, all fitted with double rotating scrollers, and installed on a special projection platform constructed 541 feet away from the Aquatic Center. Using a unique layout, four projectors were soft-edged together to compose the main projection, with the other two used for special effects. The side windows of the Center were whited out to give a more uniform surface for the projections.
The two PIGIs used for effects had their rotation centers offset to create a more dynamic completion of the picture on the building, allowing specific images like giant cogs to move partially onto and off of the main canvas. Karen Monid approached the soundscape creation more like a piece of music than a fixed script, in keeping with Morley’s wish for the work to be non-narrative and catching the spirit of the occasion rather then presenting a literal story. Again, water was a common theme, and audio was also based on the storyboard, merging the sounds of industrial water-based elements like shipbuilding and mining.
Monid worked from original music by vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Seaming To. Seaming To has been called the "Voice of the 21st Century" by BBC Radio 1 and has contributed her unique operatic vocals to Homelife's last few albums. Monid also used samples of local audio archives of Sunderland voices including “Pitmatic”, a local dialect used by coal miners. The Aquatic Centre was built over the top of the historic site of the old Wearmouth Colliery, which was one of the largest coalmines in the area at its peak of operation. “There’s no doubt that working on the projection alongside the soundtrack brings a great fluidity and coherence to the project,” says Ashton.
The soundtrack was played back from a 4-track A-DAT machine, to which the lighting—designed by Neil Colebeck—was synched. Ashton and his team also worked very closely with the pyro crew from The World Famous. Many pyro cues were extremely specific to the moving images, with flares going off as whales’ blow holes spurted water off the top of the images and smoke effects oozed out of chimney stacks. “It was a unique show in terms of integration,” notes Ashton, adding, “Robin has a very good eye for this sort of detail and it was a pleasure to work with him, production manager Daniel Adams and Magnetic Events on this project. It was a real collaboration and has produced a result we’re all very proud of.”
The projection show programming was coordinated by Karen Monid and Erlwin de Gans via an E/T/C OnlyCue system. E/T/C’s crew was completed by PIGI technician Cy Dodimead. Lighting and PA equipment was supplied by Newcastle-based Nite Lites, and the projection show was followed by Hydromania, a water dance performance piece by Avanti Display, which was backed by further projections.