On October 15, 2010, AlpTransit Gotthard AG, a subsidiary of Swiss Federal Railways, won Switzerland the title of the home of the world’s longest and deepest railway tunnel, when its boring machine (nicknamed Sissi), drilling from Faido, broke through the last bit of rock on the route under the Gotthard massif to Sedrun. Due to be operational by the end of 2017, the 35-mile (57km), $10.1 billion base tunnel project consists of two parallel single-track tubes connected every 1,066' (325m) by short galleries. One- and two-thirds of the way along are Faido and Sedrun multifunction stations, emergency stopping points and where trains can change tracks.

As befits an event of this importance (the tunnel will shorten Zurich/Milan travel time by almost an hour), SRG SSR, the country’s largest broadcaster and electronic media company, laid more than 3.7 miles (6km) of fiber optic cable onsite and broadcast the event live throughout Switzerland and internationally from six different locations, including the main official ceremony venue in Sedrun. SRG SSR subsidiary RSI (Switzerland’s Italian language broadcaster), covered the event from Faido, where a large group of miners and construction workers took part in the celebrations, following the historic breakthrough via an impressive array of AV and lighting technology installed underground by Swiss contractor Emme of Boggio.

At right angles to the main area hosting the Faido event’s stage were three sections of narrower tunnel. Two 427' (130m) sections running opposite one another were outfitted with “lounge” seating and tables along the walls, from which spectators followed the event on AV Stumpfl Vario 64 projection screens flown from the trussing mounted along the roof. Each section was illuminated by Clay Paky fixtures: four Alpha Spot 575 HPE units projecting gobos on the walls, six Stage Color 300s, and four CP Color 400s. Two more of the larger screens were mounted for the event: one as a backdrop on the stage set up by Emme, which also built the platform for the RSI production and camera team, and the other at the intersection with the two lounge zones.

Each screen had an accompanying Eiki LC projector: XT3 Beamer 10Ks on the smaller ones and XT4 Beamer 12K models on the larger versions. Video control and routing of RSI’s feed from the breakthrough site and live coverage of the celebrations were via a Barco ScreenPRO II HD switcher and relative ScreenPRO Controller.

The third narrow tunnel section at 1,083' (330m) long hosted the 1,200 guests at the celebration dinner. Fixtures flown from the truss bar running along the center of the roof included16 DTS Delta 7 LED RGB Wash fixtures, 26 Teclumen Stage Color 18 Full Color PAR LED units, and 16 PAR56 units.

The event, presented by ex-Miss Switzerland Christa Rigozzi and a former manager at Faido, included performances by the country’s famous alpenhorns, a group of classical French horns, and folk-rock singer/songwriter Davide Van de Sfroos. The performances were illuminated by a rig featuring 14 Clay Paky Alpha Halo 1200s, eight Alpha Beam 700s, and four Alpha Profile 1200s.

Emme owner Michele Alvarez, the Faido event’s LD, also programmed the various scenes on a Compulite Vector Blue console. “We had worked on smaller AlpTransit events in the past, and the company more or less left us carte blanche for the lighting design,” he says. “The brief was to transform the tunnels, creating different atmospheres for the various zones and the various events on the day’s program. We used the Teclumen color changers to create the atmospheres and for when the last diaphragm of rock was demolished. The moving head fixtures created a tremor-like wave effect running along the tunnels.”

Regarding challenges involved in the underground work, Alvarez says that, from the point of view of Emme’s 16-man team, site temperature and humidity meant they all had to drink a considerable amount of water to avoid dehydration. As far as the equipment was concerned, the lighting designer notes that the difference came after the event. “Although we were about 10km from the diaphragm demolition site, the big issue was airborne dust, which didn’t cause any operating problems,” he says. “The Clay Paky fixtures ensure reliability even in demanding conditions, but the whole rig had to be thoroughly cleaned when it got back to our HQ.”

Sound-wise, although there was a small line array PA at the stage and 60 compact loudspeaker enclosures mounted in the trussing throughout the location, Alvarez stressed the key role played by the eight Outline H.A.R.D. monitors on stage (six 115 and two 212 versions). “After having tested other European and US manufacturers, we chose these Italian enclosures for their low profile—ideal for events in which camera sightlines are of fundamental importance, as was the case at Faido—and the fact that their sound is right in your face, indispensable for the number and variety of artists performing,” concludes Alvarez.

Mike Clark, ex-sound engineer, road manager, radio personality, and club DJ, is a UK-born journalist residing in Italy and specializing in entertainment-related technology. He has contributed to LD under its four names for 15 years, and he also works as a technical translator for audio and lighting manufacturers.