New light show in St Michael’s Cave.
By now, most of you have heard about the fantastic new project up in St Michael’s Cave, and some of you may even have experienced it firsthand. ‘The Awakening’ is a high-tech light show, over two years in the making, which catalogues Gibraltar’s rich geological history. We chat to Christian Wright, Director of Wright Tech Media, the company behind this mammoth operation.
Tell us a little about Wright Tech Media, and the projects you have undertaken locally before this one.
Wright Tech Media has celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and we’ve been involved from the get go in helping market Gibraltar as a destination for most of that time. We were responsible for the video content that went abroad for ‘Gibraltar: A year of Culture’ and ‘Gibraltar: Time to be enlightened’. As well as numerous other campaigns for both Government and large clients like William Hill and so on. Our bread and butter is showing off Gibraltar, its people and lifestyle.
How did the contract come about?
We had seen an expression of interest come out from Government for Upper Rock development ideas. We had already been thinking about utilising this kind of technology in some capacity to create a product and this felt like a great opportunity to pitch it. We did, and were lucky enough to be awarded the opportunity to realise our vision.
Where did the idea for the name ‘The Awakening’ come from?
The story and creative process lead to the show title ‘The Awakening’ – the idea is that we are awakening these ancient formations at St Michael’s Cave to tell their geological story and therefore the story of Gibraltar.
What did the process involve?
We had to be sure this technology would work from a technical point of view as well as an aesthetic one – so before starting anything we mapped the cave in its entirety in 3D to understand the canvas we would be working on. We also had to be sure the acoustics would be on point and engaged with specialists in perfect speaker placement and sound level usage. Everything was about developing a professional product and there were a lot of checks that needed to be done ahead of any actual work happening on site.
How long did it take, from idea to fruition?
This has been in the pipeline for at least two years, but the idea to move in this direction and try and create an experience of this level for much longer. I had gone to Liverpool on a trip and I visited the Terracotta Warriors on display at the museum. I am a big history buff but expected the entire exhibition to be slightly stuffy and what I had always thought of as a standard museum visit. It was anything but. They used the latest audio-visual solutions to bring not only the warriors to life but the history as well. It was on leaving that I thought it was definitely something Gibraltar could benefit from. Our country is brimming with history and culture but I’ve never thought we’ve told our stories as well as we could – and advances in technology really allow you to engage visitors and tell the narrative you want in a way that excites people. That’s when we began the long journey that would culminate in ‘The Awakening’
Were there any significant challenges that arose?
There were a lot of challenges – from reinvigorating the old infrastructure to making sure that every piece of kit would stand the test of the environment we were working in. This project has cost around the £2 million mark and it has come from private investment. So, the equipment upkeep was key. We actually had to construct bespoke housing units for all projectors used in the experience that contained de-humidifiers and cooling systems amongst other things. We also had to make sure that any work or even the show itself remained sympathetic to what is already a spectacular site by itself. That was the major challenge – as such we had specialised sculptors come in to mask cabling and the show control was programmed to always loop back to lighting that would reveal the natural majesty of the cave with a clean colouring.
What was the most enjoyable part of the project?
Definitely seeing the reactions of visitors; not only tourists, but locals too. It was always a key goal for us to reengage the local population, a lot of whom haven’t been up to the cave in years. Having them re-visit, especially with children and seeing the excitement as they witness everything made all the work worth it.
Tell us about some of the individual features visitors can expect to see.
The cave has been re-lit with brand new lighting to reveal some of the areas that may have been overlooked and lost during the last lighting set-up. This has been done by specialists who work with the BBC. Everything is a new experience but we have selected four canvases that we are really bringing to life. ‘The Squid’ as you walk in emphasising the science and force in this stalagmite’s creation, ‘The Flowstone’ a waterfall of light, ‘The Angel’ a newly realised formation resembling an Angel spreading its wings before you and the main cavern – a 360-degree projection mapped show about the formation of the rock Gibraltar through its limestone story.
What future plans are in the pipeline?
We’ve been working a long side educational professionals – namely Headmistress Sonia Lopez and her team at St Bernard’s Lower Primary School, to create educational material for use by teachers and families visiting the site. This is something really important as it will help the younger generation understand more about local history, geology, myths and legends. We will be offering the pack free to download on our website shortly and we will be incorporating QR codes on all the new signage that allow young children to have access to animated videos that will help explain some of the more abstract formations in a manner friendly to them. We will also be adding ‘Discover More’ QR codes aimed at older visitors giving them access to interviews with experts/ photo galleries and write ups.
Admission to The Awakening is included in the Nature Reserve Fee. For more information, visit www.visitgibraltar.gi/see-and-do/military-history/st-michaels-cave-9.