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Clay Paky at the Youth Olympic Games, Singapore
Lighting Designer
Koert Vermeulen (ACT Lighting)
Photo Credits
Alphonsus Chern
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The fun began at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore. The event brought together young Olympic hopefuls aged 14 to 18 years old from 204 countries competing in 26 events.

The opening and closing ceremonies were held at the site of the Float at Marina Bay, the world’s largest floating stage located in the heart of Singapore. A live audience of 27,000 plus the 3,500 athletes and an estimated 2 billion television viewers watched a spectacular light, video, laser and fireworks display with the Singapore skyline serving as a backdrop.

The floating stage was surrounded by a ring of shipping containers, a reference to Singapore’s prominence as South East Asia’s largest harbour. In front of the containers a 5000 m2 floating ‘lake’ was created; at the rear a 32-metre high lighthouse, which held the cauldron for the Olympic flame. Lighting and video were positioned around the ring to create a stunning performance space. Behind it all lay the Singapore skyline, which was implemented in the scenography with the addition of lighting effects, skytracers and fireworks on the buildings.

The lighting design for both opening and closing ceremonies was done by Koert Vermeulen, Principal Designer of Belgium-based ACT Lighting Design. PRG supplied technical services, rigging and over 1900 lighting fixtures for the ceremonies.

The unusual setting created some unique challenges for Koert and his team: “The fact that so much of the lighting was integrated into the set meant that PRG hardly had to bring any truss – they were certainly happy about that! But it also meant that the lighting angles were very low. The best I could hope for was just 21 degrees, which meant we needed long throw instruments that could project over at least 90m and in some cases up to 190m.”

Many of the 600+ moving lights in the rig were Clay Paky Alpha Beam 1500s and Alpha Spot HPE 1500s.

Koert made his final decision after comparing 30 different fixtures from several major manufacturers. “At the shoot-out we made some surprising observations. The most powerful instrument for frontlighting turned out to be the Clay Paky HPE 1500. It gave me 41,000 lx at a distance of 12m compared to 39,000 lx of its closest competitor, due to its narrower 6° beam – a small 5% difference in brightness, maybe, but enough to make me choose the Clay Paky because it had a tighter beam, good dimming, good CMY, and was able to push out a little more light.”

Environmental considerations also played their part in the decision process: “One of my commitments to the organising committee was to make this as green an event as possible. In order to put 800-1000 lx on the stage, we would have needed close to 600 regular 1200W units to cover the stage. As it happened, we were able to achieve the same levels using just 160 Clay Paky Alpha 1500s – that’s a reduction of more than 50% in consumption.

“In my initial account, I had anticipated using close to 1000 moving heads to light the stage. In the end, we were able to get away with using just 600, which was a reduction of 40% in numbers.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was the Alpha Beam 1500, which blew away the 4K unit we were testing it against at the shoot-out. The 4K light gave us 110,000 lx at 12m, while the Clay Paky measured 83,000 lx … but when we looked at the Clay Paky beam it was straight, sharp at the edges, and very well defined. Optically, the 1500W beam turned out to be more visible than the 4000W beam!”

The Clay Paky fixtures also found many fans among the operators and production crew for their technical reliability. Vermeulen explained, “The Alpha Beam 1500s were placed in the most challenging and vulnerable position, on top of the scenic backdrop, subject to heat, storms, rain and even lightning. Out of our entire rig, they had the fewest problems, followed second by the HPEs. I really believe that the Clay Paky Beams are the future of large-scale arena lighting. They’re extremely reliable, even under the harshest conditions, and have the greatest versatility.”

According to IOC President Jacques Rogge, the artistic and technical teams managed to pull off one of the most moving and unforgettable Olympic ceremonies in the Games’ modern history. In his private speech to the crew after the show Jacques Rogge said: “Of all the 21 ceremonies I have attended, this one goes straight to the top. It was a combination of pure emotion and technical perfection in a unique setting.”

ACT lighting design team: Koert Vermeulen (Principal Designer), Thomas Boets (Associate Lighting Designer), Guillaume Escallier (Visuals and Graphics), Carolina Marquezim (Assistant Lighting Designer).

ACT Lighting Design team on location: Sophia Stezenko (Light Design Assistant), Emelie Scaminaci (head CCU) and Paco Mispelters & Jimmy Stas (Light Programmers & Operators).

Artistic team: Ivan Heng (Artistic Director), Vernon Teo (Show Producer), Iskandar Ismail (Music Director), Aaron Khek (Lead Choreographer), Randy Chan (Set Designer), Raja Malek (Props Designer), Brian Gothong Tan (Film Effects Designer), Scott Willsallen (Sound Designer), Frederick Lee (Costume Designer), Jean Kohler (Special Effects Designer), Michael Lakin (Pyrotechnic designer), Francois Montel (Flame FX), Frank Oosterwijck (Laser FX).

Production team: with OC Chairman Ishak Bin Ismail, Yu Han Wong (Show Chairman) Chod Kai Kiong (Show Secretary). Nick Eltis (Technical Director), Ian Baldwin (Assistant Technical Direction). And a whole army of volunteers under their supervision.