When I first laid eyes on the magnificent 2,560-room, $5.9 billion Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort in Singapore earlier this year, I gasped at the sheer scale of the project and the many interesting facets of each structure. Reaching up into the sky, the impressive Sands Hotel has three towers with individual features, including curved and straight sheer walls reaching 200m, all of which I thought would be interesting to light. Floating on top is the jaw-dropping Sands SkyPark, covering more than 1.2 hectares of tropical oasis, with an observation deck crowning the world’s largest public cantilevered structure. This thing is big—big enough to park four and a half Airbus A380 jumbo jets.

Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the luxury resort is more than just a hotel. It also includes a 120,000sq-m. convention center, several shopping arcades, restaurants, Art Science Museum, two theatres, and an eight-lane highway separating the hotel itself from the Marina Bay waterfront.

Laservision—along with a collection of celebrity chefs, leading fashion designers, luxury spa operators, and more than 3,000 international VIPs—was contracted by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation to produce the headlining attraction at the opening of what has been dubbed the “World’s Most Expensive Casino Property.”

There were two main elements that I had to consider before completing the lighting design for this grand opening event. First, I had the benefit of utilizing fast-tracked lighting and laser equipment that would form part of the permanent system, and second, Laservision was already involved in the redesign of some architectural lighting for several areas of the resort, including the roofing over the casino, convention center, theatres, the sheer walls of the three hotel towers, the SkyPark underbelly, and the museum.

For several weeks from mid-February, we conducted numerous lighting tests while working around construction workers, scaffolding, cranes, trucks, and hundreds of boom lifts. We returned every day to a lighting test site to find the area taken over by building materials or our access route cut-off. Navigating the 57 floors to the SkyPark sometimes took up to two hours waiting for an elevator, and when we were lucky enough to jump into one, we had to squeeze in with 30+ workers, until the elevator warned “lift overload.” Eventually, the last few workers to get in were pushed out, and we were on our way.

Several suppliers were invited to demonstrate their product for the lighting tests, including Hills SVL, Illumination Physics, and ULA, with local support and labor provided by Showtec Group. The vast, concave roofing areas of the convention center, casino, and theatres were to be treated with LED wash lights. After testing some LED products, I decided on IP36 fixtures from Illumination Physics, installing 998 fixtures for the roofing.

For the 12 sheer walls of the hotel towers, we looked at A&O Technology 1,200W arc CMY wash lights. I suggested we also try the latest 3W LED fixtures currently emerging from Europe, and after some resistance and comments like, “You must be kidding; LED lights won’t do the job,” we tested the Robe CitySkape Xtreme fixtures from ULA.

The Xtremes proved the best option given their twin-blades of 94 Luxeon K2 LEDs, overall brightness, and selection of lenses that helped cope with the curves and height of the walls. I must admit I, too, was a little apprehensive that LEDs wouldn’t cut it, but they did. Con Biviano from ULA told me not to worry, and he was right.

Uplighting the Sands SkyPark was a major challenge, as this was the chief architect’s favorite structure at the new resort. His team of support architects advised us that the SkyPark reminded him of a ship traveling through the night. The existing lighting did not do the SkyPark justice, so I suggested animated gobo effects to mimic water moving alongside the SkyPark. The challenge was to figure out from where to light. Level 55, just below the SkyPark, was way too close and level four, at the opposing casino building across the road, was more than 200m away and on a very acute angle.

During testing, we set up two typical 1,200W moving head spot fixtures at level four of the casino and proceeded to view the results from the other side of Marina Bay, about 800m away. We were amazed at the brightness and clarity of the gobo effects, even at that distance. After testing a number of 1,200W and 1,500W moving head fixtures, we decided on DTS XR3000 spots with Tornado Domes from Tempest Lighting to protect them from the extreme weather conditions. To stop light hitting the tops of the three hotel towers and annoying guests, Andrew Winslade from Hills SVL designed special gobo slots so light output would be masked where required.

The Art Science Museum, referred to by the locals as the “Open Palm,” was brought to life with multiple searchlights extending from the water oculus up into the heavens. Flame effects 15m-high from the finger tips were used to create further positive energy.

At the beginning of June, my team of Australian lighting technicians arrived in Singapore to start the load-in. Additional equipment for the opening event included 14 A&O Technology Falcon 7kW Xenon searchlights, 18 Syncrolite 5kW and 7kW Xenon searchlights, and six high-powered, optically pumped Laservision Stella Ray lasers totaling more than 300W, all deployed along the water’s edge. Wireless Solution W-DMX™ transmitters and Outdoor 21 Parabolic Aerial antennae were used to carry the eight DMX universes 1km across Marina Bay to the resort. All fixtures were programmed on an MA Lighting grandMA2 console from a suite at the Fullerton Hotel directly across the bay. You can imagine my programmer, Ryan Marginson, and I sipping Earl Grey tea in the afternoon.

I was very pleased with the outcome and proud of all my team. Paul McCloskey, CEO and founder of Laservision, notes, “Front page coverage in all local news media was testament to its being the defining vision for this official opening.”

Colin Baldwin has more than 35 years of experience in every facet of international event design and production management. He has published The History of Live Production in Australia at www.colinbaldwin.com. It is a salute to the people behind the scenes in live entertainment and corporate productions whose talent and dedication have contributed to the development of the equipment and technology for live performance that we so often take for granted today.