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WATCHOUT visuals impress at Edinburgh Tattoo

The spectacular large-format projections that have graced Edinburgh Castle for the last 11 years create a dramatic and dynamic backdrop for the iconic Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. For the 2016 event, the projections reached new heights in brightness, visibility and creativity thanks to a state-of-the-art video projection system specified by Ross Ashton from The Projection Studio.

The new system teams 12 powerful Panasonic PT-DW17K2 projectors with a Dataton WATCHOUT multi-display system, supplied by Mirage Associates, Dataton's UK premium partner. “The Tattoo first explored the medium of large format projections in 2005. Now we have reached the stage where video projectors can compete in price and hugely improve the quality of the result,” says Ross Ashton, who has been appointed as the Tattoo's projection consultant for the next five years. “Apart from being much brighter, the whole system is infinitely more flexible. In WATCHOUT, content can be changed and added quickly and easily via on-site editing and additional materials and special moments can be incorporated into the show.”

The castle walls in Edinburgh are extremely challenging projection surfaces: 75m depth front-to-back, lacking in symmetry and a dark brown colour that effectively devours lumens. With the move to video and the greater intensity, the latitude for content has greatly increased. The new setup also means that the lighting elements can be a lot bolder and brighter.

The Tattoo is a hugely popular, week-long event showcasing an exciting and eclectic mix of military pageantry, music, dance, technical wizardry and special effects. For both the 2016 and 2017 editions of the event, The Projection Studio created a completely new set of video content that was projected for two thirds of the 90-minute show, starting at dusk.

Enjoying the greater creative freedom afforded by the WATCHOUT and Panasonic rig, the castle backdrop was completely transformed for the different performances. For New Zealand's Lochiel Marching Drill Team the city landmark became Mordor – complete with flowing rivers of lava, fire-breathing dragons, smouldering volcanoes and cracking buildings. For the Battle of Jutland theme, the video complement included 3D battle cruisers and the castle morphed into the engine room of a Dreadnaught battleship.

In complete contrast, the US Army Band Europe played against a castle covered in animated stars and stripes and musical notes.

“The new system opens up the scope for creativity and for us to produce much more complex visual effects,” says Ashton. “It’s also great to work with the Tattoo team led by producer Brigadier David Alfrey who have really underlined their commitment to bringing the highest production values to the whole Tattoo experience.”

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo projections were programmed and run by Karen Monid for The Projection Studio, the event lighting designer was Gerry Mott and the audio designer was Sebastian Frost. Highlights from the hugely popular event are broadcast on primetime TV.

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