An urban harvest festival.
Text:/ Marcus Pugh
In the summer of 2010/11 most of Australia looked on in horror as floods devastated Brisbane and Southeast Queensland, much of the media attention focused in on the damage to the metropolitan centres, the surrounding rural areas also felt the brunt of these floods. Farming land in the Lockyer Valley (one of Australia’s most productive agricultural regions) was one of the hardest hit areas and once it had recovered the Queensland Government through Events Queensland charged AGB events with putting on a festival to help celebrate the first harvest since the floods. Celebrated as the <Delectable Festival>, its centrepiece was one of the most impressive projection projects ever staged in Australia.
Anthony Bastic managing director of AGB Events and the brains behind the Delectable Festival concept turned to their production partners Technical Direction Company (TDC) to help bring to fruition his ambitious vision of projecting onto the side of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and the Wheel of Brisbane, an observation wheel (that’s a Ferris wheel to you) in the city’s Southbank precinct.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHT
AGB art director Giles Westley drew inspiration for this project from the Lyon Festival of Light in France which featured an observation wheel in the city square converted into a large circular projection surface. As chance would have it the Wheel of Brisbane, a transportable wheel first erected at Southbank for Expo 88, was owned by the same company as the wheel in Lyon. The projection surface was purpose built for this project out of sail fabric. The surface system needed to be equipped with a quick-release mechanism in case the wind force got too high. The projection content, a 10 minute presentation that ran on the hour each night of the festival, focused on images relating to the fine produce from the south east Queensland region.
The TDC team charged with making the concept a reality was headed up by TDC’s Technical Manager Olin Winton. The first major hurdle to be overcome was the positioning for the projectors targeting the Wheel of Brisbane. The 60m-tall wheel is located close to the southern bank of the Brisbane River, too close to be able throw such a large projection from that side of the river. The decision was made to cover the wheel from the CBD side instead – a throw distance exceeding 600 metres. Of course projecting over this distance comes with its own unique collection of challenges.
WHEELING OUT THE BIG GUNS
Reaching the Wheel with 10 Barco FLM-HD20 (20k ANSI lumens) projectors necessitated constructing 5m scaffold towers on the top of a high-rise in the Brisbane CBD. Weighing in at around 100kg, these 3kW xenon projectors needed to be lifted onto the roof with a crane, as roof access was just too tight for such substantial machines. Covering a projection surface over 600m away isn’t something you can do with any old lens off the shelf at the factory. Indeed, the unusual high-brightness 11:1 ratio lenses required for this project, of which there is only a handful available anywhere, had to be hired in.
Although projecting onto the side of the Queensland Performing Arts Complex (QPAC) could be achieved from the river’s southern bank because it is located further back from the river (but not far enough to stop it from being effected by the 2011 floods), it still presented some challenges for the TDC crew. Because QPAC is flanked on the river side by large trees, a series of five, 16m-high scaffold towers were needed to provide the required coverage. Each of these towers housed a pair of Barco FLM-HD22+ (22k ANSI lumens) projectors, equipped with 2.1:1 ratio lenses. Olin Winton commented “The build was challenging, just because of the height we had to work at.” The TDC team on this project included Steve Cain, Dale Rehbein and Matt Teale. The set-up for this project ran relatively smoothly with the team taking just a single night to align all these projectors.
WATCHOUT FOR THE CONTENT
The content delivered by AGB Events was blended, warped and distributed to the projectors from Dataton Watchout media servers, with a local area network handling data distribution on each projection site. Although the content was in Watchout’s care, TDC crew were on site each night to keep an eye on the system and to switch over to the standby generators should the occasion arise. Despite the huge scope and many challenges faced on this project, the system remained solid without interruption in rain, wind and heat.
While the media attention during the floods may have ignored many of the rural areas effected and focused on Brisbane city, it took an ambitious event staged in the city to put some that focus back onto the rebirth and renewal of south-eastern Queensland’s rural areas.