Edinburgh International Festival's Deep Time wows audiences

In front of thousands of residents and visitors gathered in the city, a vast 7,000m2 canvas on the western façade of Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock was lit up by a series of digitally animated projections celebrating the city’s past, set to a specially compiled soundtrack of music by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai.

An audience of approximately 27,000 came together in Edinburgh last night (Sunday 7 August) to experience the spectacular launch event of the International Festival and the Scottish capital city’s summer festival season, the Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time

The UK’s largest free, ticketed event of its kind, this pioneering digital artwork charted 350 million years of Edinburgh’s history in just 18 minutes, transforming the city’s skyline as never before.

A full-length video of the event will be available on www.eif.co.uk to ensure that the event can be experienced for years to come.

The Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time, created by multi-award-winning 59 Productions, paid tribute to the inspiring landscape of the city by exploring the geological concept of ‘deep time’. The theory, which explains the Earth’s age in terms of billions of years rather than thousands as previously thought, was pioneered by Edinburgh resident and Enlightenment thinker James Hutton, who based his ideas on the landscape and geology of Edinburgh and its surrounding countryside.

Touching on key moments of geological and intellectual significance over approximately half an aeon, The Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time started with the tumbling of the castle’s walls – and a spectacular recreation of the city’s volcanic beginnings 350 million years ago. In another sequence, it referenced Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution, zooming down to see the natural world at a microscopic level, before pulling back so that the audience could explore how the Earth has changed when viewed from space.

Alongside the cultural and scientific thinkers who have made Edinburgh their home throughout history, the event celebrated those who have lived and worked in the city in recent times. Edinburgh remains a powerhouse for visionary thinkers, artists and innovative business people, and is home to a diverse community from across the world. In a fitting tribute, the event’s closing scenes featured hundreds of faces of Edinburgh residents past and present. Many of those in the audience had submitted their photographs for inclusion, and they appeared alongside images of figures from history such as Hutton himself, philosopher David Hume, Olympic hero Eric Liddell and poet Robert Burns.

Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time is one of the largest architectural mapping projects ever undertaken by International Festival Artistic Associates, 59 Productions. The Tony Award-winners created the acclaimed event The Harmonium Project which opened the 2015 International Festival, and were behind the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 59 Productions are renowned for projection mapping some of the world’s most iconic buildings, from the Sydney Opera House to the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

After choosing the location for the Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time and defining the visual canvas, 59 Productions used cutting-edge 3d animation and projection techniques to create the event. They worked in partnership with University of Edinburgh academics to develop a visual narrative and storyboard that would tell the complex geological story. This storyboard was transformed over two months into animated sequences choreographed to the musical soundtrack. Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock were elaborately modelled in 3d, based on in-person site surveys, laser scans of the site and aerial and terrestrial photography. This model formed the template for the animation production. It was then 3d-printed to create a metre-wide scale model which was used to pre-visualise the entire production.

The Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time was three times the scale of Edinburgh International Festival’s 2015 opening event The Harmonium Project, also created by 59 Productions.

 Fergus Linehan, Edinburgh International Festival Director, said: “Tonight we have witnessed a wonderful celebration of Edinburgh. There is no doubt that those who watched it will remember the Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time for years to come. I hope that in the coming weeks, residents and visitors alike will be able to enjoy all that the Edinburgh International Festival – and the festival city of Edinburgh - has to offer.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: ‘We are delighted to have supported Deep Time through EventScotland’s International Programme. Events of this scale, stature and ambition continue to strengthen Scotland’s outstanding portfolio of prestigious arts and cultural events, whilst also enhancing our reputation as the perfect stage for events. 

“Deep Time has successfully brought Scotland’s 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design themes together to showcase one of Scotland’s iconic locations transformed by cutting-edge design to the world, creating a spectacular and dramatic event to open the 2016 Edinburgh International Festival.’

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