Grimaud 2002
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The First European Festival of Showlaser
By Patrick Dietzel
President, Laserlight Showdesign Berlin


What began with some interesting email inquiries and a rather simple looking internet homepage ended up in probably the best organized and largest showlaser festival in the world up to date! I speak about what took place in Grimaud, south of France, at the Mediterranean coast recently.
9 European companies in the field of showlaser were chosen and invited to participate in the festival that was to take place October 3rd to 5th 2002. These came from Germany (HW-Lasertechnik and Laserlight Showdesign Berlin), Austria (Global Laser Systeme), Switzerland (MVS Lasertechnik AG), the Netherlands (Laserforum), Belgium (Laser System Europe), France (Europe Evenement and LPI) and Italy (Laser Entertainment). The purpose of the festival was to bring together a multi-national mix of European companies that should introduce the art of lasershows to the French public.
Besides the pleasure of meeting colleagues from all over Europe or just in front of your own door and finding new friends and business partners, the festival did not miss its goal. More than 17 thousand live spectators proved the success of what many consider a great idea that was long due: A meeting point for European professionals that includes the public.

The festival was organized by a private event agency based in Grimaud, in the south of France between Frejus and San Tropez. This agency had realized multiple laser-enhanced events (like e.g. product launches) in the past, mainly incorporating French laser companies. Besides the attractive location, the organizers demonstrated their will to attract foreign laser companies through truly perfect organization and a more than warm accommodation from the first minute.
Nice apartments, good French cuisine, very friendly staff and a dazzling landscape guaranteed for a pleasant stay that had a slight touch of vacation during "usual" laser work. The nearby beach and a room view over a palm planted golf course completed the relaxing atmosphere. These details made it easy for everyone to have a great time and to enjoy his stay.

Looking at the primary purpose of the festival (which was to do lasershows) the schedule looked like this: the first two days prior to the official festival (October 1st and 2nd) were reserved for technical rehearsals at the graphics site located besides the chateau of Grimaud. Laser images were projected on a green-greyish coloured mountain consisting of rock and vegetation about one kilometre away. It seems quite clear that this is all but a good projection screen for colored laser graphics. This site was chosen to incorporate the city of Grimaud (a sponsor of the festival) more tightly into the festival. Thus, all lasers that were not either low-divergence or DPSS mostly vanished as soon as they reached the mountain on the other side of the valley.
After two days of rehearsal every company had more or less found their way to cope with the slightly unsatisfying graphical quality. But it WAS possible to show entertaining graphics show as many companies proved during the next two days.

October 3rd was the first day open to the public and the start of the festival. The first two nights were reserved for graphical performances of those participants who desired to contribute in this category. The last of the three festival days was reserved for the great finale at the beach of "Port Grimaud" which was to feature mainly beamshows and volumetric performances. But, the organizers had decided to supply a watershield screen and an additional 30 channel dancing fountain installation was supplied by a French company that also included a row of water nozzles that formed a quite good screen surface in a more rectangular shape. Thus, 20% of graphical content was permitted during each company's performance. Looking at the two show categories of the festival, every company participated in the finale with a volumetrical performance but only seven of the nine participating companies supplied an entry for the graphical cathegory. So there were seven graphical performances and nine volumetrical ones to be seen by the public during the festival.

The beach location was not quite as tricky to make a good show site of as the mountain, but still gave enough room for excitement as there were no rehearsals planed by the organizers for the final night at all. Thus, all participants had to start installing their systems on the beach in the morning of the last show day. Unfortunately, this did not leave much time for perfect technical alignment as it only became dark as spectators started to quickly arrive. Never the less, this final night show probably set new marks in many aspects.
As you can see in above photos one laser system was placed next to the other. All in all, there were 350 Watts of DPSS, YAG, Argon and Mixed-gas-lasers on site. Power was provided by 3 250 KVA generators and twelve 3/4 inch water outlets supplied sufficient pressure for all water cooled systems. Countless high-volume fog generators with wind machines and hazers were spread all over the place. A sufficiently large PA system and the extensive water installations filled an area of about 80 times 50 meters on the beach in front of the spectators area.
First row sat the jury judging every entry that was presented. Then followed a VIP area for invited guests and behind this the crowds filled the beach. Viewing distance from first row of crowd was about 100 metres. After 10.000 people had entered the site the entrances had to be closed and countless people had to be denied access to the beach for safety reasons.

The quality level of all performances was extremely high. Especially if you consider that almost nobody had been there in advance to visit the show sites. The participants showed a great amount of professionalism and flexibility that made a wonderfully huge installation like this possible. Even without rehearsal. The organisers too were very delighted and the crowds seemed pleased by what they saw. So the jury had a very hard time to decide which companies will be awarded. Prices went to Italy (2), the Netherlands (1), France (1), Germany (2) and Belgium (2). But it wasn't the prices that made this week in sunny France a wonderful experience. It was the people.

After all one can say that this festival was a huge success both for the organizers as well as the participants. Multiple larger cities nearby have already announced interest in hosting the festival in following years. And this will be necessary to supply adequate space for more spectators.
But there was ONE big complaint voiced throughout all participants: There should have been one night reserved for everyone to party together. The organizers assured that this will be the first thing they will add next year. So see you in 2003!


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