An LD never knows where the next job will come from. For example, there's the Starlight Children's Foundation in Australia, a not-for-profit organization that works to bring a little magic into the lives of seriously ill children. The foundation provides Starlight Express Rooms, havens in hospitals where kids can hang out, playing Nintendo games and enjoying celebrity visits, live storytelling, magic shows, theatre, movies, mime, and dance; there is even a radio station broadcasting music and requests.
For the Starlight Express Room in The Children's Hospital in Westmead, NSW, Australia, LD Ken Flower from Dreamscapes was invited to take part by Starlight director Jeanne Rockey AM. “They were looking for a different approach to lighting and projection,” he says, “and I have a history in concepts and design for experiential environments and communication spaces.” His collaborators on the project included architect/interior designer Phillip Mathieson of the firm Burley Katon Halliday, Andrew Robertson of Shorty Productions (video and audio), and Murray Smith of Sundrape Australia (drapes and gauzes).
In conceiving the look of the project, says Flower, “I wanted the projection and imaging to be able to cover all surfaces of the room in different ways — walls, gauzes, floor, and ceiling. By using shades of white as the base color scheme, we were able to turn the whole room into a three-dimensional projection surface. The whites and soft grays that the architects came up with wouldn't distort any of the color or imaging, but could also stand alone as a sophisticated look in its own right.”
For his part, adds the LD, “I came up with the idea of using moving lights to project friendly, non-obtrusive images, as ‘moving wallpaper.’ Shoals of tropical fish, flocks of butterflies, families of kangaroos, and passing clouds could become backgrounds to the various activities. With gentle movements and changing colors, I wanted to create a visual language that could provide a quirky but calming influence. As a visual language in this environment, it was important that the color and imaging not overtake either the room, the activities, or the children.
“To achieve this,” he continues, “I settled on six Martin MAC 250+ units as projectors and 56 PAR-30 halogens as overall color washes. The MACs were just great, with their sharp optics, 250W MSD light source, indexable gobos, rotating prisms, soft colors, smooth movements. The PAR-30s recessed nicely into the ceiling and provided a good, even, four-color background wash with infinite variations. Having calculated the magnification factor for the image size, I then designed the montages that became the gobos. I wanted to keep as much of the textures in the fish, butterflies, and other images as I could, so I went for glass gobos, with different shades of grayscale. Joakim Odlander at Gobotech was great in helping me with this and produced the finished gobos with fantastic resolution in double-quick time.”
For control, Flower chose to avoid “a large control desk bristling with knobs and dials.” The rooms are managed by a staff member titled Captain Starlight, not a lighting professional. So, says the LD, “I chose Martin LightJockey software and LJ Touch via a PC and 17" touch screen. It's a good system that gave me the flexibility to program properly and accurately — if need be, by remote — and with a simple user interface that is ideal for busy, non-technical personnel.” He adds, “Having worked closely with the architects on suspension points and cabling, the installation was quite straightforward. Trevor Lloyd from CLS managed the installation with support from Vince Haddad at Show Technology.”
The LD adds that his work on the project is far from over. “The room is running well, with limitless opportunities for different imaging and programming in the future. We all hope the feedback from the children will help us with that process — and keep our feet firmly on the ground!”