The famed Avignon Festival, in the south of France, has been running for over 60 years. The month-long festival, which takes place each July, showcases French and foreign contemporary drama, as well as dance creations and stage performances. This year's Festival, which closed on July 27, 2007, saw attendance nearing 100,000, for a record 93% of seats sold. In addition to the twenty official festival venues, some 900 performances by 300 troupes were held as part of the Off - or fringe - Festival.
The center of the festival is the Cour d'Honneur (Courtyard of Honour) at the historic Palais des Papes - the Palace of the Popes. The residence of seven 14th- century popes, the palace has walls up to 18 feet (5.5m) thick, which explains why it is in such a good state of repair - it was virtually impregnable to attack. (It also explains why wireless DMX technology proved a challenge there: the signals had trouble penetrating the walls).
Jean Louis Pernette, managing director of Avab Transtechnik France, has worked with the Avignon Festival for the past 25 years, helping supply the best technology solutions: "In Avignon, equipment faces the most gruelling conditions," says Pernette, "it gets frequently moved around, there can be lots of dust, or it gets rained on, and we have to respond to a variety of requests from lighting designers. We supply lighting and control to several venues, and see it as a laboratory where technology is constantly developing and evolving."
At the Palais des Papes, special care needs to be taken to ensure that the building is not damaged and also that the lighting can be used regardless of weather conditions. An ingenious solution was developed by Philippe Berthomé, lighting designer for
, whereby some of the 14 ETC Source Four® Revolution moving lights were mounted on 'arms,' which were tracked so the fixtures could be rolled in and out of the windows above the outdoor stage. When not needed, they were rolled back out of sight. The idea was then developed further, so that four different fixtures were mounted on a hélicoptère, four rotating arms. A technician turned the system to select the arm with the necessary fixture before rolling it forward.
As Pernette explains, technical details make a big difference in such a venue: "The Revolutions had to be carried up a large number of steps to reach what is almost the highest point in Avignon. The luminaire has a locking mechanism that stops it moving around when being carried, avoiding possible injuries."
The Palais des Papes also employed an ETC Congo™ lighting control console and its little brother, Congo jr. ETC's newest networking technology, Net3™ ¬- featuring ACN - as well as Matrix™ Mk II Sine Wave dimming were also in use.
Meanwhile, at the Cour du Lycée Saint-Joseph, some 35 Source Four Zooms were installed at the request of Polish director Kyzysztof Warlikowski for the five-and-a-half-hour-long
Angels in America
, lit by Felice Ross. Not only had he worked with these Zooms before, they also weigh less than half that of equivalent condenser steel profiles - a key issue, given that they are rigged on a 62-foot-long (19m) truss. Says Pernette: "Source Fours have a number of significant advantages over other fixtures on the French market: they're cheaper, lighter and have no condenser to break. Moreover, their robust construction is better for outdoor use."
In charge of servicing the numerous Avignon Festival venues, the volante lumière -- the 'flying squad' group of lighting technicians provided by the festival management -- deal with issues as they arise, whether lighting, dimming, networking, wiring or even water damage caused by rain.
Lighting consoles used by Off Festival venues also benefit from a service and training resource center at the College de la Salle, a high school in the town, and one of the largest performance venues. Technicians can be assisted and trained in the use of ETC's SmartFade® or Presto lighting control boards, and it is a level-one service and repair center for Avab desks. This is in addition to the services provided by the local dealer or Avab in Saint Denis, if needed.