Lighting designer Marsha Stern lit the world and made it snow for the holidays. Well, at least a 20'x24' backdrop with an electroluminescent globe and snowflakes as a part of the Central Park Conservancy Holiday Lighting extravaganza, which was sponsored by Con Edison. It was held at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in upper Central Park and ran from December 12 through January 6.
“Peace on Earth” was the theme of the light show, with a dove flying around a globe as snowflakes cascaded down the tableau. The show was “the largest outdoor electroluminescent [EL] fiber display in New York City,” says designer Stern of Marsha Stern Lighting Design & Consulting Inc. (MSLD&C). EL fiber technology uses low-watt fiber optics to produce highly visible, kinetic displays. It has been a popular choice for display and novelty items and is getting more use in entertainment applications. After last year's holiday event, which used projections to turn the center into a gingerbread fantasy house, the Conservancy was looking for a more economical and efficient display for the show. “I was initially contacted by Pete Jacobson, lighting specialist at Con Edison for my thoughts on how to best accomplish this,” says Stern. “In fact, it is due to the efforts of Pete that this project happened in the first place.”
Over 600' of Live Wire Enterprises EL fiber was controlled through a custom Production Solutions Inc. (PSI) interface and using an Alcorn McBride LightCue DMX playback unit for control. There were six PSI EL-12 EL dimmer packs and a PSI DMX interface that connected to the LightCue for playback. This was controlled from a timer, so the staff of the Center did not have to deal with the system at all. The whole display of EL fiber and the dimming and control system ran off one 15A standard outlet.
Stern met with Harold Feldman from Live Wire and explored how the EL fiber would work for this project. “I knew about Live Wire already, but first saw it used by Blue Man Group in Las Vegas,” says Stern. She also found a great product to support the display: Textilene® from Rose Brand, a PVC-coated polyester weatherproof mesh used for covering outdoor concert scaffolding and speaker towers. Textilene is often used to replicate scrim-like lighting effects and comes in a variety of colors including black, which allowed the display to seem to float. It also had the benefit of not turning into a giant sail by virtue of its 75% open mesh.
Next Stern needed to find a fabricator to put all of the pieces together. “I met Marc Janowitz at the Backstage LDI tour of the Blue Man Group show at the Luxor in Las Vegas, so when I knew that I was using Live Wire, I tracked him down.” Janowitz worked with EL on Blue Man productions and, along with Brian Fehd and Raymond Wszolek, had put together Production Solutions Inc., which designs, manufactures, and installs specialty control systems.
Working with Peter Mackey of Catmando Design, who did the graphic layout and art direction, Stern had Rose Brand fabricate the Textilene scrim into three panels for ease in handling and storage. PSI handled the installation of the EL fiber onto the Textilene scrim. Wszolek, the system engineer, configured the control system and then programmed with Stern using a combination of CAST Lighting's WYSIWYG Perform and a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® II. Wszolek used Perform for previsualization, then sat with Stern to program. They worked up a long set of cues for a variety of looks. PSI provided the on-site installation and final programming tweaks with Stern.
The night of the holiday party on December 12, Stern also provided an additional lighting show on the east and north faces of the Dana Center that continued the winter holiday theme. Equipment supplied by Designatronix Industries Inc. consisted of a variety of automated luminaires, including six Coemar Panorama Cyc Power luminaires and four Martin MAC 2000 Profile luminaires all controlled from a Wholehog II. Stern specified custom holiday gobos that she got from Apollo Design Technology Inc. through Barbizon.
Other PSI staff involved in this project were Aaron Tappen, artistic associate, and technicians Richard Adams, Ann Heed, and Jace Van Auken. Other support staff included MSLD&C associates that worked on the project: Chadsworth, Danielle Colburn, and Mark Janeczko.
“Con Edison's support of the Dana Discovery Center's mission of environmental education is exemplified by this year's light show, combining artistry with 21st-century technology,” says Con Edison's Frances A. Resheske.