Behind the scenes of the musical dancing fountains

Interview with Elia Orazio, programmer of dynamic fountains
Behind the scenes of the musical dancing fountains

One February morning in the office, as usual working across various projects, we finally managed to sit together for a chat. Elia Orazio is the programmer of Forme d’Acqua: he passed the threshold of 20y.o. a few years ago, has a background as an electrical engineer and carpenter, and has a strong passion for fountains, especially the dynamic, technological ones. This passion led him to embark on the path of programming, a very niche field made up of consumers who need novelty, amazement, and out-of-the-ordinary experiences.

With this interview, we will discover how Elia talks about himself, his work, what he is, and what he will be. In this enormous production of contents that remains hidden from non-experts, the creation of a musical dancing fountain implies a great choral work, where all the skills of the people involved are harmoniously merged like the voices of a choir, without anyone taking on the importance of the main protagonist of the story.

Let us discover together what lies behind the scenes of a musical dancing fountain.


1- Making fountains dance is a niche profession, about which – indeed – little is known. Many people see a musical dancing fountain and perhaps think that there is a controller – or something similar – that makes the jets move automatically, but we know that this is not the case. Tell us how it works.

Exactly, I understood that I was dealing with people who were convinced that the water features of the fountains we created were nothing more than automatic movements obtained from a controller, such as the DMX, which manages the lighting of many stages. We use the DMX protocol, but the water and light choreographies are the exclusive result of our skills.

At the base, there is software (Depence R3 by Syncronorm) that offers the possibility of designing the shape of the fountain, on which to arrange nozzles, pumps, and LED spots. The chosen design translates into obtaining certain choreographies. The positioning of the nozzles is strategic, because it must be functional to the choreography, and must have the possibility of dividing it into as many sections as possible because this determines a greater diversification of the water features.

Once the structure has been defined, the songs are loaded and we begin by moving the sections (features) that have been created.

From this moment, the work is carried out on a single piece, second by second, coordinating music, water, and lights. As for those who do video editing, thanks to a Digital Workstation you have a parallel and/or overlapping view of the tracks, to be able to intervene precisely on every single step.

Once the songs have been programmed, we move on to addressing and connecting the various features selected in the program with the various nozzles/pumps/lights. Finally, everything is loaded into a player, which activates and turns off the fountain and the choreographies on the selected days and hours.

Returning to the initial question: a DMX controller can make the fountain “dance” autonomously, without the work of the programmer, but it does not have the same precision, variety of choreography, and customization that only programming offers.


2- In the previous article, we saw with Simona that in the programming of musical dancing fountains, you work side by side. Tell us what a “typical day” is like when you are busy programming.

We eat, we drink, we have 7 or 8 snacks… Jokes aside, our works are complementary, we try to combine beauty and aesthetics with functionality. We share all the phases, from the definition of the design of the fountain to the programming of the water and light effects.

Simona takes care of the scenographic and aesthetic part, she personifies the fountain by imagining it as a dance troupe, to always draw new inspirations for the creation of water features. Then, based on the song, she chooses the colors, defining whether the preponderance will be warm or cold, primary or pastel colors, and then how the water jets from each nozzle should move… In the end, I entered into the software what Simona imagined.


3- Depence R3 by Syncronorm is the software you use, what possibilities does it offer? Can you also support the design of the fountains, as well as the programming?

Yes, but at a later stage: the first drawing of the fountain is made with 2D and 3D drawing, planning, and modeling software (such as AutoCAD or Autodesk Fusion 360), which is then imported into the software I use, Depence R3 by Syncronorm. Here the beauty begins because with this software I can create and see water choreographies on the screen, but I can also contextualize the fountain in 3D, seeing it at 360° and from multiple points of view, inserting the landscape, the people, but also natural light at any time of the day. This software allows me to create realistic photo and video renderings so that the client can see the finished and functioning fountain already in the design phase. This is a plus that we offer to our customers so that they can immediately be aware of the high level of the products we make.


4- At the inauguration of Marina, the largest musical dancing fountain in Italy, you had the opportunity to see an organization of excellence, aimed at the presence of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, to whom you dedicated the performance of the fountain on the Italy Anthem. What did you learn from those days? What has the Palermo Marina Yachting experience taught you?

Emotion, so much emotion. Here we are going decidedly personal and for me the inauguration of Marina was the first real experience in a 100% professional context, with various crew, each dedicated to a specific sector or moment of the event, all coordinated by top direction. We were all connected to headphones and followed the strict tempos in the setlist to the letter. It was a great experience, a gym, and a great lesson on how to work in the entertainment world, but also on how to manage stress and emotions. In an institutional event with the President of the Republic at the center, you need to keep your nerves and maximum concentration: the stakes are high and it is a yardstick of judgment on who knows or does not know how to do things.


5- Training is essential in your profession, as is the continuous desire to explore new projects to inspire you to always improve and be competitive. But, if you could redesign an existing musical dancing fountain, what would it be? How would you do it again?

In my opinion, the most beautiful musical dancing fountain is the one in Barcelona, the most functional and the most complete, also from a technological point of view. I am referring to the Font Màgica (Magic Fountain): I find this fountain perfect as it is, I wouldn’t change anything, even if the technology used is not the most recent, the way it was designed and the water features it offers are not they need no modification.

Another fantastic work is the Dubai Fountain: there is not a single fountain there, but a system of fountains that extends for 275 meters. It is a huge, beautiful work, but only with white lights: here, if I could, I would change the lighting, placing RGB+White spots, because the color greatly influences the success of the water features. Thanks to the color you can compensate for the latency of the water and have effective scenography that is perfectly coordinated with the music.

6- In conclusion, if you had to explain your work to children right now, how would you define yourself?

I had never thought about it… a juggler?! [laughs] I would certainly describe myself as a water tamer or an orchestra conductor who leads the jets of the various nozzles, to convey the idea that my role is to contain and at the same time maximize the power of the waterfall.

Susanna Dei Rossi

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