New Video Art For Chartres Cathedral

The famous Gothic façade of Chartres Cathedral was bathed in video projection for the first time ever this year as part of the ongoing Chartres en Lumières event, a six-month annual Festival of Light running from April to September and first launched in 2003. The Cathedral illuminations have always been the main focal point for those enjoying the Chartres en Lumières experience.

Light architect and creative director of Chartres en Lumières, Xavier de Richemont, worked closely with a team from large projection specialists ETC’s Paris office to realise the new work, which involves filling the massive 650-square-metre Cathedral front with stunning images.

De Richemont is now responsible for about 20 different multimedia and light works in and around Chartres, all commissioned by the City Council. Fifteen of these involve PIGI projection supplied by ETC, and he has also worked with ETC’s Paris office on several other projects, all overseen by Guy Garcia, director of permanent Installations.

Each year, new lighting installations are added to the existing ones in Chartres for the summer months, and the event has become a popular tourist attraction.

This year, the Mayor of Chartres decided that the Cathedral, one of the original lighting installations, should be completely revamped, giving de Richemont the opportunity to revisit the task using the latest technology. It represents his largest piece of video art to date.

ETC supplied the 3 Christie 25K video projectors to cover the impressive front face of the Cathedral, measuring 120 metres high to the tip of the spires and 50 metres wide, which was previously lit with 4 PIGI machines.

The advantages of using video are many. It’s a highly flexible medium which greatly multiplies the creative possibilities in terms of color, movement, transitions, etc. The optical corrections are much easier to achieve and it offers stronger colour density without the need to change films.

ETC’s OnlyView system is used for control, synched to a multitrack providing a 12 minute montage of music by Francis Poulenc, specially created by de Richemont. The show runs on a loop from dusk to midnight for each night of the festival.

To leave clear sight lines in front of the Cathedral, the projectors are positioned off to one side. The Christies are housed approximately 80m from the Cathedral, at a horizontal angle of 30°, with a vertical offset ranging from 0-45°.

OnlyView is used for all the horizontal and vertical keystoning and perspective correction, for the line up, and for edge-blending the three images together, each projector handling a lateral third of the total image.

Using video has also meant that de Richemont has been able to be even more detailed and complex in his image designs. He spent approximately six months compiling and creating the content. The show unfolds along two visual threads, a contemporary one using the stained glass of the windows as inspiration, drawing patterns on the Cathedral in broken shards which are then filled with different colors that change. These pieces then start “flying” off the church to reveal the original Romanesque Cathedral building as it could have once been. The three main signs on the Cathedral, the sun, the moon, and Christ, are all highlighted with Synchrolites at the start of the show.

De Richemont says of ETC Paris, “They are always professional and the technicians really listen to what you need. Since working with ETC, I have learned a lot about the equipment and its possibilities, and we have a great artistic understanding, it’s really vital that it goes beyond just a technical relationship.”

Amongst the numerous other sites illuminated with projection by ETC for the 2007 Chartres en Lumières were the Place Evora, Collègiale St Andrè, Eglise St Pierre and the town’s new Mediathèque.

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