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Black Hole - End of Time

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Black Hole - End of Time
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Mapping delivers powerful light art experience

Black Hole – End of Time is an immersive spatial light art experience, created by musician and lighting designer Paul Alty. The event, which first took place in 2021, transformed Old Christ Church, Waterloo – a Grade II listed 19th-century former church turned community space – into an engaging storytelling spectacle using lighting, lasers, sound, haze, and smoke effects. Aiming to go one step further and deliver an even more impressive spectacle – in part with the addition of projection mapping – ‘End of Time’ returned for another year.

For 2022’s version, Alty invested in four Christie projectors as his first foray into projection mapping, used to complement the sound, lighting and lasers at Old Christ Church. The show narrative – written by Alty – tells the story of protagonist Jim, an amateur astronomer and astrophysicist who experiments with the kinetic power of a pendulum clock and inadvertently opens a black hole, which begins to consume his time. All profits raised – via ticket sales, cash donations and JustGiving supporters – were donated to industry charity Backup Tech UK, which supports industry professionals in live events, theatre, TV and film, and Friends of Old Christ Church.

The eye-catching projection mapping content was created by award-winning visual artist Rocco Helmchen. Helmchen, who has designed content for a host of planetariums, created a series of animated visuals designed around the theme of black holes and space, which were featured throughout the entire show. Central to the performance was an eye-catching 1-meter diameter black hole, which ‘floated’ in the middle of the church.

The visual elements were synchronised to a powerful soundtrack – played through the church sound system – made up of new compositions from Alty, as well as his Behind the Clock and Divide By Zero series of recordings. “I’ve been obsessed with lighting design from an early age,” says Alty. “I’ve worked for different events around the Liverpool area and have always been interested in music and the correlation between light and sound. In 1998 I bought my first synthesiser as a hobby, and from around 2013, I started taking it more seriously. I’m not one to stand on stage and perform, so I perform in a different way – by combining lighting and music together.”

Four Christie projectors were used in the event, powering mapping on the entrance side of the church, as well as to the altar ceiling, and to the exit. An additional Christie projector provided content for the waiting area outside the main church, where a two-minute animated pre-show section played. All tickets for the event sold out, so Alty added more show slots, which sold out in just three days.

“There was a lot of appetite to do the show again, and I committed to doing projection mapping as I felt like that was the next step,” adds Paul. “I felt that the church environment would really lend itself well to it, and it could be even more immersive. I was well aware of Christie, and know what a strong reputation it has as a brand. It was important to get the brightness that I wanted to make that impact, and Christie was able to deliver that.”

The Christie projectors were mounted on tall truss stands, provided by event production company Adlib, at about 2 meters high, and positioned so they would map onto all the church’s sandstone columns and ceiling. The accompanying lighting was made up of a primary laser, which was a 3-watt RGB run to a timecode using Pangolin Quickshow, which also ran the audio track. Two six-head, 3-watt RGB laser bars, a 2-watt RGB starburst laser and four smaller lasers were used to guide the audience around the church. The moving head and architectural lighting were controlled using an Avolites Titan One. Paul Alty also hired apprentice Josh Thornton to provide technical support, which allowed Alty to greet visitors and be more present during the experience.

“I was delighted with the way the event turned out,” adds Alty. “The addition of projection mapping content took it to the next level, and I received great feedback from visitors, not least from people already asking about another event! It was satisfying to go ‘one better’ than the previous year, and to raise money for some excellent causes. I was very pleased with the performance of the Christie projectors – I did an AB test with other projectors and there was no comparison in terms of brightness, clarity and color reproduction. The Christie model was head and shoulders above the others.”