Arguably the most renowned artwork in the world, Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel attracts 5 million tourists from across the globe every year. Now, visitors to Rome can see the cornerstone of High Renaissance art brought to life with a fully immersive production. TPi sees Michelangelo’s masterpiece in a new light and discovers first hand the technical innovations that made it all possible.
Since it opened in March, Giudizio Universale has showcased a city steeped in history to millions of visitors. Subtitled Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel, this theatrical performance transports audiences back to the 16th century and brings them face to face with a young Michelangelo and Pope Julius II, who challenged the sculptor to pick up a paintbrush and create a masterpiece on the ceiling.
The show’s 3-way collaboration between Panasonic, Osram and Bose Professional showcased the latest projection, lighting and audio technology, all overseen by Marco Balich of Artainment Worldwide Shows. In light of the success of Giudizio Universale, organisers now hope to bring the event to venues across the globe. TPi was welcomed to the show’s permanent home in Auditorium Conciliazione, a stone’s throw from Vatican City, to examine the various technical elements of the production.
PRODUCTION With a résumé boasting several Olympic Opening Ceremonies, there were few entertainment visionaries better equipped to bring the works of Michelangelo to life than Marco Balich. The Chairman of Artainment told TPi he was humbled by the appointment and proceeded with “rigorous respect” to create a show in which “the genesis of a masterpiece of universal art is narrated by mixing all the languages of the world of live entertainment today.” He credited the Vatican Museums, Monsignor Nicolini and the then Director Antonio Paolucci for their support and attention since the project’s inception in 2015.
The 2 pillars of a Balich-led show are “emotion and authenticity”, he
told TPi, adding that he learned the importance of audience engagement during his time at the helm of the Olympic ceremonies. Much like those culturally-stimulating events, Balich’s work on Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel was “a privilege and a huge responsibility” he did not take lightly. He shared his hopes for the show’s reception: “We like to think spectators, especially the younger ones, leave inspired. There is nothing more exciting than the beauty of art!”
PROJECTING HISTORY Stufish Entertainment Architects was hired to bring Balich’s vision to life through creative set design. The studio stated its intention to recreate the ecstasy of a rock show by surrounding the viewer with light and exposing them to the power of imagination. The show itself consisted of a 270° immersive projection with all content being designed and animated by Luke Halls Studio. “It’s been a real privilege to work up-close with such amazing artworks,” stated Luke Halls. “The opportunity to create a new style of show that enables people to see these much loved paintings in a new way was too good to pass up. Working at this scale is always exciting and I hope audiences get to enjoy this show for years to come.”
The vaulted structure of the Auditorium Conciliazione offered an extraordinary backdrop to the high definition video content. Moving images were projected onto an area of over 1,000sqm and positioned more than 12m high above around the audience.
Panasonic Visual System Solutions was the technical sponsor for the show. “Without access to the very latest technology, we could never have
show. “Without access to the very latest technology, we could never have succeeded in giving concrete expression to our vision, using the immersive 270° projection,” stated Balich, complementing the reliability and usability of the technology. He continued: “Above all, it exceeded our expectations in terms of image quality and brightness. We could concentrate on the production of content which produced the ‘wow’ effect.”
The projection was divided into 5 sectors; 2 lateral walls with 8 PT-RZ31Ks (31,000 lumen); the vaulted ceiling which was fitted with 6 PT-RZ21Ks (20,000 lumen) and 2 PT-RZ31Ks; the proscenium featured 4 PT- RZ31Ks; the front gauze hosted 4 PT-RZ31Ks; 2 PT-RZ12Ks (12,000 lumen) were used for mapping a replica of Michelangelo’s David on the stage; and finally PT-RZ21K projectors with EL-D75LE95 short throw lenses projected vertically onto the stage from above.
Daniele Parazzoli, MD of projector vendor Event Management, cited Panasonic’s reputation for reliability in laser DLP technology as justification for his choice. “In representing the frescos of the Sistine Chapel, the aim was to ensure a result equivalent to the original. The chromatic consistency and the contrast ratio of Panasonic’s projectors were determining factors in achieving the objective.”
Driving the video projection was a disguise gx1. “The disguise media server is a very powerful system,” enthused Parazzoli, praising its 3-dimensional visualisation abilities. “During the setup of the show we did a laser scan of the theatre and fed that information in the media server, which made it much easier when mapping all the various projection surfaces.” Jan Markus Jahn, Director Visual Systems Solutions of Panasonic Europe, stressed the company’s passion for new ventures: “It is a great honour to be part of this unique and original event, where art is married to the most sophisticated technology to create live entertainment. Thanks to the creativity of Marco Balich and Artainment Worldwide Shows, we have had
the opportunity to showcase our cutting-edge laser projection technology in such an artistic way.”
Showtex provided all of the projection surfaces for the show. On stage, 2 horizontal layers of dark grey GobelinTulle struck the perfect balance between front projection and transparency. By varying the amount of light on both theatre scrims, the audience witnessed an amazing 3D effect that blurred the line between physical and digital reality. At 27m wide and 12m high, the vault provided an impressive projection surface in need of some high-quality masking curtains. Over 500sqm of black Molton legs and custom-curved borders were used to carefully mask the auditorium to keep all unwanted light out and make the projections shine. The flame-retardant Molton also served a dual-purpose by eliminating reverberations and enhancing venue acoustics.
LIGHTING Osram worked alongside the awe-inspiring projection show as the official lighting partner for the performance. Since opening night, Osram brands Claypaky and ADB helped enhance the mood as the audience was transported from scene to scene throughout the 60-minute performance. Award-winning Lighting Designers Bruno Poet and Rob Halliday introduced a variety of Claypaky’s powerful moving lights for aerial effects to create drama and excitement. Meanwhile, ADB theatrical projectors generated an atmosphere that Balich dubbed “artistic, emotional and spiritual.”
This was not the first time Poet and Balich had collaborated. The LD had provided his services for Intimissimi On Ice. However, Poet had already committed to the new Tina Turner musical in London and therefore unavailable to prepare the show. After much persuasion from Balich, he agreed that as long as he could co-design the show with a partner who would be present it was a deal; enter Halliday. Both noted it’s rare to find 2
“Lighting can be quite a lonely profession,” admitted Poet. “Having a ‘production friend’ - someone to talk things through with, someone to bounce ideas off, someone to reassure you you’re not crazy - was wonderful. As suspected, 2 heads are indeed better than one!”
The lighting arsenal included 19 ADB Warps and 51 Claypaky Scenius Unicos, which use traditional lamp technology. Also on show was an assortment of luminaires including 29 Claypaky SharBars and 11 ShowBattens to generate colourful light barriers, plus Stormy stroboscopes to emulate striking lightning.
There was also a call for beam effects, particularly symmetrical ‘wings’ of lights moving in the air. This would traditionally come from a Claypaky Sharpy or Mythos but there were concerns within the Giudizio Universale production team about the available power, heat management in the building, and long-term running costs. Fortunately, Osram had a new product available at the perfect time, the Axcor Beam 300; an LED version of the Sharpy. In total 47 Axcor 300’s were deployed across the rig. For fast-moving mid-air beams, 16 K-EYE K10’s and 2 K-EYE S10’s, with their HCR technology, were able to wash the stage and audience with colour.
Finally, a circle of 50 ADB Svobodas was used at the show’s climax to emulate the Sun. The request from the designers to use this heritage fixture gave the Osram group an excuse to finish redesigning the Svoboda for the modern age and continue with its production.
Prior to installation, Halliday utilised an ETC Eos lighting control system and pre-programmed parts of the show using WYSIWYG virtual lighting software. This was not the usual kind of load-in, he explained, for two reasons. “The whole show was firstly classified as a permanent
installation,” he began, adding: “It fell under the jurisdiction of 2 authorities; the city of Rome and Vatican City.” For the production, this meant no plugs, no sockets, no patch bays. All of the lights had to be run back in fireproof cable and then hard-wired into a new dimmer and distro room. Halliday explained how the team rose to the challenge: “This was quite an undertaking, slightly delayed and with temporary power installed as a work-around, but ultimately very well achieved by the team, with a big rack of RCD circuit breakers feeding the moving lights, and with an ADB TwinTech dimmer rack feeding the Svobodas and other tungsten lights.” Aiding the 2 LDs were Lighting Assistant, Robin Senoner and Production Electrician Daniele Giuliano.
AUDIO After presenting the best pitch of many - according to William Geroli, Supervisor of Balich Worldwide Shows - Bose Professional took up the mantle of official audio partner for this immersive experience.
“Our goal was to create a perfectly integrated audio installation within a high-resolution video setting, embedded in the fixed scenographic structure created for the Roman auditorium,” explained Moreno Zampieri, Bose Italy’s Technical Supervisor, who directly monitored the installation’s design. “Unlike any other musical event where the audience’s attention is aimed at front stage, in Giudizio Universale’s case the spectator feels completely immersed in the artistic experience, as the upper vault and the space around the stage are entirely covered by HD projections. As a complementary aspect to the visual stream, a powerful audio installation - an integral part of the 3-dimensional journey - was needed.” The aim was
to find a place where 3D sounds, surround videos and aesthetics could ideally be gathered together. “The installation goes beyond the typical 5.1 surround. If we count the relevant points, this is a versatile 9.4 system,” added Zampieri.
Balich chimed in to explain his choice of Bose Professional, pointing to the quality of sound, pressure levels and its design, which was able to “combine the obtainable immersive audio experience with a lower quantity of audio points”.
To bring the event to life, Balich brought in an array of entertainment heavyweights. Sting produced the original theme for the production and John Metcalfe, who among many accolades has produced for artists such as U2, Blur and Coldplay, wrote the soundtrack for the event.
Marco Itta from Auris Populi was the System Integrator for the show. He discussed how the ratio of direct and reverberant sound was a major concern, adding the Bose Professional DeltaQ series was able to ensure each attendee got the full immersive experience.
Each of the main Bose ShowMatch DeltaQ clusters comprised 2 Bose ShowMatch SM5WG55 waveguides, 2 SMS 118 subwoofers and 6 SM5 modules. The centre hangs consisted of 3 Bose ShowMatch SM5 modules, 1 SM10 module, 2 SM20 modules and 2 SMS118 subs. The down-fills were an SM10 and an SM20 per side.
The rest of the rig filling the room was made of Bose’s RoomMatch. Left and right surround speakers were 7 RMU208’s per side. The delays consisted of an RM12040 per side and rear surround came from 4 RMU208’s. The ‘over’ speakers are 4 pairs of RM12060’s configured in stereo. Flown above the audience stage monitors are 6 RMU208’s. Amplification consisted of a combination of Powersoft’s X8 Dante and Bose PowerMatch PM8500Ns. Only the rear surround speakers and 2 delay enclosures were partially visible, with the rest of the rig concealed behind the projection surfaces.
Another notable addition to the audio department was Riedel, which provided the intercom system that allowed the cast of 30 people to work harmoniously for more than 3 months in 3 different languages.
Finally, Sennheiser collaborated as a technical partner on the show. The company provided the innovative TourGuide 2020-D translation system. Each member who wished to hear the performance in a different language were presented with an EK 2020-D-II bodypack receiver which were able to streamed dialogues and voices off-screen in English, Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. The complete Tourguide 2020-D has been developed to ensure a quickly set-up for operation with receiver channels being synchronised at the push of a button while still in the charging bay. In summary a system which prides itself as being simple and intuitive for the end user.
With local and international praise in abundance, it seems that Giudizio Universale is quickly becoming a highlight of the 21st Century Roman tourist experience and a vital tool to learn more about the region’s rich history. Next time you’re in this part of the world, take a break from the crowds (and the heat) and see the upper limits of what the entertainment industry can create. TPi Photos: Antonello & Montesi and Parisse www.giudiziouniversale.com www. pro.bose.com https://business.panasonic.co.uk www.osram.com/els/ www.showtex.com www.stufish.com www.sennheiser.com www.lukehalls.com