Having visited Les Gets during winter, finding the resort filled with meadows and flowers is rather bewildering yet, pandemic or not, people still manage to have fun hurtling down the slopes there even in the middle of August, but on bikes and disguised as ninja turtles.
We arrive at the tourist office of the resort accompanied by Christian Crolle, Pro Audio Manager at Yamaha Music Europe, and the Business Manager for Yamaha, Pascal Bessenet. We are here to meet Chrystelle Felisaz, the press attaché of Les Gets, with whom we head off to the nearby pine grove, where the recently opened attraction designed by Moment Factory is located.
Christian and Pascal are here because Moment Factory decided to equip Alta Lumina with speakers, amplifiers and matrices branded with the triple tuning fork, and to use the finesse of their unique sound.
On the site, you can see deep impressions in the tree trunks, caused by the previous use of this magnificent pine grove as a treetop adventure park. Thanks to the mounting system chosen by the miracle-working Québécois creator, this won’t happen at Alta Lumina.
We opted for a daytime visit of the site to better understand how it all works; but of course we also took in the experience at night.
It is worth mentioning up front: apart from a few speakers, smoke machines and sparse lighting fixtures, this part of the forest has been particularly well preserved by Moment Factory including the anthill and it takes a rather expert eye to notice the conduits that hide the connections to the trees used as masts to support the “fixtures”, while the cabins that house the equipment are also well preserved. Built like real houses, they too blend into the décor.
On site, Emeric Dubois, the technical manager of Alta Lumina, conducts our tour with a rare friendliness. He is one of the four full-time technicians on the site, supported by four to five seasonal workers who welcome, guide and help the visitors. He opened all the doors for us and answered as many questions as possible. We would find him later that evening among the staff, assisting visitors here and there as they wandered between the seven zones, each with its own style of light, sound and personality.
Emeric responds willingly to our questions, the first of which causes him to laugh
SLU : Could you show us the technical facilities and servers in the large chalet near the entrance?
Emeric Dubois : Gladly, but you will be disappointed. There is no studio, no technical room or large racks of servers. Everything for control and monitoring fits in an iPad and in a few mini servers running X-Agora, which are distributed in the cabins along the route.
SLU : Can you explain to us what X-Agora is?
Emeric Dubois : It’s Moment Factory’s proprietary software that was used to program and deliver the entire show – Dante, ArtNet and video media – on demand, and it also serves as a remote control using several dedicated tabs on our tablets.
So we set off to take a look at the cabins to see the technological details. A first, smaller structure is the exception that confirms the rule.
There is no roof or wood, only a hatch hidden by a camouflaged waterproof mesh. Air-conditioned and heated like the cabins, it houses the central hub, which includes the management of the fiber ring network that provides signal transport for all the elements of the show, as well as the remote controls, lighting controls, the surveillance cameras (there are 16 along the route), and the Yamaha amplification for the speaker enclosures of the same brand.
Each of the cabins is supplied with a three-phase power supply. As for this simpler technical bay, Emeric tells us it is an antenna node and not in the fiber ring.
SLU : Your tablet is your only tool…
Emeric Dubois : The only one (he smiles). We launch the program every night, we monitor its progress on the show control timeline, we monitor switch by switch the network infrastructure, including Dante, temperatures, faults, and so on. To monitor the temperatures we have a sensor in each cabin and a Raspberry Pi that sends them to us via X-Agora.
As soon as we start up in the morning, we can send, for instance, the audio test program where each speaker plays its number, read in audio. For this, a WiFi network is present all along the path and allows us to move around, while still keeping our hands on the servers.
I always carry my tablet with me, even in the evening during the show, since the smoke output of the Viper NT can also be adjusted according to the wind conditions and the number of people on the circuit.
SLU : Why are we hearing this discernible hiss?
Emeric Dubois : It’s not a poor gain adjustment or a faulty amp, in fact, it’s a white noise signal that is generated continuously and is independent of the audio program, in order to maintain some movement of the voice coils, no matter how small. This helps to defend against the cold in particular. Similarly, all the racks remain powered 24/7 to avoid cold but also condensation in the morning.
A scheduling problem prevented us from meeting up with Moment Factory staff on site, so we collected their answers within a few days of our on-site report, collective answers to a wide variety of our questions.
SLU : Can we take the name of your company, “Moment Factory”, literally to describe your work?
Moment Factory : Yes, absolutely! The objective of our various projects is to instill a sense of collective wonder and connection. As technology offers us multiple ways to interact through our personal devices, the need to physically gather together seems more crucial than ever.
SLU : How long have you been designing and what is the breakdown between permanent and temporary creations?
Moment Factory : Since our beginnings in 2001, Moment Factory has created more than 450 unique projects around the world, including the Lumina Night Walks.
SLU : Are you approaching organizations or are they reaching out to you?
Moment Factory : Each project and collaboration is different, but in the case of Alta Lumina, the relationship began when SAGETS¹ contacted us in the winter of 2019, after hearing about the Lumina night walks.
While visiting the place and the region, our team was immediately inspired by the site and saw the potential to create a Lumina route that could operate almost year-round.
¹ SAGETS stands for Société d’Aménagements Gêtoise d’Equipements Touristiques et Sportifs (Les Gets Tourist and Sports Facilities Company). The company manages the activities and recreation at the resort of Les Gets, responsible for the ski lifts and the slopes, but also for mountain biking, golf, the enchanted Alta Lumina night trail, daycare and lake for swimming.
SLU : How long does it take between the commissioning and completion of an attraction like Alta Lumina?
Moment Factory : In general, a Lumina night walk takes about a year of work, from conception to inauguration.
SLU : Who creates and programs the visual and musical/sound effects?
Moment Factory : Within the creative team of the project we have a musical director who composes the original material, often inspired by the sounds of nature and with local influences.
SLU : Does each attraction have its own story, style and music, or do you repeat the same “program” and lighting themes in different locations?
Moment Factory : Each Lumina experience we create is unique and tailored to the location and surroundings in which it operates. Alta Lumina is the 12th Lumina night walk in the series and the first in France, and in Europe.
The Lumina walks are created on the principle of a series, in which each experience is unique. The visual universe and artistic direction of the Lumina Night Walk series is distinctive, but an original narrative framework is adapted for each site and each experience.
SLU : Do you plan to evolve or renew the attraction, technology or music, in order to avoid audience fatigue, or to roll out a major technical innovation at Les Gets?
Moment Factory : Alta Lumina has been designed to be experienced in both summer and winter, and the naturally changing landscape will allow you to live and relive the experience through the changing seasons. The story will not change, but we will certainly make technical adjustments over time. For now, no major new features are planned, but some creative additions might be considered after a few years of operation, in order to keep the magic alive and keep the public coming back for more.
SLU : How do you choose the integrators and/or the local teams in charge of building an attraction?
Moment Factory : Usually, the system integrators are part of the Moment Factory team and have had previous experience working with us. In the case of Alta Lumina, we also worked with local teams. To do this, we collaborate from the beginning of the project with our customer to find a local vendor who has the necessary experience, for Les Gets this was CarpeDiem, the service company from Sallanches who did part of the cabling.
SLU : Can Alta Lumina’s computer system be remotely monitored and, if necessary, its software fixed?
Moment Factory : Yes, we always request VPN access in order to perform remote follow-up support.
SLU : How do you choose the brands of sound and lighting equipment to be used on an attraction?
Moment Factory : Over the years and through experience, we have developed partnerships with various companies.
SLU : Why do you mix Yamaha tops and JBL subs? Is it a question of protection rating?
Moment Factory : Indeed, it is a question of IP rating, we unfortunately did not find a Yamaha sub to meet our needs.
SLU : Who is responsible for the technical management of Alta Lumina and ensures its operational capacity every night?
Moment Factory : The client, SAGETS, is responsible for the attraction, the Moment Factory team is available for support, if necessary.
SLU : How much freedom for technical intervention do the teams have on the site?
Moment Factory : They are responsible for “level #1”, that is to say, all physical equipment. For system level maintenance it is Moment Factory that intervenes via VPN. The operators may have requests at the show control level but it will always be Moment Factory who integrates them if deemed necessary.
SLU : What kind of weather conditions can occasionally hinder the opening of Alta Lumina?
Moment Factory : The decision is at the discretion of the operator, but typically in thunderstorms and lightning the walk can’t take place.
SLU : What is the long-term durability of technical infrastructure that are subject to climatic conditions? Your geographical origins probably help with this ;0)
Moment Factory : Indeed we have Lumina Walks and other attractions operating in winter conditions and, although there are still some technical challenges, we aim for five years of durability for the installation. The maintenance of the equipment is the responsibility of the operators, but our teams are always available for support.
SLU : How are the power supplies protected against the climate (I am thinking of the differentials) and against the possibility of a visitor leaving the route?
Moment Factory : The primary level is buried under the trail, only the secondary and tertiary levels are at ground level. Everything is installed according to local standards by certified electricians.
SLU : How do you combat snow accumulation on the lighting fixtures? Do you brush it off or do you just turn them on full?
Moment Factory : We use brushing, moreover the equipment is always on in order to release some heat and thus somewhat avoid accumulation.
SLU : How do you keep the speakers, projectors and lighting fixtures “warm”?
Moment Factory : In the show control system, we have a standby mode before the start of the show. The projectors are always on and the speakers are always being fed white noise to stay active.
SLU : Why not have two separate Sinology racks for redundancy, in addition to the media servers?
Moment Factory : The media is stored locally in each of the servers.
SLU : Those servers you use look very robust, comprehensive and compact… are they made for you or are they commercially available?
Moment Factory : It is a model that was created for us, X-Agora.
SLU : In the event of on-site data loss, would you have the ability to “play” remote media from time to time?
Moment Factory : No, unfortunately not.
SLU : What is provided in terms of on-site emergency and evacuation alerts?
Moment Factory : Emergency lighting is provided by the clients in case of emergency. The show control system can also generate an audible alarm and switch all the lights on full white light to evacuate the site.
The night falls and Alta Lumina lights up
You’ll have understood by now, Alta Lumina comes to life when the stars shine in the sky and the sun has gone on to do the same on the other side of the globe. The most perfect definition of this journey is given by the creator himself: “an experience where the music can be seen and the light can be heard”.
A stroll on a path winding through a pine forest, where a very simple story unfolds without any dialogue, a sensory and poetic allegory, suggested by the light and comforted by the sound… or the other way around.
For 45 minutes, we experience a pleasant and gentle regression caressed by beams that are adjusted or were chosen to be faint so that the light remains confined to each of the zones and our eyes are trying their best – in terms of gain – to see the path to follow in the middle of the night, in the heart of the coniferous trees.
Very well directed smoke highlights some of the scenes, such as the passage through the area of the green lasers. Each note, melodic inflection or sound effect is accentuated precisely with the corresponding visual scene. This is very well done, even though we have seen it done before.
The Yamaha sound, very finely reproduced by the VXS range, is based on a zone by zone variation with a common melodic theme and a compatible range that allows the zones to merge into one another, creating a continuum without any wrong notes. The fade out of the one you’re in relative to the next one draws you along irresistibly, and so on and so forth. The same is true with sound effects and lighting, which move imperceptibly from one area to the next.
The audio programming is also very dense and an abundance of Dante channels carry melodies and sound effects in a fiber ring, from which each cabin with a rack of equipment extracts what it needs to feed its nearby amps and speakers
All this audio is also processed and routed through two Yamaha MRX7-D matrices that serve as a smart switch, managing the phase, color and, of course, the levels at each point of the audio diffusion.
The levels are carefully managed, allowing us to talk to each other and marvel without raising our voices and avoiding all or at least part of the faint spillovers we noticed when we arrived at the edge of the forest, which lights up weakly here and there at night and exudes an attractive melody.
The distribution of the audio to the 88 Yamaha speakers – 52 VXS8s and the 36 smaller VSX5s – is remarkably well done, and very few small phase glitches occur, where two enclosures play the same output. Their number, their excellent reproduction and their very wide polar pattern is enough to make you overlook the presence of point sources.
Sometimes we would still like to have a little more distance from the speakers and a little more bass. That said, we have to admit that there is not much in the soundtrack that calls for muscles at the bottom end. On the rare occasions when it did, we would have liked to feel it a little more.
Why not look through the catalog of a Yamaha company like Nexo? They have a very complete range of subs. Finally we can only express our appreciation for the power and the versatility of X-Agora. With this multimedia platform, everything seems possible; and when it comes to compactness, it’s difficult to beat.
The finale of the show is splendid, with a bouquet of fireworks, very clever use of the trees and a few more dB of sound. On the other hand, we are still hungry at the very end, before leaving the woods.
A video projector projects a still image as an ending to the story via a simple written text. Let’s bet that Moment Factory will one day add a touch of magic, as it seems to overflow from their hands!
The proof is in the pictures, thanks to images provided by the Quebec studio.
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Text: Ludovic Monchat - Photos: Ludovic Monchat & Moment Factory