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War Productions chooses 14 Panasonic 17,000 lumen projectors for a semi–permanent digital mapping show at Blackpool Tower.   

In 2014, 3.5million people visited the Blackpool Illuminations, with many returning year after year. As such, it is important that Blackpool Council keeps the show current and is able to continuously raise the standard.  

For 2015, the Council was keen to use the latest in digital mapping projection technology to light up the iconic Blackpool Tower Ballroom with content that gave a nod to Blackpool’s history, incorporating its music and iconic imagery.

Funded by a £2m grant from the Coastal Communities Fund, along with contributions from Blackpool Council and LeftCoast, War Productions (WarPro) was awarded the contract to produce a projection mapping show that covered the front of the Ballroom, integrated with lighting both on the promenade and on the Tower itself, and which would entertain the family audience Blackpool has always catered for.  

Richard Ryan, Head of Illuminations at Blackpool Council, said, “The Illuminations is the principle tourism magnet for the town. It’s a free show that attracts millions of people a year. Lightpool is a way of enhancing the offer to those visitors.

“We were particularly impressed with WarPro's tender response, which included everything from the expertise of Ross Ashton and his team at The Projection Studio, to the Panasonic kit that was being specified and the training that was part of the bid. This has led to two apprentices being part of the Lightpool project, who will ultimately bring new talent and new skills to the Illuminations department.

“Our inhouse team worked alongside WarPro to bring our lighting expertise to the effects around the mapping. The Tower stick, the Tower top, the Tower Heart and all the surrounding lighting is controlled as part of the show, so that when the projection mapping goes blue, so does the Tower. That’s taken the show to a new level of detail. That’s the Blackpool way, pioneering new things.”

In total, 14 Panasonic PT-DW17K2 projectors were used to map the building. Each features 17,000 lumens of brightness with a contrast ratio of 10,000:1. Like other Panasonic large venue projectors, the PT-DW17K2 has an extremely compact body and provides a variety of advanced features, such as DIGITAL LINK connectivity, portrait mode capability and multi-screen projection.

"We needed to build redundancy in to the project. The easiest way to do that was by choosing the Panasonic projectors."

Alastair Young, Managing Director of WarPro, said, “On a Saturday night as many as 10,000 people can be watching the Lightpool Show. To ensure that every visitor leaves with a positive experience we needed to build redundancy in to the project. The easiest way to do that was by choosing the Panasonic projectors, which are equipped with a quad-lamp system. It means we can be sure that even if one lamp fails, the show will go on.”

Attention to detail

The 11 minute projection mapping brought with it challenges, particular in relation to the location. The level of ambient lighting in the surrounding area, the distance between the building and the projection stack and the amount of street furniture all needed to be taken in to account when designing the installation.

It meant that WarPro specified a higher number of projectors (installed vertically in a criss-cross pattern) to ensure that there was no shadowing from the street lights on the building surface. A PNG mask was also added to the content to ensure that the street lights weren’t projected against, which would have been distracting for the audience. 

War Productions also introduced the concept of an i-Booth as part of the Lightpool project. It means that visitors can see their face projected on to the front of the Tower. The system uses an AW-HE2 Panasonic remote camera to capture an image in HD which is then broadcast within three boxes across the building in between the Lightpool shows.

"The throw distance was significant, so the brightness of the Panasonic projectors was vital."

Alastair Young added, “The brightness of the Panasonic projectors was vital. We had to position the projectors behind the ‘comedy carpet’ installation, so the throw distance was significant. Plus, being part of the Illuminations meant there was a lot of ambient light, so it was vital that the mapping was brighter than everything that surrounds it.”  

Creative Content

As part of their bid, WarPro joined forces with world renowned projection artist Ross Ashton and sound expert Karen Monid from The Projection Studio.

Ross Ashton, who has previously worked on the 2010 World Cup closing ceremony and the London 2012 Olympics, said of the Blackpool Tower project, “It’s been a real pleasure to work with WarPro and Blackpool Council to create a show that takes a fun look at Blackpool’s heritage. This is one of the first semi-permanent  Son et lumière projection shows in the UK. One of the drivers of doing this is to get people out of their cars and in to the town. We’re confident that, once people start seeing the tourist benefits, it can be a real area of growth for the industry.”