Technical Production of the Opening Event for the “Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture” Program

Silviu Scrob

March 7, 2023

Traditionally, holders of the title of European Capital of Culture organize both an opening and closing event for the cultural year. According to the instructions from the European Commission, the opening cannot take place later than the last weekend of February. From an organizational perspective, this posed a challenge considering the low temperatures in Romania, and we had to take this into account in planning the program and event production.

Initially, the chosen weekend for the opening was February 24-26, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, prompted us to change the opening date. Consequently, the selected weekend for the opening of the Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture program was February 17-19, 2023.

As the “architecture” of the opening program, it consisted of a series of events organized both by the Projects Center of the Municipality of Timișoara (the structure designated by the City Hall to manage the title of Timișoara 2023 European Capital of Culture) and by cultural operators included in the revised Bid Book program. Another series of events were added through an open call called Opening+ dedicated to expanding the opening program.

This approach to creating the program allowed cultural operators already involved in the TM2023 program and representatives of local communities to express their intentions and contributions to the opening program. Thus, the Opening Program had over 130 events that provided diversity, extensive coverage of artistic domains, distribution in all neighborhoods of Timișoara, and addressability to very diverse audiences.

I will now outline the production process of the event on February 17 in Unirii Square Timișoara, designed as the celebratory moment of the opening program, addressing the entire city.

Fundamental Principles Guiding Technical Production Management

When discussing the technical production of a show or event, it must be clarified from the beginning that the role of technical production is to support the creation and facilitate the unfolding of performances without substituting for the artistic act itself but as an integral part of it. Referring to the management of technical production, it should be noted that it is the sum of all specific activities and actions intended to anticipate and organize as effectively as possible all the technical resources and means involved in the realization and execution of performances.

Studying various methods of managing technical productions and using my own experience, I have identified five fundamental principles or objectives that I pursue when involved in the realization of technical production. These are:

  1. Functionality
  2. Efficiency
  3. Safety
  4. Aesthetics
  5. Responsibility

Functionality: Functionality refers to the fact that all elements involved in the technical production of a show must serve the functional purpose of their individual presence in context and as part of a functional whole in a unified entity. This principle should guide all processes and activities involved in the realization and implementation of the technical production of a show or event. This encompasses material, human, financial, and space-related resources, as well as their temporal planning in the context of setups and the unfolding of the show. The aim is to eliminate or minimize risks, ensuring that potential malfunctions or defects do not result in the impossibility of carrying out the performance. Adhering to this principle, I took care to minimize or counteract the impact that unfavorable weather conditions could have on the unfolding of the show. Thus, I opted for using a stage with waterproof membranes as both a roof and on the three surrounding sides. For redundancy, we’ve planned two identical sound mixers, lighting control desks, and video media servers to have a backup in case one of them fails under the impact of adverse weather conditions. All lights outside the protection of the stage roof were equipped with rain covers or were inherently water-resistant (IP65). For individuals involved in the event in cold conditions, I ensured heaters both on stage and in the control and service areas. The schedule was designed to allocate time for technical rehearsals a day before artistic rehearsals. I requested that key technical personnel have relevant experience in similar events broadcast live on TV.

Efficiency: Efficiency aims the involvement and management of technical resources in a calculated and responsible manner, guided by lucrativeness and effectiveness to support the artistic act. Understanding the resources involved in a show, their purpose in technical production, knowledge of fundamental principles governing the creation and presentation of a show, and the sizing and management of all resources are essential elements in achieving this goal. 

With a medium-sized stage in terms of width and clearance, staging the entire show in complete darkness, and lacking a technical rider imposing high electricity consumption for lighting, I was able to opt for low-power consumption lighting. Additionally, for architectural lighting on the facades of buildings in Union Square, I could choose low-power LED lighting. Together with LED screens, these elements optimally met the show’s needs in an efficient manner.

Safety: Safety must address all individuals involved in the creation, implementation and reception of shows. This principle was followed from the creative phase when the venue was moved from Victory Square to Union Square precisely for the safety of the audience. I was concerned and took care to ensure that the production met all safety conditions throughout the planning and implementation, following safety principles and norms to avoid possible incidents or accidents both within the show’s team and among the audience. During setups, rehearsals and the event, no incidents affecting the safety of individuals involved in the organization or reception of the show were reported. As it was an event with free admission an important role in ensuring safety measures belonged to local authorities (Gendarmerie, Local Police, County Police, ISU, SRI, SPP, STS, etc.), who, along with the organizers, gathered in a command center aimed at ensuring the safety of citizens. The fact that the event took place without any notable incidents is evidence that everything was well planned, organized and implemented.

Aesthetics: Aesthetics play an extremely important role and are probably the most sensitive foundation of the principles underlying the technical production of shows due to the subjective nature of human tastes. Even though the appreciation of beauty is subjective and depends on each individual’s taste and education, technical production considers beauty in creating well-coordinated representations of space, color, light, sound, time, and dynamics involved in the unfolding of performances. To ensure a beautiful production, I believe it is essential to have detailed drawings of the entire production. Viewing and analyzing these drawings provide additional guidance beyond our ability to imagine a production. They allow us to make necessary corrections both in terms of dimensions and optimal ratios for the reception of technical production and at the level of areas to be masked or details to be corrected. By visualizing all production sketches, I could foresee the correct sizing of the entire production, prints and necessary maskings for the technical production to be well received by both the audience present in Union Square and the television viewers.

Responsibility. The major challenge of our century is protecting the environment and finding that sustainability that allows us and future generations to have a good life in a healthy environment. In the context of technical productions, responsibility starts with awareness of the impact we have on the environment and reducing the impact of materials, equipment, machinery, working methods, emissions, using selective collection, and recycling of materials involved in the process of creating and presenting shows. In addition to environmental responsibility, there are other types of responsibilities to consider when dealing with technical productions: responsibility to the audience (providing optimal conditions for all categories of audiences, including those with special needs), responsibility to neighbors (humans, animals, plants), responsibility to technicians (decent working conditions, decent schedule, decent and inclusive treatment), and the list of responsibilities is always open to improvements.

For this event, I undertook a series of actions under the guidance of the principle of responsibility, including:

  • Throughout the setup and teardown, I used the existing power supply points in the square. This reduced the number of hours the generators operated and, implicitly, the consumption of diesel fuel and associated pollution.
  • I created a platform dedicated to people with disabilities and/or special needs.
  • I ensured the interpretation of narrations and speeches, as well as artistic interpretation of concerts in Romanian sign language.
  • After the event, all meshes used to conceal technical structures and fences were either reused or recycled.
  • All confetti materials used were biodegradable.
  • The grass in Union Square was protected with special covers used to protect football field grass during concerts.
  • All instructions from the Directorate for Culture, Cults, and National Cultural Heritage of Timiș County were followed, and we did not interfere with any objective or heritage object.
  • To minimize the sound impact on residents of Union Square, heritage buildings, and neighborhoods, the sound system configuration was done using special software called NoizCalc developed by d&b Audiotechnik.
Proiectul NoizCalc pentru Piața Unirii și vecinătăți, Alex Șerb – inginer de sistem audio

  NoizCalc Project for Union Square and Surroundings, Alex Șerb – Audio System Engineer

By applying these fundamental principles, I had the opportunity to guide my actions and activities toward achieving solid results, regardless of the dynamic nature of changes, the type of artistic content, or the number of variables involved in the creation and presentation of this event.

In the following pages, I will provide a brief overview of the actions and activities undertaken at each stage of this project.

Stages of Technical Production Management

1. Creation or Artistic Concept Development:

The artistic concept incorporates all elements and means involved in the creation and presentation of the show to the public, including the entire technical production. My involvement in the creation or development of the artistic concept aimed at analyzing how the artistic concept develops from the perspective of technical production, adaptation to space, functionality, safety, risks, impact and audience reception.

Within the Curatorial Team of Timișoara 2023, I began working on the concept and program of the opening approximately nine months before the actual event, starting with April-May 2022. From September 2022, we started to enlist the necessary collaborators for the organization and implementation of the event. Collaborators such as Codruța Vulcu – event management, Daniel Klinger – stage & light design, Roxana Luca – venue management and infrastructure, Alex Șerb – audio management, Răzvan Betea – video management, and Bobi Pricop, as the show director, were enlisted.

For the main event, with broad appeal and public participation, a central space was desired. Initially, we worked on a concept that involved using Victory Square and the Palace of Culture (the building housing the National Theatre Timișoara, Timișoara National Opera, German State Theatre Timișoara, and Hungarian State Theatre “Csiky Gergely” Timișoara). The technical concept involved using the balcony of the Palace of Culture, video mapping on the building’s facade, LED screens following the video mapping on the facade, and immersive sound.

Randare 3D, concept producție tehnică Piața Victoriei și Palatul Culturii, Daniel Klinger

3D Rendering, Technical Production Concept for Victory Square and Palace of Culture, Daniel Klinger

Considering the anticipated large number of participants and the configuration of the space, where Pepiniera MAIO also made its appearance, in the initial risk assessments, we were compelled to look for an alternative space. Thus, we arrived at Union Square, where, after several surveys, measurements, and location simulations, we found a functional solution to meet the event’s needs.

During this working stage, we clarified elements of the artistic concept from the perspective of technical production, such as sizing the stage technology in correlation with the size of Union Square and the needs of the artistic acts. We documented the space with its characteristics and peculiarities, clarified major production needs, and created an initial layout sketch and stage-tech concept, entering the pre-production phase.

Simulare concept sceno-tehnic Piața Unirii

               Simulation of the Staging Design for the Union Square, Timișoara

Simulare amplasament scenă Piața Unirii

               Simulation of the Stage placement – Union Square, Timișoara

2. Pre-Production

In the pre-production phase, we addressed the following work stages: documentation and establishment of all resources involved in technical production, budgeting, planning and scheduling.

To determine the necessary resources for the event, we conducted surveys, working sessions, on-site research, and communicated with the teams of participating artists regarding their technical needs. The most challenging technical specification was for the “Muaré Experience” show presented by the aerial performance company Voala Project and Duchamp Pilot live band. To stage this performance, a crane of 100-120 tons with an extendable arm of at least 40m was required, capable of lifting a structure with acrobats (dynamic load of 1950kg) from one point in the square and carrying them over the audience. Additionally, for this performance, we needed to place four towers with lights to illuminate the acrobatic moments above the audience. After several attempts and working through various options, we managed to find the optimal placement for the crane and light towers.

Simulare amplasament scenă Piața Unirii

In addition to the resources needed for participating troupes/artists, we had to consider director Bobi Pricop’s instruction to highlight Union Square through controllable architectural lighting of perimeter buildings, given that the show was to be broadcast live on TVR. The lighting requirements and their placement sketch, developed in collaboration with Daniel Klinger, took all these details into account, attempting to find a balance between grandeur and budget constraints. In the end, we settled on a need for 114 moving heads (48 Clay Paky Sharpy Plus, 42 Robe Spiider, 8 Martin MAC Viper Performance, and 16 Martin MAC Quantum Wash placed in the towers for the aerial performance), 110 LED bars, LED floods and audience blinders (24 SGM X-5 strobes, 24 Robe Tetra, 38 CLF Ares, 12 4-LED Audience Blinders, 10 GLP Fusion X-PAR 12Z, 2 Robert Jouliat Aramis follow spots), and 90 architectural LED lights CLF Ares. In total, 314 luminaires were used in Union Square. For programming and controlling the lights, two GrandMA3-full size consoles were used (configured as a master and client in the session).

Schiță scenă și lumini, Daniel Klinger

Stage draw, Daniel Klinger

Schiță lumini, vedere de sus, Daniel Klinger

Lighting draw, top view, Daniel Klinger

Schiță lumini, vedere laterală, Daniel Klinger

Lighting draw, side view, Daniel Klinger

Turnuri lumini zona F.O.H., Daniel Klinger

Lighting towers draw, F.O.H. area, Daniel Klinger


For the audio deployment, I collaborated with Alex Șerb, who also determined the sizing of the installation needed to cover Union Square as effectively as possible. For this square, where we had 115m from the stage to the buildings on the opposite side and a width of 107m, the following sound system configuration was used:

  • Main hang: 14+14 d&b J-series
  • Subs: 16 d&b J-Sub + 6 d&b SL-GSUB
  • Out fill: 6+6 d&b J-series
  • Front fill: 8 d&b V-series point source
  • As Front of House (F.O.H) mixers, two DiGiCo SD8 were used, and for monitoring, two Yamaha CL-5 were employed, ensuring redundancy for each mixer (back-up).
Configurare P.A. Piața Unirii, Alex Șerb

P.A./ S.R. configuration, Alex Șerb

Predicție audio 4000Hz, Alex Șerb

Audio prediction 4000Hz, Alex Șerb

For the video aspect, the setup includes a large backdrop screen (ROE MC12H) measuring 1380 x 780cm, serving as the main visual element on stage. Additionally, two side screens with dimensions of 600 x 800cm each (INFiLED ER 4.63) are strategically positioned to complement the stage setup. These screens display specially created video content for the performance, crafted by Les Ateliers Nomad, featuring materials from the artists and live footage from TVR’s production.

Răzvan Betea has been responsible for overseeing the entire video network and infrastructure from the project’s conceptual phase. This comprehensive video setup ensures that the audience, both on-site and through the televised broadcast, receives a captivating and visually engaging experience. The coordinated effort in curating and presenting video content adds an extra layer of depth to the overall production.

Diagrama fluxuri semnal video, Răzvan Betea

     Video Signal Flow Diagram – Răzvan Betea

The technical production included stage effects consisting of six Flame Galaxis fire throwers, six Magic FX CO2 effects, four Magic FX Stadium Shot 2 confetti cannons, and two Stadium Blaster confetti cannons controlled through a GrandMA3-Lite console by Alex Bondria.

In the electrical domain, during rehearsals and the event, consisted in a system of three generators, each with a capacity of 220KVA synchronized and configured in parallel (low power sharing). This configuration allows the stopping and starting of part of the generators without interrupting the power supply.

For the arrangement of the event space and the crowd management, we collaborated with Roxana Luca and Mind Over Matter Consultancy Ltd (a UK-based firm specializing in crowd management led by Chris Kemp). After relocating from Victory Square to Union Square following a risk analysis, we resumed simulations for the placement considering the specific features of the new space.

In this regard, the production included securing technical areas with anti-panic fences in front of the stage, police-type fences, and high F2-type fences. Corridors for service access were created for quick movement from one side to the other of the square, used both by production staff and intervention teams and artists. In the public area, platforms for people with disabilities, a press platform, grass protections, eco-toilets, lighting towers mounted on independent generators for safety lighting, PSI stakes, extinguishers, and corresponding signage for branding, information, and evacuation were placed.

Together with local authorities, a plan of measures was developed for a situation in which Union Square would reach its maximum capacity, calculated according to available evacuation flows, with street blockages leading to and from Union Square. In this regard, police-type fences were positioned but kept grouped, with the role of obstructing the ends of the streets in case it was necessary, thus ensuring a flow of the “one exits – one enters” type, following the square’s capacity, including the corresponding signage. Their placement was made without affecting evacuation routes. This plan was prepared together with law enforcement and volunteers, with repeated briefings for coordinators and staff, and fortunately, it was not necessary to implement it, as the event unfolded without incidents.

To ensure evacuation routes, the terraces were raised during the opening event, causing some local dissatisfaction, despite encouraging businesses to sell products to go. In practice, the measure proved effective, with approximately 17,000 people present simultaneously in Union Square on the evening of February 17, 2023, according to Gendarmerie estimates, with a total of 28,000 people based on the flows in and out of the square, depending on the artistic program’s moments.

Schiță Piața Unirii, Silvia Tripșa, Roxana Luca, Mind Over Matter Consultancy

Drawing of Unirii Square Timișoara, Silvia Tripșa, Roxana Luca, Mind Over Matter Consultancy

Foto: Florin Gherasim

Foto: Florin Gherasim

Additionally, to ensure the distribution of information to potential visitors, two functional Info Point pavilions were installed throughout the opening weekend, along with mobile volunteer teams following the detailed schedule along the entire route of locations included in the opening program.

As an additional measure for a possible overcrowding of Union Square, two LED screens with live broadcast were placed in nearby squares, Liberty Square and Victory Square. Thus, in the case of overcrowding requiring a temporary halt to public access in Union Square, participants could redirect to the two adjacent squares to watch the show broadcast on the LED screens.

At the end of the pre-production phase, we had a detailed list of all the resources needed for the realization of this event. To establish the budget necessary for production, a public consultation took place, and based on the received offers, the budget was determined. After the consultation, a public auction was held, with four companies from the country participating, all qualifying for the technical offer, with the difference being the lowest price. Thus, the Set Up company was designated as the winner of the auction.

Together with the services provider, we conducted a technical prospection at the implementation site to ensure that everything conceived from the creation phase until that moment could be implemented properly. After this prospection, we could begin communicating production details with all the artist teams in the program, finalize the planning and scheduling of resources, and the overall layout of tests, rehearsals, and the event.

At the end of the pre-production stage, all production details were discussed and agreed upon with the artist teams, and they were sent the show file, patch book, and lighting plots. We had all the necessary drawings and layouts for implementation.

3. Production

In the production phase, the elements necessary for the event’s unfolding are manufactured, fabricated, produced, printed, etc. Also, in the production phase, the acquisition and rental of all resources and services necessary for the event’s execution took place. For this event, a series of meshes were printed and used to cover the structures used to support the side screens of the stage, lighting towers, technical control (F.O.H.), and fences delimiting technical areas.

Schiță exemplificare montare mesh-uri, Silviu Scrob

Drawing of mesh installation, Silviu Scrob 

Grafică mesh-uri: Flavia Țună

Mesh graphic, Flavia Țună

4. Implementation

The implementation stage includes all activities related to space preparation, setups, technical tests, rehearsals, event execution, dismantling, and space restoration.

Pre-assembly activities began on Friday, February 10th, with an initial working session in Union Square. We went through details such as reviewing technical production actions, tasks, and important details, analyzing production drawings and clarifying details in correlation with the existing space. Measurements and markings of locations were taken, and the first machinery necessary for unloading materials and equipment arrived for the next day.

On Saturday, February 11th, the work perimeter was delimited, and the stage was unloaded and assembled.

On February 13th and 14th, the sound, video, and lighting equipment were set up, and on February 15th, the sound system was calibrated, video tests were conducted and a lighting programming session took place.

The dates of February 16th and the first part of February 17th were dedicated to sound tests and rehearsals with the artists in the program, involving all teams participating in the live event, including cameramen and TVR’s mobile studio.

The schedule for the event on February 17th was as follows:

Desfășurător eveniment, Silviu Scrob și Bobi Pricop

    Event schedule, Silviu Scrob și Bobi Pricop

The execution of the event production involved the collaboration of:

5. Evaluation and Archiving

The evaluation aims to clarify whether the unfolding of the event proceeded according to the plans and if the established objectives were achieved. All technical resources involved in the unfolding of the spectacle (human, material, financial resources, etc.) are subject to this evaluation, as well as their management.

Apart from a temporary interruption of a wireless microphone, the entire spectacle unfolded according to the planned schedule. We can conclude that all production objectives were fulfilled.

The archiving process included all documents resulting from the technical production activities, such as creative documents (drawings, material lists, photos, creative processes, etc.), planning and scheduling documents, as well as other documents resulting from the technical production process.

All technicians or individuals from the artists’ teams with whom we spoke expressed satisfaction with the way the production looked and the event unfolded. Only positive reactions were encountered among acquaintances and guests who participated in the event as spectators in Union Square and among those who watched the event on television.

As a personal conclusion I can say that the production of this event met all the objectives pursued in terms of functionality, efficiency, safety, aesthetics, and responsibility. The production served the entire event and the artistic moments that comprised the spectacle very well.

Photo gallery

Photo credits: 17 February, Unirii Square, Timişoara
📷 Seba Tătaru, Cornel Puțan, Dana Moica, Cătălin Anghel, Petru Cojocaru, Mihai Toth, Flavius Neamciuc, Daliana Iacobescu, Florin Gherasim

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