The Eiffel Tower has never looked so resplendent.
Who could not feel an overwhelming sense of pride when witnessing such a beautiful sight to celebrate its 120th birthday before a crowd of 700,000 people on the evening of 14 July 2009 along the esplanade du Champ de Mars in Paris? To celebrate in style, the world's most famous "Iron Lady" was treated to a show that was nothing less than breathtaking, with pyrotechnics, an oversize video projection, and a novel soundtrack and graphical illustration masterminded by select partners.
To breathe life into the open-air event, called "The Beautiful Tower", Paris City Hall called on the expertise of Groupe-F to create the stage design and pyrotechnics, and on Cosmo AV to produce the graphical and artistic elements projected onto the tower's surface. Groupe-F's choice naturally settled on E/T/C Paris's expertise to illuminate and animate one of the world's most famous towers using high-power 3-chip DLP digital projectors from Christie, a longstanding partner for the technical events specialist.
The message underlying the show was poetry, cultural diversity, harmony and peace… before rounding off with a tribute to the engineering genius of Gustave Eiffel, the brains behind the iconic structure gracing the French capital. "The aim of the event was to celebrate the multicultural side of Paris by drawing on the African music in the soundtrack and the content projected onto the tower," stresses Christophe Berthonneau, artist and founder of Groupe-F, a specialist company recognised worldwide for its cutting-edge excellence in pyrotechnics. Christophe Berthonneau is a seasoned professional at creating large-scale events, while possessing the subtle knack of knowing how to put together the best possible teams to put the finishing touches to his creations.
E/T/C Paris was in charge of bringing Gustave Eiffel's creation to life, and the stakes were high. In particular, they had to find an effective way of illuminating the tower with the most powerful projectors in the market, while offering unrivalled reliability. "Developing and staging this type of show demands the full skills of the E/T/C teams, as well as the quality and reliability inherent in the Christie range of projectors. In addition to the images screened on the Eiffel Tower, which will remain a highlight of 2009, E/T/C chose Christie, because its projectors meet the exacting requirements for its operations worldwide, sometimes in extreme conditions," explains Philippe Gaborit, operations manager at E/T/C Paris. "When we were out scoping the terrain with Cosmo-AV during the winter in the run-up to the event, we already knew that we would go for the high-power projection solutions from Christie, such as the Roadster S+16K, HD18K and Roadie 25K," adds Jean-Marc Constantien, services director at E/T/C Paris." Accurate optical surveys enabled Cosmo-AV to take snapshots of the tower in order to determine the masks needed for the projection, while allowing E/T/C to test the illumination rendering of the Christie projectors from a distance of some 300 metres."
The snapshots naturally had to be taken in perfect simulation with the Christie HD lenses used for the final projection. "Christie's HD long focal lenses feature a larger aperture than traditional lenses. It seemed to be the right choice to take advantage of their exceptional properties," stresses the services director. At the same time, illumination tests carried out by E/T/C Paris went way beyond what Jean-Marc Constantien was hoping for. Following the surveying phase, the study led to the conclusion that 27 high-power Christie projectors would be needed to illuminate the Eiffel Tower. In view of the setting, the crowd that would gather along the esplanade du Champ de Mars and the stage equipment for the Johnny Hallyday concert that was opening for "The Beautiful Tower" show, we decided to erect two 14-metre high projection platforms, each forming a 40-degree angle from the tower's central axis, which would house the hordes of roadsters and roadies on the big day.
All Christie projectors were divided into eight clusters of three to four perfectly aligned and superimposed units according to the surface of the tower that would receive the projection, both horizontally and vertically. This solution ensured that the illumination was more than powerful enough from a distance of nearly 400 metres, given the angle of elevation of the projection beam for the upper sections of the metal tower.
The 28-minute show was stored and programmed using Onlyview, the proprietary E/T/C solution for broadcasting images. For "The Beautiful Tower", an Onlyview master server controlled eight slave servers, which streamed the image data between the eight groups of Christie projectors. A ninth server was programmed to receive the time code from the Groupe-F teams responsible for synchronising the pyrotechnics, images and soundtrack.
An unforgettable show was thus given to the whole world, including all the locals and tourists that came to witness the show on the evening of 14th July. Everyone discovered a unique stage design punctuated with fireworks, unrivalled projections of original visuals, a series of oversize paintings to tell the 120-year history of a capital and its symbol, the Eiffel Tower.