Thursday, 1st January 1970
Ayrton Perseo builds Castle of Light in Edinburgh
There are few cities blessed with a more spectacular landscape than Edinburgh. Overlooking the city’s Old Town and with views stretching from the heights of Arthur’s Seat and the Palace of Holyrood to the Palladian elegance of the Georgian architecture north of Princes Street is Edinburgh Castle. As well as housing the Scottish Crown Jewels and the legendary Stone of Destiny, the Castle provides a natural centre piece for events and celebrations in the city throughout the year, including the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Edinburgh Festival. Through November and December 2019, the city was treated to the inaugural Castle of Light, a celebratory visualisation of Edinburgh’s history from its volcanic beginnings through to today’s cultural and dynamic vibrancy. Through a combination of mapping, projection, lighting and audio, visitors were treated to a journey through hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years of the city’s back story that its citizens are so rightly proud of.
As part of the lighting design, nine of Ayrton’s Perseo-S fixtures made an impressive impact on the show, in particular during the finale of this promenade performance. These weatherproof LED moving heads are compact multi-functional luminaires that come with a wealth of features, including a 148mm frontal lens, an optical train of 13 lenses that deliver an 8:1 zoom ratio and beam spread of 7o to 56o, and a uniformly consistent beam generating total image reproduction. At the top of the Perseo-S tick list is an IP65 rating making it the ideal choice for intensive outdoor use.
NL Productions (NLP) were part of a consortium that created the Castle of Light and Phil O’Halloran is both MD of NLP and Technical Production Manager for the event. He explains why the Perseo-S was the fixture of choice: “The Castle of Light show was a huge event for the city; the historical narrative was told through extensive mapping and video effects culminating in the finale piece in the Castle’s Crown Square where we mapped the entire front façade of the Royal Palace. We needed a fixture with an almost impossible list of features.
“It needed to be extraordinarily bright and punchy to provide aerial effects and crowd lighting that cut through all the ambient projection levels. In a normal environment we would use smoke or fog to help achieve this, but that wasn’t an option here. The Scottish Crown Jewels are housed in the Palace and any accidental leak of fog through a window or door would not only set off the alarm system but also generate an automatic armed response and evacuation – not an ideal ending for the audience!
“From a rigging perspective, the fixtures had to provide the perfect combination of low energy consumption, guaranteed complete weatherproofing, long term reliability and be lightweight and compact. Five units were to be rigged on the Palace roof with two more on the left and right PA towers at ground level. We had a very limited amount of power available in such an inaccessible location so the LED engine was a must, and with the fixture points not offering very easy access, a unit that was robust and reliable in the extreme was essential.
“There are many things about this city I am inordinately proud of, but the weather is probably not at the top of that list. The Perseo-S lights had to endure almost six weeks of the worst that the December weather could throw at them and they didn’t let us down. They were sat on top of the Palace roof, which apart from Arthur’s Seat, is the highest point of Edinburgh’s skyline so they were totally exposed to the elements.”
Together with the other members of the production consortium, NLP went through a shoot out process to judge which luminaire would be best suited to such a demanding application. “Along with NLP, War Productions, Double Take Projections and Andy McGregor Design were responsible for both the content design and the hardware choices. We are all local companies and were totally committed to realising this project to its full potential, delivering the very best that Edinburgh has to offer. We had looked at the Perseo-S a couple of months beforehand and then made our choice after a comparative shoot out. With support from Ambersphere Solutions and some units supplied from Impact Production Services (IPS) we were able to source enough fixtures for Andy’s design. In fact, I believe the units from IPS came straight from Ayrton without even being unpacked in their warehouse.”
A month of spectacular shows have proved that the Perseo-S was the right choice as O’Halloran concludes: “These little fixtures have been simply superb; we have used the full range of their versatile features: zoom, strobe, the gobo effects across walls and rooftops, the shutters for framing buildings across the Square and forming intense squares of colour on the floor, the punchy even beam for big sweeps of bright colour across the audience area in Crown Square, all of which crescendoed into a nightclub feel at the end – the Perseo’s were the only lighting we had in that area and they were never less than impressive. We had quite a few lighting designers who came to see them in action and feedback has been outstanding. Well done Ayrton; the Perseo-S is all round fantastic!”
Photos © Adam Robertson