ETC UK created a series of 492 feet wide images across 1,148 feet of water onto Caernarfon Castle for a massive son et lumière event, Merlin’s Magic Quest a show celebrating Welsh history, heritage, and community.
The event comes after a successful pilot project staged in 2004, in which ETC UK projected onto a portion of the castle walls from the bottom of the hill on the town side of the Seiont River. This time, the projections—fed by five PIGI 6Kw projectors with double rotating scrollers—filled the entire side of the castle including three towers and two curtain walls facing the water and were beamed from across the far side of the river.
The brown stone surface was a challenging surface on which to project, but the PIGIs cut through spectacularly, despite the long throw distance.
The 35-minute show involved over 200 of images and filled the 132 feet PIGI scrolls. It was set to a custom composed soundtrack by Malcolm Rowe and also featured live acting by a reenactment society.
Merlin’s Magic Quest was organized and produced by John Thirsk of Y Grael Cyf (The Grail), a not-for-profit organization aiming to use lighting and visuals to boost Caernarfon as a visitor attraction, along the lines of Blackpool illuminations, the idea being to stage regular shows.
Thirsk did the storyboard for the show, which was then illustrated by ETC UK’s Ross Ashton, working with Paul Chatfield who turned them into PIGI artwork.
Interacting with the mist, the dusky skies and with sparkling reflections skimming across the water, the giant images made a dramatic backdrop for everyone watching the show. With no narrative track, each image had to be strong and speak for itself as the show recalled a millennium of Welsh history.
Ashton comments, “After the success of the pilot, it was great to see the full project come to fruition—and hats off to everyone at The Grail who persevered to get it staged. The castle is a fantastic building on which to work, augmented by fabulous surrounding scenery—all adding to some real magic in the end result.”
The ETC UK team of Ashton, Phil Pieridis, and Karen Monid arrived onsite five days before the first show. Monid did all the onsite programming using an OnlyCue PC-based system, and this was one of the most complicated elements of the show. With only one PIGI machine per surface section of the castle, the fade ins and outs had to be staggered so they built up and fell away and effectively emulated a two complete cross fading images. Four solid nights of programming were required, working closely with the soundtrack.
The projectors were housed in custom built weatherized scaffolding hides, located in a garden across the Sieont, kindly donated for the duration by a resident. Generator power was supplied by Golden Triangle.
Two shows were run for two nights, with audiences choosing to view either from just below the castle on the town side or across the water.
The event was a resounding success, and John Thirsk comments, “This is the first of what we hope will be a series of son et lumières that will help revitalize the heart of the region, bringing an even greater sense of pride to Caernarfon and the surrounding areas.”