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Clay Paky Alphas celebrate 200 years of Mexican history
Lighting Designer
Durham Marenghi / Victor Zapatero
Hermes Music / Luzmila
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This year Mexicans celebrated both 200 years of independence and 100 years since the Revolution, prompting a wave of celebrations throughout the country.

To commemorate the occasions, the Mexican government planned a range of festivities culminating in two separate events held in the main plaza of the capital, El Zocalo. The Bicentennial, a two-day fiesta of light and music, was enjoyed by thousands of Mexican revellers, and broadcast live to millions around the world. 

Celebrating 200 years of independence
Production and creative direction were placed in the hands of a multi-national team with vast experience of global sporting events and ceremonies. Ric Birch, producer of numerous Olympics ceremonies, teamed up with creative partner Marco Balich of Filmmaster Group. Mexican LD Victor Zapatero was engaged as lighting designer for the main live events, while lighting director Durham Marenghi, himself a veteran of past Olympics ceremonies, was brought in to supervise the broadcast lighting. 

The team drew on the creative ideas of several leading Mexican directors, designers, choreographers, artists and writers.  Eventually more than 400 staff and 7,000 volunteers joined forces to present the largest show that Mexico City has ever seen.

The event involved three massive concert stages in the heart of the city, and a parade of 7,000 performers and dancers that took more than two hours to make its way along the Reforma Avenue toward El Zocalo, the capital’s main plaza overlooked by the National Palace, the Cathedral and government buildings. 

Thousands then gathered at the main Zocalo plaza, where President Felipe Calderon would later deliver the traditional Grito – three shouts of ‘Viva Mexico’ – to celebrate the 1810 uprising that resulted in independence from Spain. 

Alpha 1500 Spots and Beams
LD Victor Zapatero was tasked with lighting this vast, complex arrangement of stages, performers and historical buildings, as well as some 70,000 spectators that gathered and became themselves part of the performance. “My role was to find the best solution to light the show, select the best equipment, organize a team of programmers and suppliers … and then pray that everything would be alright on the night!” 

In order to provide light on such a massive scale, Zapatero selected 100 Clay Paky Alpha Beam 1500  and 74 Alpha Spot HPE 1500, recently introduced into the Mexican market by Hermes Music through local production company Luzmila.

“I was given a very convincing presentation of the Alphas by Bruno Santaguida of Luzmila”, said Zapatero. “I was immediately struck by the long range of their beams, which could reach right across the 200m-wide plaza without any loss of power. 

“Another thing that surprised me was the precision of the beams. All movements were slick and accurate. And the image quality of the gobos was perfectly clear. Thanks to the commitment of Luzmila, we were able to secure a record quantity of 1500s – the most used in Mexico to date.” 

Durham Marenghi, who supervised the lighting for broadcast, was equally supportive of the decision to use the Alpha 1500s, having previously used them in his design for the UK music show, Classical Spectacular: “They are incredible units, immensely powerful yet delicately refined. Although they’re incredibly bright, you can still achieve pin-sharp projections.” 

Image clarity turned out to be an essential requirement, since part of Zapatero’s concept required being able to project a series of intricately detailed Mexican and Mayan patterns, marking different phases of the show. A total of over 460 custom gobos were produced by UK manufacturer Projected Image. 

The concept involved immersing the viewing public in a sea of light, and wrapping them in a panorama of richly lit performances and buildings: “I wanted them to feel part of a majestic and unforgettable scene, to let them feel moved by the light”, said Zapatero. 

“In fact, people already started to celebrate during the rehearsals before the event, so we had a good idea that people were going to be impressed. But on the night, the excitement was incredible. The impact of the light left people speechless as they entered the Zocalo that night.” 

Zapatero paid tribute to a number of collaborators and partners, whom he said were invaluable to the success of the show. They included his assistants and programming team who worked on Wysiwyg and GrandMA controls; Durham Marenghi, ‘a valuable partner and friend’; and suppliers Simply Professional as well as Luzmila, who provided equipment and valuable support. 

Juan Perches of Hermes Music said: “We feel an immense sense of pride in having been part of such a historic occasion. The events were marked by a high level of cooperation and camaraderie between the various teams and partners. We couldn’t have wished for a more visible or successful introduction of the Clay Paky Alphas in the Mexican market.” 

Francesco Romagnoli, Clay Paky manager for the Americas said: “Ultimately, successes like these derive from an intense focus on the needs of the end-user and a great relationship with our distributors. A huge thank you must go to Hermes Music, who, although a Clay Paky distributor for less than a year, has already managed to make Clay Paky the most sought after brand in Mexico.”