Groupe Novelty Wows Millions At Mother Of All City Light Festivals

With 32 sites and 2.3 million visitors, the 2023 Lyon Festival of Lights once again lived up to its global reputation as the most sought-after canvas for international lighting designers and artists. Groupe Novelty, Europe’s leading provider of technical solutions for the live events industry, transformed the festival’s most iconic site like never before during the latest Festival of Lights last December.

Drawing on its vast stock of AV equipment – the largest inventory in Europe – and more than 50 years of event production experience (including over a decade for the Festival of Lights), Groupe Novelty provided the technical backbone for the festival’s top location, using the City Hall and 17th-century Museum of Fine Arts that surround the Place des Terreaux as the canvas for a projection-mapped audiovisual spectacular, paying tribute to Lyon’s cinematic heritage.

Created by digital artist Bruno Ribeiro, with a soundtrack by French electronic music producer Rone, CELLULO/D (pronounced “Celluloid”) celebrated the works of the inventors of cinema, the Lumière brothers. Ribeiro used modern AI technology to reimagine and reinterpret some of the brothers’ earliest motion pictures, such as giving a Wild Western and cartoon makeover to 1895’s Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.

A Festival of Lights regular since 2009, local Groupe Novelty’s subsidiary Novelty AURA has forged a reputation in the city of lights over the years, producing several milestone projects, including the illumination of the Fourvière hill and its Basilica, which overlooks Lyon. Its relationship with Ribeiro, however, is considerably younger, the two parties having first met at Aura Invalides, a projection-mapping show in Paris last September, explains Arnaud Douchet, director of Novelty AURA.

“We decided to apply together for the Place des Terreaux, one of the most coveted sites in the whole festival,” recalls Douchet. “This was exciting for both of us, as Bruno had never created any work for the Festival of Lights and we [Novelty] had never worked on this iconic site.”

Celebrated around the 8th of December each year, the Lyon Festival of Lights commemorates the inauguration of the golden statue of the Virgin Mary in 1852. On that day, after a violent storm cancelled the festivities, the people of Lyon spontaneously lit candles on their window sills at nightfall to thank the Virgin – a tradition that lives on 170 years later in the form of the modern four-day Fête des Lumières, which transforms the city’s buildings, squares, bridges and rivers into a riot of lights and colours.

Picture of a building being projected content onto

Novelty AURA started by creating a 3D scan of the square and its buildings, to map the area with extreme precision and ensure maximum impact for the projection. The company’s mission, explains Douchet, was to translate Ribeiro’s artistic requirements into a technical reality. “The mapping needed to be impactful, immersive and have even coverage,” he says. “Bruno knew that he could leave the technical aspect to us to focus on creating the content – he would only have to bring his USB stick and plug it in during rehearsals and everything would magically work.”

To make Ribeiro’s vision a reality, Douchet and his team worked closely with sister company Alabama Média (also based in Lyon), which supplied the projection equipment and media servers.

To create a 48 metres long by 26.5 metres wide video mapping on the City Hall, Alabama specified six Panasonic PT-RZ21K projectors in dual mode. Six Barco UDX-4K32s, also in dual mode and complemented by a pair of PT-RZ21Ks for the pediment, covered the entire length of the Museum of Fine Arts façade (102 x 29 metres). Three Modulo Kinetic servers and two Lightware matrix routers completed the video set-up.

Julien Pavillard, events director and general coordinator of the Festival of Lights, highlights the significance of Ribeiro’s artwork: “We were very happy to have CELLULO/D at the festival because it raises questions about how AI changes not only the artistic approach of creators but how it can help our imaginations evolve – the same way cinema did in its time. When it first appeared, cinema could be frightening, but today everyone appreciates cinema and has embraced this new reality, which seems natural. It will be the same for AI in the future.”

Another member company of Groupe Novelty, Novelty Toulouse, created custom-made, air-conditioned housings for the projectors, AV equipment and staff. Featuring an inconspicuous, timber-clad structure, the containers were designed to blend in with their environment and not draw attention away from the show. With up to four units fitting in a single semi-trailer lorry, the Novelty Toulouse design also offers users huge savings in time and logistical costs. All logistics were overseen by onsite manager Elvis Dagier.

Wooden container housing projectors

The deployment of the video equipment was arguably the biggest challenge and one where the lightweight wooden containers really came into their own. “The main issue was the load: with a car park underneath, the square can ‘only’ accommodate 1T/sqm,” explains Douchet, “so we had to make lots of precise calculations to ensure the projectors didn’t end up in the car park!”.

Away from the Place des Terreaux, Novelty AURA also brought its technical knowhow to bear on another city landmark, the Fresque des Lyonnais, with a complete audiovisual video mapping by artist collective Les Allumeurs de Rêves (‘The Dream Lighters’). The installation brought the 800sqm painted mural, which depicts some of the most famous people from Lyon, to life, illuminating and animating the already lifelike illustrations of the Lumière brothers, the chef of the century Paul Bocuse, prime minister Edouard Herriot, Roman emperor Claudius, and other famous Lyonnaises and Lyonnais.

Douchet describes the technical cooperation between the Groupe Novelty companies as being a key factor in the success of CELLULO/D, which marked the group’s highest-profile involvement in the Festival of Lights to date. “To be able to do everything in house, alongside people you can trust to be experts in their field, makes for smoother organisation, fewer headaches and, ultimately, a better final result for our clients and their customers,” he says.

“The Place des Terreaux has always been a key heritage site for the festival, and the public has huge expectations for it, as many major artists have shown their art there,” adds Pavillard. “Novelty is deeply involved in the festival, and a relationship of trust has developed with them over the years. At the 2023 festival, Groupe Novelty again proved that they are a reliable and highly competent partner with whom we work in complete confidence.”