Dundee’s landmark new V&A museum beamed its way onto the world’s cultural map in September with a spectacular light, sound and pyrotechnics-focused opening ceremony. At the helm of the bold colour washes and intricate shapes was lighting designer John Rogers, armed with two Avolites Tiger Touch II consoles.
Rogers was commissioned for the project by Jon Pugh of JMP Productions. The pair employed 30 Robe BMFL WashBeams in weatherproof domes and eight Prolights SunBLAST IP rated LED Strobes to achieve their design. These were rigged at ground level around the exterior of the V&A, pointed directly at the building’s unique architecture.
More than 10,000 people gathered at the city’s docks to experience the launch, with thousands more watching it live on the BBC and later on catch-up. The entire show was synced to music composed especially for the occasion, triggered by MIDI from Logic on a laptop.
One of the stand-out moments of the show was the words ‘Hello World’, beamed onto the external slats of the museum in Morse code. But the visual highlight came as each section of the angular structure was perfectly washed in markedly different, bright colours.
“What we were aiming for pushed the boundaries of what’s possible using fixtures instead of projection mapping,” says Rogers. “This could have been challenging, but I was backed up by some of Titan’s signature features, including Key Frame Shapes. This made it much simpler to create an animation of the BMFL’s shutter blades, for a start, meaning that the Morse code was clear and crisp – spot on. It also helped me programme position and rotation; layered, kaleidoscopic colours and trapezoidal shapes – the list goes on. It was a godsend.”
Off-site, Rogers used his own Titan Mobile to pre-programmed, transferring the showfile to the Tiger Touch IIs in the run-up to the event.
“Titan just works for me. I like that I can do a layout of the stage as many times as I want with as many different groups. If running FX or cue or anything across it, I can say ‘I’d like that from the middle out’ or anything, and it works. It’s like what I can see in my head just comes out onto the stage.”
Presenter Edith Bowman compèred the BBC’s live coverage of the entire night, which later featured performances by some of Scotland’s biggest names, including Primal Scream. Given that the opening ceremony was live, Rogers had to ensure everything ran like clockwork.
“It was a bit nerve-wracking,” he admits. “But once the MIDI successfully triggered the first cue, I felt better. I’ve used Avolites for years and know from previous work in cold and damp Scottish weather that Titan is more than up to the task. Just simple things like recording a shape and matching the BPM of the music, which given the nature of the pre-recorded track was essential. Once that was ready, I just used the speed divider to slow it down and had something perfectly in sync.”
In addition to Rogers and Jon Pugh, the project was a collaboration between the V&A and ‘interactive multi-sensory’ expert Biome Collective, with Dundee-based Agency of None and 21CC Events Ltd.
The V&A Dundee hopes to welcome more than 500,000 visitors in its first year.