During Lent, Rome's old Jewish fish market, an extraordinary example of industrial architecture near the Eternal City's Circo Massimo, hosted the fourth edition of Lent Experiments, staged by the Alda Fendi cultural foundation, founded by one of the Fendi sisters, world-famous fashion designers.

The event's title, Of Ambergris and Camphor, is taken from a poem by a 10th-century Lebanese poet who dreamed of West and East being united, with Abraham as a single founder of the three major religions. The focus was on misunderstandings, similarities, and differences between Western and Eastern civilizations.

The cast for the multimedia show included actress/author Veronica De Laurentis (movie producer Dino's daughter) as Mater Dolorosa, former fashion model Simonetta Gianfelici as the Archangel Gabriel, and a song performed live by Village People.

To play back an equally varied selection of recorded music — including selections by Annie Lennox, Donizzetti, Berlioz, Rossini, Vivaldi, and Frank — local audio rental firm Madema supplied a Meyer Sound rig. Swiss sound engineer Klaus Hausherr notes, “There were four hangs of four M1D self-powered arrays flown from the truss bars. Two UPAs were flown from a truss bar in front of the audio, lighting, and video control platforms. The subwoofers were four floor-mounted P650.”

Hausherr, who manned a Yamaha DM2000, prepared and edited all the music and recorded dialog during pre-production with his trusty Mac, an M-Audio card, and Logic Pro. He adds, “We put a set of UM1P monitors on stage for Village People's performance — they sang live with a recorded backing track. Two MSL4s were mounted on the subs, and a MSL6 was mounted outdoors between the two entrance doors. The only non-Meyer enclosures were eight EAW JF100s, mounted around the perimeter walls of the room, for a specific ‘surround’ effect of an Arab falconer calling his falcon.”

LD Marco Macrini was at his third edition of the event, so he already knew that the layout and limited height of the room would oblige him to exploit the framing/beam shaping system of the 28 Martin Pro MAC 2000E Performances in every scene.

On the actual design of the plot, Macrini was assisted by Daniele Peroni, whom the LD considers Italy's top WYSIWYG expert, but did all the rest himself, including console programming and operation. As far as the choice of the individual fixtures was concerned — also supplied by Madema — he says, “The MACs were indispensable, but other less technical hardware included 140m of white neon tubes to create cold lighting for the set when the audience entered, HMI instruments for a violent ‘supernatural’ white light for the Archangel, and a strip of impalpable light at the center of the wall where I installed a 5m-high frame fitted with Lee quarter frost, behind which I placed three ARRI 4kW compact daylight Fresnels. Along the PVC backdrop, I used a series of 16 Anolis ArcLine 36 RGB LED bars for color changing and, for the scene featuring Village People, we installed 12 SGM Palco 3s for a disco feel.”

The video contractor for the event was Ideogamma from Rimini, and owner/virtual set designer Sergio Metalli says, “For this event, we used a total of 12 projectors, eight Sanyo XF46 12,000-lumen units and four Sanyo XF47 15,000 models.”

The projection surfaces comprised a huge semicircular wall made up of 5m-high sheets of metal in front of the audience and two other sheet metal screens behind the audience. The main part of the wall opened in the center to form a 10m-wide opening through which the performers made their entrances, with the PVC backdrop, used by Ideogamma as a further rear projection surface, with two of the four Sanyo 15K units.

“The other two were ceiling-mounted above the semicircular wall, projecting onto the members of the audience and the metal wall behind them,” Metalli continues. “The 12K units projecting onto the main screen were mounted on truss bars flown at various points in the room.”

Projection content included poetry and paintings, such as a processed version of Goya's famous painting of the 1808 execution of the defenders of Madrid and Saint John the Evangelist in Patmos by Cosmè Tura. Some of the most dramatic moments included an exploding meteorite, animated flower petals floating down the screens and onto the audience, a sandstorm in the desert projected onto three Tuaregs on stage, and a 360° desert day from dawn to dusk, which utilized all screens, as did a waterfall thundering down around the room. One notable effect, created using 3D multi-cam technique, was a scene in which 20 planes flying across the screen became dazzling luminous outlines before being transformed into angels from the Giotto painting in Padua's famous Scrovegni Chapel.

Pre-production work was done in Ideogamma's Rimini studios, and last minute fine-tuning was performed onsite. Mattia Metalli, Sergio's son who worked on content, adds, “For compositing, I used Adobe After Effects CS3 and Discreet Combustion 4, and we used Autodesk 3ds Max 2008 with a V-Ray rendering engine for 3D work and Photoshop CS3 for retouching. Our playback system, which included 13 graphics computers, was controlled by Dataton Watchout.”

The elder Metalli notes that the sequences with the planes and angels was chosen for the 2008 Venice Biennale Art Exhibition.