CPL Helps Arcadia Morph into Bristol

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Arcadia’s giant fire-breathing spider landed in the Queen’s Square in Bristol and unleashed the incredible new “Metamorphosis” show – compete with three mini-spiders, Lords of Lightening, an eye-popping mixed-media and visual extravaganza with high energy performer and DJ line up for two nights … enjoyed by over 20,000 people.

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Working closely with Arcadia’s technical production manager Tim Smith, Central Presentations Ltd (CPL) was again very proud to supply projection equipment and crew, and to be part of this incredible performance experience uniting theatre, architecture, engineering and much technical audacity. The previous time had been at the 2015 Glastonbury Festival.

The CPL team was led by Richard Burrow, who commented, “We are all passionate about our part in bringing the Arcadia concept to life, and it was hugely exciting and challenging to work in a completely different environment from a green-field site”.

The juxtaposition of the 50 tonne spider, created from recycled industrial waste and the brainchild of Pip Rush and Bert Cole, and the historical - much of it listed - buildings and decorum of Queen’s Square added another edge of resonance and visual texture to the high energy performance.

Richard and his CPL crew of Sam Starkey and George Oakey arrived on site a week ahead of the shows to help co-ordinate all the projection elements.

They collaborated closely with Video Illusions, whose Dave Whiteoak first originated the idea of adding movement and detail with video to the spider’s three legs, and with Tom Wall from blinkinLAB who created the bespoke show video footage and animations.

In terms of hardware, the projection system that was so successful at Glastonbury was replicated in Queen’s Square.

This was designed by CPL and Video Illusions and comprised six Panasonic PT-DZ21K projectors positioned on towers in special weatherised hides, each beaming onto the front and back of each spider leg.

The video footage was mapped and warped precisely to fit onto the three spider’s legs using an Avolites AI media server, and the Metamorphosis show cues were all triggered by timecode, generated by the overall Arcadia custom show control system.

Adding to the general craziness and fun, the Metamorphosis video material resembled mechanical and machinery movement brining enhanced crisp definition and animation to the massive 12 metre high beast.

The projector platforms were located around Queen Square approximately 40 meters away from the spider structure, so they had a serious throw distance to deal with.

CPL used six Connex 2-way fibre DVI/RJ45 fibre optic converter transmission systems which enabled both the data carrying the content to the machines and the projector control signals including on/off, colour settings, contrast, geometry control and other monitoring and feedback to run down the same cable. This is a neat, robust solution designed for live event that saves time and reduces the need for unnecessary and unwieldy cabling.

Managing the temperature of the projectors within the weatherised housings needed considerable fine-tuning explains Richard, and the unpredictable and somewhat soggy weather was the biggest overall challenge for all the technical departments … and everyone working on site. 

Imaginatively lit, the show featured physical movement via the spider’s hydraulic claws that plucked performers out of the crowd and incarcerated them in giant cocoons and eggs as part of the show narrative. The mini spiders moved across the performance space as they rescued the abducted!

The half-hour Metamorphosis show was followed by a strong Bristol-connected artist line-up including Roni Size and Reprazent, Congo Natty and Leftfield on the Friday, and Annie Mac, Monki and Eats Everything on Saturday.

Photo by Ben Daure

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