Sandhurst On Fire With ETC

Large format projection specialists ETC UK supplied five 6Kw PIGI film projectors with double rotating scrollers and four Barco R18 video projectors for Music On Fire, a spectacular three-day mixed-media extravaganza and “Firework Prom” staged at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Surrey, England.

ETC UK amalgamated their new OnlyView video control system with the Pigi large format film projection and control platform, OnlyCue, to bring the projections alive on the 150m wide by 10m high, cream painted, Old Academy building.

This provided a stunning, graphic, and pictorial backdrop to the two-hour event, which featured a two act narrative and music from an collaboration of several different military orchestras and bands, plus special guests, and eye-catching pyrotechnics from Pyro Vision.

Music On Fire was devised and produced by Major Sir Michael Parker for the Army Benevolent Fund, following the huge success of a similar event two years ago.

Paul Chatfield, ETC UK’s media designer, started work on the project back in May. Collaborating closely with Parker, Chatfield researched, designed, and produced all the necessary film and video artwork for the projection storyboard accompanying the selected music and narrative voice-over. This encompassed an immense timescale starting from the creation of the Earth, moving through various ‘war and peace’ episodes in history up to modern day Iraq and Afghanistan, highlighting some of the many conflicts in which the armed forces have been engaged, illustrating the significant role they have played in shaping the world.

Chatfield sourced material from many places including Land Forces UK in Wilton, the Firepower Museum in Woolwich, assorted Army and photographic archives and some previous show footage.

The most challenging aspect to creating the show’s projection media was that, with it being played live each night, they had no guiding soundtrack for the ‘work in progress phase’, just a script containing a series of cues. Estimating the duration that projection cues needed to last in advance was extremely difficult and had to be flexible and subject to organic variations in the nightly orchestral pace.

The final result saw approximately 45 different projection looks combined with an additional 30 video cues spread across the full length of the building, providing vital visual contexts to the narrative. The video projections were either burnt over the top of the PIGI images or dropped into specifically created masks in the artwork.

The OnlyCue system was programmed and operated by Andy Murrell. OnlyView was programmed and operated by Danny Croft who controlled all the video content including live camera for the two video surfaces.

The projectors were positioned 46m from the building covered by Steeldeck hides, with special new weatherproof covers. Time was in extremely short supply, with two nights of programming preceding the only complete run-through with orchestra before the first show. “The flexibility and speed of OnlyView was really impressive during this period,” says Chatfield. “Especially for accommodating last minute timing changes of which there were many as the show and the music came together properly for the first time.”

The event was a success, with attendances of over 10,000 people a night.

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