Snowflakes swirl at your feet, doves fly overhead and other seasonal images are dazzling crowds and spreading holiday cheer. It’s a virtual winter wonderland at New York’s Grand Central Station, created with High End Systems Catalyst™ systems for this year's annual Holiday Light Show.
Scharff Weisberg Pro Audio and Staging in New York is supplying production for the event, using two Catalyst systems with orbital heads on two projectors, controlled by the Flying Pig Systems Wholehog®II lighting console. The Catalyst system blends moving light technology with graphics projection technology. When fitted with the optional orbital head, images can be projected anywhere in three-dimensional space. The system can be run on most programmable lighting consoles.
Says Peter Scharff, partner in Scharff Weisberg, "We see this (Catalyst) as the first of a new breed of revolutionary products in our industry. With six groups of artists creating work that is technology- and site-specific, we're getting a real taste of what this system can do."
The show started Nov. 19 and runs through Dec. 31, with showings every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the ceiling of the Grand Central concourse in the historic Manhattan landmark. The six, 3-minute video projection shows reflect the artists' interpretations of the meaning of the holidays.
The video art, curated by the public arts presenter Creative Time, showcases original work from emerging artists including Marianne Weems and Jeff Morey; Melanie Crean and Jordan Parnass; Yoshi Sodeoka and Jason Mohr; Joseph Kosinski and Dean Di Simone; Kinya Hanada; and Leo Villareal.
Lighting director/programmer Laura Frank met with each artist four times over two weeks so they could go over ideas, and spent a total of six hours programming each artist’s show.
Among all the visuals, several stand out as being "totally Catalyst dependent," Frank says. "The migrating birds sequence was the most unique and extensive use of what the Catalyst can do. The animation artists handed me actual trajectories, or flight paths,that they wanted the doves to follow. They really thought about how to use the Catalyst features in this."
Another visual focuses on a custodian sweeping up stardust from constellations on the ceiling. "The sweeper walks across the ceiling, and a burst happens under the broom when he hits a star," she says. Other visuals were more abstract and were simply "playing in space."
Frank has worked with Catalyst before, but its new keystone correction feature was a first for her. Keystone correction ensures that the image will remain undistorted throughout the range of mirror movement. "I'm impressed with the keystoning feature, how it was thought through, and how easy it was to use," she says.
The Grand Central Terminal ceiling, with its olive green surface, "is not an ideal working environment," according to Frank. "But with this display, it looks pretty magical. While we were programming, we had crowds of people standing around enjoying it."
Scharff Weisberg, meanwhile, is enjoying its use of Catalyst. "Our video staging department has years of expertise in projection technology and we can choose from any number of projectors, large and small, in our inventory," says Scharff. "Our lighting department has the consoles required to control the system. And the Scharff Weisberg Media Resource Center can digitize the files needed for the Catalyst media server. This is a complex system that represents the convergence of all these disciplines."
The event is sponsored by Häagen-Dazs, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and The New York Times.