Chicago is on fire once again, but this time the flames are part of a sound-and-light spectacle on the facade of the Field Museum. Chicago: A New Canvas is a 22-minute multimedia show celebrating the history, spirit, architecture, and people of the Windy City.
The board of directors of the Field wanted to expand the boundaries of the museum and create an exhibition venue. “They wanted to turn the north front of the museum into a projection screen and put together a multimedia sound-and-light show on the scale you find in major European cities,” says Richard Roeder of Plexus Creative, a Chicago-based corporate events production company called in for the project.
The show uses two PIGI 7kW projectors with double film scrolls and rotating effects heads with programmable focus. Graphic designer John Boesche collated more than 250 images from the Chicago Historical Society and Chicago 2000 collections to crossfade and scroll across the 115' museum facade, accompanied by voices of actors from the Steppenwolf Theatre. There is also an original music score by Rob Milburn, the Goodman Theatre's resident sound designer.
Lighting designer Jon Kusner employed Coemar Panoramas for color washes on the facade. “A lot of the slides are black-and-white,” he says, “so it gave parts of the show underlying tones of blue or amber, and a general foundation of color for transitions between scenes.” Coemar CF7 HEs (in weather enclosures) provided texture on the building, such as fire and water effects. High End Systems Studio Colors® were placed at the bottom of columns and at the wings to accent the classical architecture. They also helped fill in the gaps and shadows the Panoramas couldn't cover.
Paul Sharwell programmed the lighting on a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® II; the Wholehog and the PIGIs were triggered by the soundtrack time code. Projection equipment was housed in an environmentally controlled shed on top of a 46'-high scaffold located 113' from the museum facade. The Panoramas are weather-resistant units; two Studio Colors were in weather domes, but the rest were set and struck each night because they were placed on the main steps.
Chicago: A New Canvas was presented from late June through Labor Day weekend. The Field Museum plans to do more of these shows in the future.