The Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Park was one of the locations for New York City to present its plan to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and members of the media for consideration as the 2012 host city. Using the museum's permanent 9335 sq. ft., 895,000-building scaled model, Panorama of the City of New York, the design team — comprised of David Lackey of Whirlwind & Company (presentation designer); Traci Klainer and Frank DenDanto of Luce Group (lighting designers); and Brian Fehd, Marc Janowitz, and Ray Wszolek of Production Solutions, Inc. (PSI, production management and panorama special effects lighting) — created an eight-minute presentation using a combination of lights, video, and kiosks to give an overview of locations of sports venues and proposed transportation routes.
The challenge was convincing the IOC that the densely populated and already well-trafficked city would be the ideal location for events that will potentially draw tens of millions of visitors. An “x-plan” for transportation was illustrated using Lytec electroluminescent (el-wire or EL) fiber animation, with routes throughout all five boroughs literally mapped out on the model. Icons, created by Whirlwind & Co. and loaded with Color Kinetics MR lamps, were strategically placed on the map to represent the locations of the proposed venues for each event. Vari-Lite VL2500s were used to recreate various times of day and other effects, including the Olympic rings and to highlight areas of the city.
And the IOC seemed impressed. “They were pleased with the presentation, and I think it was particularly effective because of the 3D model of the city,” says DenDanto. “I'm not sure we would have had such a response with a 2D presentation. The panoramic model was built in 1964 and restored in 1992, so it's starting to show its wear. We had to cover that up a bit while treating it as a work of art and understanding the theatrical quality the presentation had to bring. And we had to integrate the gear for the event into the room's existing gear. There's already around 150 lighting instruments in that room, but we managed to rejuvenate the model with just a handful of fixtures.”
“The challenge for us was to give the map texture,” adds Klainer. “We also had to integrate our design in this existing piece of art that is the panorama. We couldn't disturb or change it, and so a lot of the team spent time in socks working on the model. We had to bring attention to the most important areas of the city where the events would take place — for example, a series of circles, echoing the Olympic rings, were used to highlight each section of the city to illustrate venues, the Olympic village, and so on.”
While Luce worked on the overall lighting design, PSI worked specifically on the lighting used directly on model and handled overall project management for the event, coordinating efforts between Whirlwind, Luce, The Queens Museum of Art and, of course, the model curator. This is the second time the Whirlwind/Luce/PSI team has collaborated on such a project. “We worked together in 2001 for the first presentation to the US Olympic Committee,” Fehd says, “when we used regular white MR16 lamps, but this time, we upgraded to the Color Kinetics MR lamps. We were responsible for those in the kiosks and for all the Lytec wire, of which there were two types: static circuits, or essentially on/off, and animation circuits, which are like step frame animation.”
Having worked on the panorama as a team once before, the technical challenges were minimal. “Since we worked on a similar event in 2001, the museum trusted us on it — under supervision,” continues Fehd, “but they know that we're aware of the model's strengths and weaknesses. So that actually worked well. Also, Ray [Wszolek] is really a master of distribution. We have fairly normal circuits, and we've been working with EL for over eight years now, and the low voltage stuff is also one of our specialties. But working on the model, we had to essentially miniaturize the data and power distribution. Instead of running multis, we were running little tiny gauge wire and literally running it down streets and avenues and over and under bridges to get to the light sources and keeping it as invisible as possible.
“This is a one of a kind project and environment to work and design and do production in — using some of these new technologies to show what New York City could be in 2012, to highlight the energy and the high-tech nature of the city itself, as opposed to a flat, two-dimensional presentation. I think it worked really well.”
Scharff Weisberg Lighting (Ben Saltzman, Terry Jackson, and Dennis Menard) donated all of the overhead lighting equipment for this project, including eight VARI*LITE VL2500™ Spots, 16 ETC Source Fours®, 12 ETC 2.4K Sensor® Dimmers, and a Flying Pig Systems Whole-hog® 2 console. Production Solutions, Inc. provided 48 EL-12 Solid State Dimmers — to control the Lytec electroluminescent fiber animation — and 30 Color Kinetics MR lamps.
The lighting was programmed on the Wholehog 2 by Brendan Gray. Panorama lighting technicians working on the event were Anne Heed, David Marcucci, and Daniel Green. The production electrician was Brad Robertson, and additional electricians included Doug Filomena, Van Orilia, Matt Gratz, Jake Heinrichs, and Desi Fisher.
A four-day load-in, last minute tweaking, and script changes up until the morning of the presentation didn't help time constraints, but all went according to plan, and when July comes, New York will have an answer to its bidding.