In a landmark marriage of tradition and technology, the 100th birthday of the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball means a redesigned, twice-as-bright ball featuring 100% LED technology for the first time.
How can a lighting design create a memorable experience, not only for the more than one million expected revelers on the ground in Times Square, but also for the more than one billion television viewers worldwide?
“The goal of the lighting design was to uncover the beauty in the project and, hopefully, that drama can be conveyed,” says Paul Gregory, principal at Focus Lighting, which created the lighting design and programmed the Ball. Gregory worked with project lighting designer Christine Hope. “We analyzed different views of the Ball, depending on the location of the audience,” says Gregory. “A person standing 10' away will experience the beauty and intensity of each individual crystal triangle. A television camera from 50' away will enable television viewers to experience the kaleidoscopic moving patterns of light and color radiating from the crystal triangles. And a person celebrating 500' away on the street in Times Square will see the intricate, colorful moving patterns of light sparkling in the sky. Each view of the Ball will be equally dramatic.”
Working with Philips Lighting Company to install new solid-state lighting technology to dramatically increase the efficiency, brightness, and color capabilities of the new Ball, the 600 lights on the previous Ball were replaced by 9,576 Philips Luxeon LEDs.
The Ball comprises 672 individually illuminated Waterford “Let There Be Light” Crystal triangles. Each triangle is backlit by 12 LEDs: three each of red, green, blue, and white. The crystal triangles are divided into groups of four fixtures to make up 168 modules, or “main triangles.” Each module comprises an LED circuit board, a mirrored baffle to separate the triangles and multiply the individual points of light, and the four crystals. Each side of the main triangle has an additional white three-LED fixture that interlocks with other modules to form the “skeleton” of the Ball.
The Ball receives 3,228 individually controllable channels of data, each with 256 unique settings. Every small triangle comprises four channels, one for each color. Theoretically, it is possible to create more than four billion colors. Although the Ball's 3,000-plus channels could fit into as few as seven DMX universes, nine were required to allow it to be broken up into three equal pieces for easy shipping.
The Ball is controlled using the E-cue lighting control system, and the E-cue software development team devised a custom show file that allows designers to interact intuitively with the Ball and use realtime 3D visualization. Video and static images can be mapped to the Ball simultaneously, and the software can play up to 24 lighting cues at a time, with no reasonable limit to the number of cues a show can store.
All control system hardware is 100% redundant. In the event of a lighting server failure, a backup server stands at the ready to immediately take over without the slightest hiccup in show playback. Should both servers fail, playback units in the equipment rack can be preprogrammed to operate in standalone mode.
Running the Ball on New Year's Eve will be almost a completely hands-off operation. The same signal that controls the cameras, conventional lighting, and sound on the big night will trigger the cues on the Times Square Ball. This ensures that everything will be in perfect sync when the clock strikes 12.
Countdown Entertainment is the owner and producer of the event. Waterford Crystal designed and crafted the “Let There Be Light” crystals.