Costa Cruises recently opened C-Dream, a cutting edge multi-media venue located in the company's Genoa, Italy, headquarters, where facilities include a bar, library, and a zone equipped with tablet PCs, Web access, headsets for viewing stereoscopic videos while relaxing on a chaise lounge, and a video wall screening footage of cruise life.

As well as being in charge of AV, video, lighting, effects, stage, and television aspects of the company's ships as far as operations, programming, and staff coordination, Costa Cruises entertainment technical manager Paolo Campanelli was also involved in video system and control room design. The goal was “to create an atmosphere between romantic and fairytale, in which clients have a foretaste of life on our cruises, and it took several months and eventually included a combination of technology and effects hitting almost all their senses — smell, hearing, and sight — and making it a truly unique venue,” says Campanelli.

LD Davide Trentacoste, who works frequently with Costa Cruises programming shows staged in the company's onboard theatres, also specified the fixtures for C-Dream. His brief from the architects (Marcello Albini and Manuela Venturini) was to create a surreal atmosphere able to completely change color throughout or in separate zones. The resulting project is a perfect example of the increasingly widespread application of LED technology in interior architectural lighting, as the venue's system has over 3,100 LEDs under the control of a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 3 console with three DMX universes.

Twenty-six SGM Palco 3 LED color changers featuring 49 high-power Luxeon LEDs (five blues, 20 greens, and 24 reds) were customized for the venue. “Their heads were separated from the ballasts to facilitate installation in the false ceiling and fitted with glass-holder face-plates designed by the architects,” Trentacoste explains.

Seventy Strip Module LED color-changing systems by UK company Tryka are used to rearlight hand-painted Plexiglas ceiling panels in the entrance zone. Of the 126 Tryka MR-16 RGB LED units, 118 are three-LED versions, ceiling-recessed around the venue's perimeter and floor-mounted to uplight opaque glass panels; the others (six-LED versions) are recessed outside the restrooms. The venue's 31 Xilver Droplets, tiny moving head LED fixtures, are completely controllable via DMX and mix colors with four red, four green, and four blue Luxeon LEDs.

The only non-LED instruments are three Robe Recessed Spot 170s, a ceiling-mount version of the ColorSpot 170AT, featuring a rotating gobo wheel, dichroic color wheel, and a compact discharge lamp. These are used in an area of the club with a swing and project gobos and colors onto a water screen whenever somebody sits on the swing.

The center of the venue hosts Spirula Spirula, a spiral sculpture by Jacopo Foggini in synthetic resin, the outside of which is lit by recessed Tryka fixtures and the inside with a series of continuously moving Droplets. When clients reach the center of the sculpture, which forms a spiral curtain made up of countless resin rings that reflect the light to great effect, a sensor triggers a color change which turns the sculpture into a sort of ice house and an extremely realistic spatialized recording of the Costa fleet's flagship at sea.

“Each fixture was chosen according to requirements based on C-Dream's architecture,” Trentacoste explains. “The Palco 3 was precisely what we needed for a color wash throughout the whole venue, while the Tryka MR-16 RGB Module 3s helped with strokes of color over this basic wash, and the MR-16 RGB Module 6s were indispensable for more difficult areas to illuminate, such as the glass ceiling zone leading to the toilets. The Xilver Droplets are real gems of technology — mini moving head fixtures that get your light wherever you need it, and I opted for the Robe recessed Spot 170, as it was a perfect low-impact solution for this particular architectural situation, where they're used for gobo and color projections.”

In spite of the number of fixtures, supplied by local dealer Audio Effetti, C-Dream has just one dimmer, SGM's six-channel 612D digital unit, used with the venue's more traditional lighting, such as the huge red chandelier in the lounge, the illuminated bar counter, Venini Murano glass lamp above it, and all the exterior neon lighting.

As far as control and programming was concerned, Trentacoste swore by the versatility of the Wholehog 3 console in C-Dream's high-tech control room and made extensive use of its automation, macro, timing, color, and effects functions. The program ensures that the venue's look changes constantly, around the clock, every day of the year, and also takes the seasons into consideration. Plus, passersby can see into the closed venue at night, so there's a night schedule that enables the fixtures to run resets and back-up alternately, while others continue to operate. There's also a cue that lights the venue for cleaning before opening time.

In spite of its prevalently no-hands year-round operation, the Modero ViewPoint wireless Touch Panels of the venue's AMX network (programmed by Cristiano Romani) allow even inexperienced ops to override the automation and run certain lighting cues should the need arise.

Trentacoste concludes, “My brief was to ensure the venue's color could be changed as required throughout or in specific zones, and that has definitely been achieved, with a rig I think is unique for this type of venue, as it has such a high percentage of LED-based fixtures.”

Mike Clark is a freelance writer based in Italy. He can be reached at

Gear List

3 Robe Recessed Spot 170
26 SGM Palco 3 LED color changers
118 Tryka MR16 RGB Module 3
8 Tryka MR16 RGB Module 6
70 Tryka Strip Modules (36 LED - 120cm versions)
31 Xilver Droplets automated moving LED fixtures
1 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 3 console
1 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 3 Backup Unit
1 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 3 DP 2000 DMX Processor
1 SGM Powerlite 612D 6-channel digital dimmer (for traditional fixtures)

LD Davide Trentacoste (far right) specified the fixtures used for C-Dream's design. The fixtures needed to be able to change the color of each zone throughout the venue, such as the blue, pinks, and reds pictured. More than 3,100 LEDs controlled by a Wholehog 3 accomplish this task.