blog 2020 6 min read

In conversation with Nicholas di Fonzo

In conversation with Nicholas di Fonzo

We had the pleasure of catching up with Nicholas to discuss some of his favourite projects over the years and how he is looking to use xR in the future...

Nicholas di Fonzo has been part of the disguise story since 2009 when he became an early adopter of the disguise solution. Since then he has worked on a variety of large scale projects all over the world and has most recently started to utilise disguise xR workflows.


How did you get started in the industry?

I started out in the industry in 1998 working for a multimedia company based in Milan who specialised in laser shows in conjunction with Pani, Pigi and Stark film projectors. I spent 10 years there learning a bit of everything both on the technical and software side. Once the video projectors arrived and they started to replace the film ones I definitely started to learn that my passion was video. 

In 2008 I decided to make the move to a video company to focus only more on the video side of things and grow my knowledge in that area. From the beginning of my time there I was always working overtime in order to learn and study as much as possible, my goal was to learn and use media servers. And the rest as they say is history. 

After a few years of mastering my craft, I was in charge of the video graphic systems and media servers department. Initially, I was using Coolux Pandoras Box, Dataton Watchout, 7th Sense and Catalyst. Then one day, d3 knocked on the door...  


How did you first discover disguise? 

I think it was during the U2 360° tour in 2009. At that time I was working in EM based in Milan, if I remember my boss went to a disguise (then d3) open house and was impressed. After that we went to London to see the product and I definitely saw it in my future! After that visit, a d3 2.5 server was bought! I received Fundamental Training from Chris Bird and David Bajt.


You’ve worked on some pretty big projects over the years, tell us about some highlights…

In 2014 I moved to live in Brussels to work with PRG, and it was thanks to them I was involved in some big projects, usually large scale projections in stadiums and outdoor venues. For these kinds of jobs I helped a bit with the projection study through disguise and when onsite I was in charge of the disguise system, taking care of all the connections and configuring Designer during the night, and sometimes looking after the operating as well. 


Some of my highlights are for the following projects: 

 2016 - 45th UAE National Day

 2017 - Sea Games Kuala Lumpur Opening/closing Ceremony

 2018 - CAF African Nations Championship Opening Ceremony

 2019 - 12 Edition African Games Opening Ceremony


What have been some of your favourite disguise projects that you have worked on and what challenges did you have to overcome? 

For the most part, the jobs that I worked with have always given me the same nice feeling, and I really enjoy the process of seeing what the pre-production work I make actually looks like on the job itself.

I think one of the best examples for me was in the 2017 on the Sea Games Kuala Lumpur Opening/Closing Ceremony. We had around a hundred projectors doing a mapping on the field and over a stage with a mask shape, and about 40,000 3x3 LED’s around 3 tiers of seats of the stadium. It was nerve wracking to see if what I previously created in pre-vis was worked when we got onsite!

On the opening night, when I was sitting in the center of the stadium I saw that everything was pixel perfect. It was such a good feeling to see how good the content looked and how accurate the video was with all the work I had done in pre-vis. It was a very exciting moment for me.

Another one of my most memorable projects was the 2019 Gucci Fashion Show. We used disguise to send 150 Unicast Artnet Universes to 300 elidy devices and 160 Broadcast universes to a huge amount of Halupix Devices. We controlled everything using SockPuppet through an MA2.

Again, it was so satisfying to get on onsite that everything was matching pixel perfect.

One of my favourite projects that used automation was the Italian tour of Mengoni in 2019. Besides having a see through LED screen and several Artnet LED Strips, we had 5 video projectors to work on 9 Roll Drop screens moving up-down while unrolling-rolling up following the trusses on top and underneath of them. The challenge was to map those screens that were changing size and moving continuously, matching the MoveCat motion control system coordinates.


You’ve recently got involved in some xR projects in Italy, tell us about your experiences so far?

For Netick, who are based in Milan, we’ve set up an xR stage, which we installed in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea was to tackle the challenges we as an industry are facing, and find a new way to communicate and do shows in the current climate. 

As it was during the lockdown, we were unable to receive physical support from disguise and MoSys, so all training and support came in remotely, where they gave us instructions on how calibrate all the systems. After several times doing it we finally found the best way to proceed in terms of number of observations, zoom pose, position of the camera, lights etc...

The set up started with a gx 2 machine, and then we moved to a gx 2c - integrated with a broadcast camera mounted on a jib, which is tracked by a Mosys Star Tracker Kit. We are using Notch and Unreal to render content. 

Now we have our set up, we have already made a few shows and presentations. Although setup as a temporary measure at a moment in time, I can see it being used well into the future - even if our business comes back normal as before. I’m proud of what we achieved and about the product in general.


What makes the events industry in Italy different to the rest of the world? 

For medium sized shows, I think that here in Italy there's a very good quality in terms of the final result. 

Maybe the approach is  slightly different, sometimes we are less organised than in countries where our work is more recognised, rooted

Large scale jobs don’t happen as often due to the reduced budgets, but they do happen with some of the bigger music stars. For example the Vasco show that sold over 220,000 tickets that I worked as the disguise operator.

Having worked both abroad, to gain experience working on some of the largest shows, and here in Italy, I have to say I see so much excitement here in Italy.

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