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Laser F/X On-line Newsletter - Special Reports

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Urström at the 1999 Stockholm Water Festival



Day 4 - Friday August 6 - Show day 1

    We arrived on site around 10:00 and began by calling the festival production manager with our long list of problems and deficiencies in the material and equipment they had provided. The festival opened at 11:00 and the site was swarming with people making moving any equipment difficult and time consuming.

Water Festival opens under sunny skies
The Stockholm Water Festival opens under sunny skies.

    Örjan arrived with a copy of the morning paper. There was a huge, center double page, colour picture of one of the Pani projections on the palace facade under the headline "Throw away your spray cans, you have never seen graffiti like this". The article was generally positive though they listed Adela as an "artist" so she took a lot of ribbing over this and was dubbed "The artist formerly known as the engineer".
    The smoke machines were prepped and tested and we discovered that the rented MAX3000 was not working correctly. Several trips back and forth to the white tower by boat later, we decided to abandon work on this in favour of completing the other locations. We had requested 5-pin XLR cables from the white tower and barge locations to the beam position to control the smoke machines on the Opera side of the site. These were custom made on-site by a local production company who had installed them with the genders of the connectors reversed from our needs. This entailed rolling the cables up while walking along the 10 cm wide edge of the bobbing barge in one case, and standing in a boat while cutting cable ties in the other. The cables were then re-installed correctly and tested.
    All work on the water had to come to a halt twice daily for the water-skiing show. The commentators and sound equipment for the show was also located on top of the container next to the beam laser position so this made working there during the set-up and running of the water-ski show problematic.

Water-ski Show
Water-ski Show

    Jan was closeted with his DSP at master control making final adjustments to the show. No matter how much prep work one does in the studio for an event such as this, there is still a lot of fine tuning that is required to match the show to the site.
    Adela had been persuaded to stand in for the woman in the sky effect over the weekend so the basket safety harnesses had to be modified to accommodate her. She also had a sewing machine brought on site so that she could alter the white costume to fit.
Arvid ran around the site tracing cables, soldering connectors, being sent to the store for last minute supplies, making adapters, running parts and supplies out to locations on the site where they were needed and being the gopher for the team.
    As darkness approached, everything had been tested and seemed to be working properly. A brief meal break and pre-production meeting with the festival organiser and we were into pre-show activities.

Festival producer "rallies the troops"
Festival producer "rallies the troops" before the show.

    A show this big takes over an hour and a half to prep for each performance. Each laser must be turned on, warmed up and tested. The screens need to be put in place as they are rolled up each night so as not to distract from the historical facades of the buildings. The smoke machines must be started and tested and wind direction ascertained so as to determine the best placement of manpower to operate them. The rigging must be carefully checked and the basket placed over the water in the correct position for the first cue. The fire effects have to be lit and tested. Radio and sound checks must be performed.

Jan adjusts the 3D with test patterns
Jan adjusts the 3D with test patterns just before the show.

    Finally, at a couple of minutes before 23:00, the streetlights and vendor lights in the tents around the area are extinguished and an expectant hush falls over the centre of Stockholm in anticipation of the performance.

Flame-thrower atop the Fire tower erupts
Flame-thrower atop the Fire tower erupts (seen from beam laser position)

    The first night's performance was problematic to say the least. The time code distribution system to the Pani towers failed minutes before the show so the Pani operators had to manually synchronise the show. The scrim which was to be flown from the Opera out over the water for graphics projections of birds jammed and could not be moved into position. The breeze, which had been blowing from the SE all day died down half way through show and reversed directions for the last half taking all of the smoke with it. The 3D laser projections and the facade projections on the Royal Palace when off without a hitch but the beam projections were less than stunning. The audience was quiet and less than impressed.
    After the show, the crew gathered at master control for a post mortem and a long list of problem that needed to be fixed was generated. We all went home around 01:00 exhausted and despondent.

Next Day - Saturday August 7 >
Day 1 - Tuesday August 3 - Set-up day 1 Day 8 - Tuesday August 10 - Show Day 5
Day 2 - Wednesday August 4 - Set-up day 2 Day 9- Wednesday August 11- Show day 6
Day 3 - Thursday August 5 - Set-up day 3 Day 10- Thursday August 12 - Show day 7
Day 4 - Friday August 6 - Show day 1 Day 11- Friday August 13 - Show day 8
Day 5 - Saturday August 7 - Show day 2 Day 12 - Saturday August 14 - Show day 9
Day 6 - Sunday August 8 - Show day 3 Day 13 - Sunday August 15
Day 7 - Monday August 9 - Show day 4  

Quick Links to Report Pages

Stockholm Water Festival Report - Introduction
Sweden and Stockholm - Background and general information
The Site - Orientation to the show area and the challenges it presented
The Crew - The people who put it all together
Tech Specs - The equipment used in the presentation
The Music - An interview with the composer and MP3 file of the soundtrack
Smoke on the water - Covering a lake with smoke for beam effects
The Show - A description with many pictures
Animated Gifs - Gifs showing Palace projections and climatic beam effects
Stadshuset - Stockholm City Hall tour (very large page)
Show Diary - Day-to-day coverage of the trials and triumphs


DISCLAIMER: Some of the information in the Backstage area is provided by the persons or companies named on the relevant page(s). Laser F/X does NOT endorse or recommend any products/services and is NOT responsible for the technical accuracy of the information provided.  We provide this information as a service to laserists using the Backstage area. 

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