Illuminate Production Services choose Elation and Acclaim for first ever NYE light show on iconic Seattle landmark
The iconic Space Needle in Seattle rang in the New Year with its biggest fireworks extravaganza to date accompanied by a spectacular light show featuring Elation and Acclaim lighting effects. The integration of lighting effects into the fireworks, along with a musically-choreographed stand-alone light show prior to the fireworks, was a new element to the storied New Year’s Eve event and one that proved extremely popular.
Illuminate Production Services (IPS) was responsible for the lighting aspect of the event, collaborating with Pyro Spectaculars as well as fireworks designer Alberto Navarro of Infinity Visions. IPS installed and tested the Space Needle lighting in just three days prior to New Year’s Eve. IPS head Rick Franke managed the lighting project and the IPS team, which included son Caleb Franke who served as lighting designer. “Although they have been doing fireworks for 25 years, a light show like this has never been done before on the Needle,” stated Rick Franke. “They wanted to do something different, something more multimedia, something that would impress. I think we accomplished that with this new light show.”
Perfect Proteus conditions
IPS positioned lighting at 87 different positions from the top 605-foot level all the way down to the ground. Perhaps not surprising for a project of this dimension, Franke says there were all sorts of engineering and show challenges to overcome, not least Mother Nature. “After two days of good weather the winds picked up to 50 mph sustained winds with peaks at 75 mph,” he said. “We could feel the Needle swaying, which was a bit unnerving to say the least. There were also buckets of rain and extreme wind chill temperatures to deal with.”
In other words, conditions were ideal for Elation’s all-weather Proteus Hybrid™ and Proteus Beam™ moving head effects, which were central to the light show, sending powerful beams of light thousands of feet into the Seattle night sky. “The Proteus fixtures were made for these kinds of conditions and everything held up great,” Franke continues. “I can’t imagine doing this type of installation with any other fixtures. We considered using non-IP65 rated fixtures in the core stairwell positions but are glad we didn’t as, with the wind, the rain was coming in sideways.”
With an elevator that only stopped at three levels, IPS workers had to haul fixtures up 100s of feet of stairs to their positions. But perhaps Franke’s greatest concern when dealing with fixtures across so many levels were connection issues. “Power and data distribution was a challenge as wireless control wasn’t a viable option,” he said, “but we had no problems and I was relieved to see that everything worked when turned on.”
Nine Proteus Beams worked from the 100-foot level, 6 Proteus Hybrids from the 200-foot level, 6 Proteus Hybrids from the top of the Needle at 605 feet, and 12 Proteus Beams were positioned on the roof of the saucer. Joining the Proteus Beams on top of the saucer were 12 Elation Cuepix 16 IP™ LED matrix panels used to color wash the top of the saucer for what Franke called ‘money shots’ taken from ever-present helicopters for newsreel broadcasts.
Lighting, fireworks collaboration
IPS had worked with Pyro Spectaculars on a previous project and was invited by owner Ian Gilfillan to be a part of the Space Needle project. While a 30-minute 10:00pm light show allowed the lighting an exclusive stage on which to build excitement, during the midnight fireworks show lighting played more of a supporting role. “When we got involved with the project, Alberto Navarro, who has been designing the Space Needle NYE fireworks show for 25 years, had already scripted the fireworks show. So Caleb worked with Navarro to design the lighting around the fireworks. The result was a collaboration that led to some interesting effects.”
One striking result of the teamwork was Elation Paladin™ LED hybrid effect lights working in unison with the fireworks. Mounted inside the stair rail up and down the three sides of the Space Needle’s core were 30 IP65-rated Paladin lights (10 fixtures per side), all pointing outwards. Immediately after fireworks were shot off, the Paladins were used to illuminate the trail of smoke in a variety of colors, adding an extra layer of color and effect to the show.
The 55-year-old Space Needle has recently undergone a $100 million renovation that included the addition of enormous amounts of glass, including for the world’s first revolving glass floor 500 feet in the air. Acclaim Lighting Dyna Drum™ LED wash lights were placed between layers of glass in the floor and used to downlight the core. Additional Dyna Drum fixtures were used at ground level. “The Acclaim Dyna Drum HO showed itself to be a great fixture for this application,” says Rick Franke. “You don’t always know how a fixture will perform on a project of this magnitude, especially on a 605-foot tall structure. They had actually been told that LED wouldn’t be bright enough, but the Dyna Drum proved that it was and they were very impressed.” All of the lighting for the NYE show was designed and preprogrammed using Capture™ design software.
The client was very happy with the event, reportedly stating that in 25 years they’ve never had a show that over the top. “The show was fantastic and really built excitement for next year,” Franke said, adding that the event just may emerge as the West Coast answer to the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop. “I’m so proud to work with this team of relentless professionals and dedicated family,” he concludes. “Thank you to Caleb Franke, Victor and Jamie Gonzalez, Mark Hail, Justin Booth, Josh Hartman, Boyd Powers, Braedon Miller, and Don Kellum. Also to the shop and logistics crew back home. A huge thank you to Elation and Acclaim for partnering with us on this project. They were great with amazing products as always.”