Cinimod Studio thinks its lighting scheme for the National Stadium in Peru is the largest crowd-controlled, interactive lighting display in the world. Amanda Allen meets studio director Dominic Harris to ask how he contended with South American politics, tight deadlines and a ‘challenging’ working environment
When outgoing Peruvian president Alan Garcia decided to leave a legacy befitting his term in office he embarked upon a project to renovate the dilapidated Estadio Nacional (National Stadium). But with only 100 days remaining of his presidency he didn’t exactly leave a lot of time for the design team to realise his ambitions.
Cinimod Studio became involved in the project through their relationship with Peruvian-based lighting firm Arquileds, and in conjunction with CAM, Traxon and e:cue, they came up with a one-of-a-kind control system.
“We had an existing relationship with Arquileds so we joined their team and put together a lighting concept and delivery package,” says Dominic Harris of Cinimod Studio. “With the 100 days deadline, this was a project that I would normally say no to, but in Peru there is a different mentality. It’s all go, go, go!” says Harris.
With the knowledge that they were up against other companies with their pitch, Cinimod wanted to present something unique, and proposed the structure could embody the atmosphere within the stadium. “I thought it would be really interesting if we could capture the mood of those inside and reflect it on the stadium’s façade,” says Harris. “So that’s what we did.”
“I thought it would be interesting to capture the mood of the crowd and reflect it on the stadium’s façade,” says Dominic Harris.
To achieve its ambitious aim, Cinimod needed to create a control system capable of capturing the mood of 45,000 people at once, and then display the results in real time on the outside of the building. To create the system, Cinimod worked closely with Traxon, who supplied the LED fixtures, and with e:cue who supplied the control system.
Fanning the flames
The external lighting scheme is designed to integrate with the architectural framework of the stadium, showing the lighting patterns that depict the mood of the crowd. Working with the design of the new façade, the majority of the lights are laid out in dramatic fans of ‘flames’ that wrap upwards around the bulbous form of the structure.
All fittings on the display were supplied by Traxon, with the installation linked to an e:cue controller providing the required 62 networks of DMX lighting control output.
The installation is comprised of two main components: Cinimod’s specially-designed interactive mood analysis control system and the e:cue lighting control system. “These two components work together to deliver a responsive display on the façade,” says Harris. “The display evolves from this brutal, curving, grey blob to something much more delicate.”
The 100-day timeline put an immense amount of pressure on everyone involved, but as Dominic explains, if it couldn’t be achieved within 100 days, then the client would have abandoned the interactive lighting element. “It was 100 days or nothing. The president of Peru lost out in the elections and the date of the first match was chosen to occur at the end of his term. No matter what, the stadium was going to be finished on that date,” says Harris.
With no time to spare, the team had to work cohesively from the beginning, but with the lighting team in different locations around the world, it could have become a logistical nightmare. Thankfully, Dominic says, the reality proved otherwise: “We were in the UK, and then there was Traxon based in Hong Kong, and e:cue and their control team are based in Germany so there were a lot of multi-way Skype calls made to get to the bottom of any issues.”
In addition to the lighting team, there were two construction contractors working on the site, each assigned to work on one half of the stadium. “The client split the entire refurbishment of the stadium in half, so on either side you had one contractor racing against the other in competition. It was, shall we say, a ‘challenging’ environment because of the number of people on site,” says Harris.
For much of the project, Cinimod’s time was spent on research and development, testing the different hardware solutions and algorithms. Initial testing was carried out alongside railway tracks to determine how the system interpreted loud sounds. To further challenge the software, it was first trialled at the Emirates Stadium in London. “During a game at the Emirates between Scotland and Brazil, we let the software run and basically watched it respond,” says Harris.
Having tested the software as much as possible, the time came for it to be used at the inauguration of the stadium by the Peruvian president. “For the first game in Peru, it was very important that we could actually sit there and see if we had gotten it right. The system has been theoretical up until that point,” says Harris.
The threat of the system not succeeding was one that weighed heavily on the team’s shoulders. “If the system hadn’t worked, we would have been at the point of non-delivery so it was a huge thing hanging over the head of the entire team,” says Harris.
The finished project is a world-class stadium with the ability to display the ebb and flow of the crowd’s mood to people standing outside, an element of the refurbishment that has created a lot of buzz in Lima. “There is a huge soccer culture in Peru. Every taxi driver, every bus driver and almost every motorist will be listening to the matches on their radio. If Peru scores, you don’t even have to be watching to know because every driver is celebrating. It’s nice that our design now joins in with that spirit and can form part of that national pride.”
Capture the mood
To capture the mood of the crowd, a network of customised sound-level meters were placed along the roof line of the stadium. The data gathered was then analysed by Cinimod’s processing hardware and software in the communication room at the stadium.
The software processes the sound-level data in realtime, performing a series of comparative mathematical calculations and analysis using self calibrating algorithms.
The output to the display represents four different ‘mood states’ of the crowd:
Boring: In this state the crowd has a neutral attitude to the game. Not much is happening.
Excitment: Once the sound sensors detect that something is happening, a surge in crowd noise levels activates the ‘exciting’ stage.
Celebration: The ‘celebration’ mood would normally be triggered by the crowd reaction to a goal, detected by a rising noise-level within the preceding ‘exciting’ state, followed by a sustained level of constant high-level noise.
Disappointment: If the noise levels of the ‘exciting’ state reach a peak followed by a rapid decline in levels, then the software identifies a disappointed crowd.
The mood analysis software runs continuously, always evaluating the mood of the crowd. The software then communicates the determined mood to the e:cue lighting controller, which then sends the relevant DMX control signal to all the light fixtures.
Project: National Stadium, Peru
Lighting design: Claudia Paz, David Casteñada, Dominic Harris, Nick Cheung, Andrea Cuius, Cesar Castro, Luke Hall
Project management: Arquileds, CAM
Controls: Cinimod Studio, e:cue
Suppliers: Griven, Traxon