Projection artist Ross Ashton of London, UK based The Projection Studio was invited back to Caerphilly Castle in Wales – by popular demand – to recreate his fabulous “Illuminata” digital art son et Lumière.
The commission – for which Ashton also designed the large format projection system used to bring the work to life – was from Cadw – the Welsh Assembly Government division responsible for preserving and promoting the history and heritage of Wales.
The 2010 event was the first time that an entertainment spectacle of this genre had been commissioned for a Cadw historical monument, and proved such a massive success that they decided to repeat the experience for three evenings this year.
Ashton’s 20 minute work depicted the history and stories of the castle, accompanied by a special audio track produced by sound artist Karen Monid.
Working at Caerphilly Castle again was a “Fantastic” experience enthused Ashton, who has produced detailed and very specific works for many landmark building and site specific locations worldwide. Caerphilly is the largest castle in Wales (and only second to Windsor in the UK) and complete with formidable water defences, one of the largest fortresses in Europe, dating back to 1267.
The projection work was projected onto two buildings in the Inner Ward of the Castle – the rear of the Gatehouse, and the Main Hall, at 90 degrees to its right. The images measured approximately 30 metres wide onto both surfaces and the three Christie HD18 projectors were positioned 50 metres away. These were supplied by QED to the Projection Studio.
A double stacked pair rigged at the top of a scaffolding platform covered the Gatehouse, with the third single machine positioned at the end of a long balcony on the building opposite the Main Hall.
All the content – including some impressive PiP elements shaped and fitted millimetre-perfectly to the architecture of the buildings – was loaded onto 3 OnlyView servers, and programmed by Richard Porter & Karen Monid.
Ashton was engaged for the project by Marilyn Lewis, Director of Cadw. After receiving the original brief, he worked closely with Lewis and Cadw, a storyline was developed from which he chose specific elements that would look best with large video projections, whilst preserving the timeline and events chronology.
A major creative challenge was designing a show without a voice-over accompaniment. Welsh Assembly Government projects need to be fully bilingual; however a show without spoken word effectively removes the need for simultaneous translation. The narrative therefore had to be very strong within the visual material with a minimal amount of text and the atmospheric enhancement of the soundscape.
Original artwork for the show was produced by Ashton and his team of Paul Chatfield and Steve Larkins, together with some 3D animations by Richard Porter. Cadw provided archival material and also commissioned illustrator Mike Cooper (of 2000AD/Judge Dredd fame) to produce original works, which were drawn to the Projection Studio’s specification allowing them to be easily animated when the final show’s video content was edited and composited.
Karen Monid’s sound track was a fusion of sound effects and music, much of it specially written by her for the piece. Other parts were sourced from record labels Naxos and Boosey & Hawkes plus some original recordings, including some red kites, a local bird of prey.
Ashton comments, “This was a great opportunity to work in an amazing environment again, plus a massive honour to be asked back and enjoy the opportunity of bringing the location alive through an entertaining and fun mixed media experience”.
“Illuminata” is the second repeat show that Ashton and The Projection Studio has produced this autumn, following their extremely popular “Crown of Light” projected artwork on Durham Cathedral, which was invited back for the city’s 2011 Lumière event in October.
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