The dawn of the new millennium was welcomed by numerous events that together form a road map of the lighting industry. Lighting Dimensions asked its readers and correspondents to fill us in on their projects, and the responses chart the millennium.
Germany's official Millennium Party, held in Berlin, commemorated 10,000 years of human history via Chronology, a laser projection spectacular devised by LOBO Electronic (above). Its beams played across a 2,400-sq.-ft. (220 sq. m) water screen specially mounted in front of the Brandenburg Gate so as not to obstruct the monument. Showings of Chronology, performed in sync with the Berlin performances, were also part of festivities in the German cities of Koblenz and Trier; LOBO's millennium-themed laser projections also turned heads in Cape Town, South Africa, Austria, and Hong Kong.
From December 8 to January 5, the modernist facade of Bank Brussels Lambert (BBL) became a giant interactive matrix (below). Named after the avenue where BBL's head office is located, Marnix 2000 encompassed the creation and display of multiple images and colors on the building via the matrix, image projection, and basic animation. Event company Eventives hired Marc Largent of Magic Monkey to design the matrix, who did so by mixing RGB lights, placed in each of the facade's 364 alcove windows; the alcoves, thus transformed, shimmered with almost the entire chromatic spectrum. An animation interface, free to users, was made available to BBL website visitors, who could create their own programs and ship them back to the bank for display on the building, live webcast, and prizes. The matrix was controlled by a wireless network of 1,024 control channels broadcast by four of Longwood, FL-based Interactive Technologies' RadioDMX wireless DMX transceivers.
Cleveland, OH (above), hosted the world's largest lightbulb, donated by GE Lighting and displayed on the front of Terminal Tower. First Light 2000, as it was called, consumed 100,000W and was outfitted with 10,000 individual lights. The main stage on Cleveland's Public Square, where festivities drew a crowd of 40,000, were coordinated by producer Joel Solloway of Eventworks, and lit by 120 fixtures supplied by Vincent Lighting Systems. The square and buildings downtown were also lit by 24 Vari*Lite(R) VL7s(TM), two Pani projectors, and 19 Space Cannon searchlights, two of which swung into action to illuminate the Vision Ball, a 48" mirror ball. Strand Lighting's 520, 550I, and 430 consoles controlled the fixtures, and Dennison Electric provided the electrical tie-in.
The Egypt event (below) had special significance. In terms of value for money, 15 minutes of airtime on most TV sets around the globe (for an investment of approximately $14.5 million) sounded like a good deal--for president Hosni Mubarak and the state of Egypt it was everything they could ask for. Following several years of bad press in the early 1990s, what with Moslem extremists killing foreign tourists, the country needed an event that underlined just how much things had improved.
"The original idea for Twelve Dreams of the Sun came from Jean Michel Jarre's concept of tying together 12 themes from one of his recent musical pieces with spoken wordscapes from Laurie Anderson, and the 12 gates of passage from ancient pharaonic mythology," says lighting designer Gary Westcott, describing the origins of this grand, ephemeral gesture. "The subtext also defined a major event on behalf of the Egyptian government, something that would celebrate the dawning of a new millennium all over the world. Lasting 12 hours, from sunset to sunrise Cairo time, the show would coincidentally begin on the stroke of midnight in Tokyo, and 12 hours later as the sun rose over the Pyramids of Giza, the big ball would just be falling in Times Square."
Easy to say, difficult to do. "It was quite an ordeal--things like the equipment containers being held up in customs didn't help. We actually commenced load-in two months before the show, with main production arriving five weeks before the big night, and we needed every minute." Westcott first visited the site in January 1999 with set designer Mark Fisher. "We spent seven weeks in development and had a pretty firm plan in place when Jarre went off for a break in the South of France. When he returned he had decided he didn't like it; there was, he announced, to be nothing in the air. From whatever angle the cameras chose to gaze upon the stage, there was to be no lighting pole, roof, or set piece that could come between Jarre and the backdrop of the pyramids."
For the big aerial beam effects Westcott chose Xenotech Britelights, "though I did consider the Light Valve from Space Cannon for a while, but it just proved too expensive." An issue that plagued Westcott, not least because the show was so large in terms of its equipment demands, was that no one lighting contractor was willing to commit its entire inventory to the event (with other clients to consider, many of them also performing on this auspicious evening, they would have been negligent to do otherwise).
So it was that the LD had 132 Studio Due CityColors and CityBeams trained upon the Pyramids, supplied by SPL, Magnum, and X&Y Systemes, all French lighting suppliers, with further lighting equipment from Arpege, STX, and Cameleon. "With so many different companies it could have been a nightmare, but all concerned took a very professional attitude to the work at hand and in the end did a magnificent job," Westcott says.
Though the London Eye was not quite ready for prime time on the eve of the millennium, Parisians were treated to a son et lumiere experience along the Champs-Elysees, courtesy of 11 ferris wheels. Each represented a different theme; "25 images per second," a reference to television film speed, was the theme of one of the wheels, created by Renaud Le Van Kim of France's Channel 1 and designer/decorator Philippe Desert (above). Sixteen boxes were installed in place of the wheel's seating cabins, each housing a ferris wheel model; as the main wheel turned, each model rotated in front of a camera equipped with an automated eye. The main wheel would stop, and videos (ranging from historical events to music clips) were triggered to play on adjacent screens. This TV wheel was lit by X&Y Systemes, with 47 Martin Professional MAC 600 washlights installed at its base and on adjacent poles.
America's Millennium, the New Year's bash in Washington, DC, was monumental in more ways than one. The backdrop for most of the celebration was a stage built on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where performers and politicians entertained and addressed a crowd of about 500,000. Add immense production values from producers Quincy Jones and George Stevens, Jr., director Glenn Weiss, and a design team including LDs Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, lighting director Simon Miles, and production designer Robert Rang, and the evening became one for the history books.
For the stage at the Lincoln Memorial, the lighting system included 200 Vari*Lite VL5s(TM), 100 VL5 Arcs(TM), 48 VL5Bs(TM), 100 VL2Cs(TM), 30 VL6s(TM), and 30 VL7s, eight 2k long-throw Super Trouper and eight 3k Gladiator followspots from Strong-Xenotech, twenty 96-way ETC rolling racks, two ETC Expression 2X consoles, 60 Lighting & Electronics MR-16 Mini-Strips, 75 High End Systems Dataflashes(R), and 40 light bars. Light & Sound Design was the lighting supplier which provided trucks of equipment from six different PRG sites, mostly from Orlando, followed by Nashville, Atlanta, LA, Las Vegas, and New York. Aggreko provided generators for the entire project.
But events stageside were just the beginning of the evening's theatrical fare. The Unfinished Journey, a 17-minute film directed by Steven Spielberg, was shown just before midnight. President Clinton then spoke to the audience in the final moments of the 20th century; a symbolic fuse was lit, traveled down the length of the Reflecting Pool, and reached the Washington Monument (previous page, bottom). There the fuse was ignited in a pyro show conceived by Fisher and Eisenhauer with Fireworks by Grucci to serve as a countdown for the audience. The pyro rose up one-tenth of the monument every second until the stroke of midnight when a huge fireworks display erupted. After the pyrotechnics, a blare of trumpets heralded a massive sunrise slowly rising over the Lincoln Memorial, an effect painstakingly crafted by the lighting team.
Miles came up with the concept for the sun effect using a series of lamp bars spread out in a large array that would make up essentially a half-circle. Working closely with Jim Evans of Wilkes Barre, PA-based Mountain Productions, they engineered the sun, which measured 115' (35m) in diameter, 220 degrees of a circle, weighed over 70,000lb, consisted of over 2,200 PAR-64s hung on 359 lamp bars, and was lifted by two large computerized mobile cranes devised by Evans. Project coordinator Steve Cochrane and his crew worked in split shifts 24 hours a day to get the sun built in time. But the hard work paid off: The dawn--created through lighting--ushered in a new age over the nation's capitol.
For a number of lighting suppliers, December 31, 1999, was a world tour for a show that wrapped up in a single evening. High End Systems gave a hooray for Hollywood, as Production Lighting Systems attached 241 High End Dataflash AF-1000 strobes to the city's famous sign; lit performers ranging from Barbara Streisand to KISS; turned up at illumination-driven events from Mexico to Austria; and helped 260,000 revelers in its hometown celebrate at A2K--Austin on the Verge, a downtown street party. Laser Fantasy International lived up to its name by creating shows in Tokyo, Manila, Sao Paulo, and Acapulco, and in the US turned up with productions in Las Vegas; Reno; Phoenix; Lanai, HI; Providence, RI; Jacksonville, FL; Louisville, KY; and Lake Washington, WA.
UK-based lights and lasers company Illuminatum provided illumination across the Mersey: Eight of its Diablo mega-searchlights and its 50W YAG laser lit the river as part of Liverpool's River of Light celebration (photos this page), a project that was demoed last September and also involved Light & Sound Design and gear contributions from High End, Studio Due, Coemar, Avolites, and Hardware for Xenon. The LD was Lee Forde; administration was by Kirsty Blakeman, and Nick Handford was the operations manager. Illuminatum also lit the Tyne bridge in Newcastle (with Studio Due CityColor 1800s) and the Alcatel building in Greenwich, with Coemar MiniCity and Panorama 1800s; its sister company, lighting rental house Fineline, lit civic celebrations in Bristol, a job for Martin MACs, Clay Paky Golden Scans, and an Avolites Sapphire board.
Screenco of the UK, firing on all cylinders for what it called the busiest night in its 15-year history, rang in the millennium with its CRT and LED screens active from Argentina to Tobago, the latter for a concert program, headlined by Eddy Grant, that Production Resource Group companies also participated in: Production Arts Europe contributed a five-projector Pani system, and Midnight Design special pyrotechnics. One of Grant's biggest hits is "Electric Avenue"--and certainly the illumination industry did more than any other to electrify avenues across the world into the millennium.