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Event technology at the Basel Tattoo: bagpipes and giant beamers

They're the brightest beamers anywhere in the world, weighing 200 kilograms and the size of a fridge. At the Basel Tattoo, eight of these heavyweights will be casting giant projections onto the façade of the barracks building as the show bands play their music in the arena. The technical outlay on the military music festival being staged from 21 to 30 July 2016 is enormous.

As soon as the first sounds emerge from the pipes and drums, Stephan Gysi only has eyes for the technical equipment. Are the audio system and the beamers on the right settings? Are the colour transitions on the spotlights correct? The Basel Tattoo is the second-biggest military music festival in the world. International bands, bagpipe players and dance formations delight thousands of fans in July of each year. Stephan Gysi is the technical project manager for the Basel Tattoo. He and his team from Winkler Livecom® make sure that the formations in the courtyard of the Basel barracks are literally presented in the very best light.

Winkler has been part of the Basel Tattoo for ten years, since the second time that it was staged. Together with Audiopool GmbH, the Wohlen-based company is responsible for the technical planning and implementation of the military music spectacle. Winkler takes charge of the lighting, sound, LED, video and rigging. "The event keeps growing from year to year, and so do the challenges that we face", says Gysi. "Formations of up to 300 musicians call for the most powerful audio technology equipment that is currently available."

The Winkler trucks have transported around 58 tons of equipment into the narrow courtyard at the barracks. 400 spotlights, 135 microphones, 85 loudspeakers, 80 radio receivers, 4.5 kilometres of fibre optic cable, power lines with a capacity of 531,000 watts and two LED strips that surround the arena where the musicians play. And, of course, the eight giant beamers from Barco, each one the size of a fridge and, at 40,000 lumen, brighter than any other projectors. By comparison: a standard office beamer is rated at around 2000 lumen. Over a distance of more than 100 metres, the projectors cast videos and pictures onto the façade of the barracks to match the formation in question. They extend the show from the arena onto the building wall, opening up a new recounting dimension. They were used for the first time last year, for the ten-year anniversary of the Basel Tattoo.

When the show starts, most of the work has already been done. The technical equipment has been assembled and prepared. "Programming took four days and four nights in all the different areas", says Gysi. The settings for the formations, the colour transitions and the patterns. This ensures an identical quality for each performance. In the past, we had to adjust these settings manually during the show. "Today, everything is digital. We can control almost everything with a laptop and are thus extremely mobile", adds Gysi.

When the first formation enters the arena in artificial mist, Gysi and his team operate the lighting and video system and keep an eye on the audio technology – as well as on the weather forecast. Every evening, their one fervent hope: just don't let there be a storm! "If it rains or if there is severe weather or a storm, the entire performance becomes an even bigger challenge", says Gysi. The electronic material is not rainproof and is thus made suitable for outdoor use as far as possible. Spotlights are given rain hoods, and plug connections are wrapped up to protect them from the rain.

And, when the bagpipes fall silent for a year once again after the final performance, it's time to dismantle everything. In the final instance, around 780 man days will have been noted down by Winkler and Audiopool on their worksheets. The Basel Tattoo is an important major event for Basel, and for Winkler too. "We are proud to have been part of it for so many years."




by Christoph Spangenberg, MCH Group AG