Turning The G20 Lights On
Brisbane puts on her party frock to welcome world leaders and amuse the locals.
Text:/ Derek Powell
After years of preparation the G20 Circus has come and gone from Brisbane with a maximum of pomp and a minimum of protest. During the long weekend of the leaders’ summit, as motorcades swept to and fro through locked-down streets and helicopters and FA-18 Hornets swooped overhead, most locals opted to head to the coast.
However by contrast they warmly embraced the free G20 Cultural Celebration that lit up the city for three weeks leading up to the economic talk-fest. The celebrations featured dozens of live events from ballet to brass bands and included everything from street-corner performances to full-scale parades.
All of these were framed against the spectacular backdrop of Colour Me Brisbane, a lighting and projection extravaganza funded by the Queensland government, that activated the heart of the city like never before. The buzz in town was palpable as crowds flocked to see the city’s most famous buildings and signature landmarks immersed in interactive washes of colour and playing starring roles in ambitious son et lumière performances.
Wielding his electric baton across some 32 sites straddling the Brisbane River was Creative Director Jono Perry, who had spent the previous six months working in the Premier’s department bringing together a combination of local and national talent to wow both the leaders and the locals. I caught up with Jono just on sunset in Queens Park and asked him how he had interpreted the government’s brief to stage a ‘community party’.
“I decided that it needed to be something about Brisbane, and for Brisbane, so rather than doing fireworks, or a ‘City of Lights’, which was very much a Brisbane Festival event, I wanted to do something different and celebrate where we live,” he told AV.
That ‘something different’ turned out to be a lighting festival that ranged across and around the key G20 sites but with some new and distinctively Queensland elements. With just six months to pull everything together, there was no time to waste.
“We went to tender very quickly,” he recalled. “We asked for expressions of interest in two parts – one was the interactive lighting project which has become Paint Your City, while the second was for delivery of both content and equipment for projection onto key city buildings”.
After a round of initial surveys, there were some terrific responses, and the interactive lighting, which would allow punters to try out their own palette of colours on a city wide stage, was won by 32 Hundred Lighting (who developed ‘Paint Your Bridge’ for Sydney’s Vivid festival), while the projection sites were awarded to The Electric Canvas and TDC (Technical Direction Company). Oracle Attractions were contracted to provide laser projection on to City Hall and Suncorp Plaza.
PAINTING THE TOWN RED… OR GREEN, OR BLUE
The concept behind Paint Your City was to establish a giant canvas across multiple buildings with linked RGB luminaires. Then, members of the public could take control, either from a city centre kiosk or from on-line, and illuminate the buildings with their individual choice of colour scheme – just for a minute at a time.
Setting up a lighting control system across entire city blocks is no small undertaking, so 32 Hundred Lighting were the first people on site as they started establishing their network. “Obviously to have that instant response we had to have a very stable network and the team from 32 Hundred did an amazing job,” Jono observed. “It’s all wireless Art-Net run from a custom app driving Catalyst media servers. A Catalyst server is sitting on the roof of one of the buildings and fed information from the touch screen at South Bank. And we’ve also got a web app with that where people can actually select predetermined time slots for their colour palette and that information gets sent to the server and pre-scheduled.”
If that sounds tricky enough then try doing this in conjunction with the communications nightmare that is the G20. “We had to work fairly closely with Defence Signals and the police so we were on a frequency where they’d be happy” Jono explained with classic understatement. “So that when they start sweeping the spectrum they can make sure that there’s nothing going awry.”
Radio communications wasn’t the only security concern of course and to the security team, lasers were just another potential threat to the World Leaders. “Unfortunately there was some mis-information that ended up in the hands of some of the foreign delegations,” Jono mused. “At the Treasury Hotel we had a few challenges with the dignitaries who initially thought there would be a light and laser show outside. That was one of the reasons for positioning the laser down on City Hall and Suncorp Plaza, although it’s not like a normal laser show. What Oracle Attractions has done is completely different. It’s used the architecture and actually mapped the building with lasers and then made the control interactive for the public.”
THE CHANGING FACE OF BRISBANE
The show using the façade of the Treasury hotel, The Changing Face of Brisbane, is possibly the highlight and certainly the most spectacular element of Colour Me Brisbane. The six-minute son et lumière not only featured animated projection mapping but uniquely includes a live choir, belting out Verdi choruses from the balconies. Jono explained: “It’s all about telling Brisbane’s story – why Brisbane has become a great city. I wanted to do that through the visuals but I wanted to have a connection to the Brisbane people, so we used the Opera Queensland chorus and Queensland Symphony Orchestra to record the soundtrack.”
Although the soundtrack is a recording on most nights, certain weekend performances got the full treatment with the opera chorus singing live amongst the animations.
“From an audio perspective it’s a big undertaking. There’s a lot of radio mics, plus we have in-ear monitors for all the singers so that they’re all in time with the son et lumière.” The live element certainly adds a new dimension, and if you’re quick you can still check out the show on YouTube – just Google ‘The Changing Face of Brisbane’.
Indigenous art features heavily in several of the projection sites and Jono was careful to engage projection designers who could take full advantage of Queensland’s contemporary indigenous arts scene. The massive walls of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) provided a huge canvas for projection designer Craig Walsh to feature works by the likes of Sally Gabori, Richard Bell and Fiona Foley. “There’s no commissioned artwork on QPAC,” Jono noted, “but it was all the best and brightest – the works that would translate really well to projection, and when you see them on the side of the building, they look quite amazing.”
“At the Magistrate’s Court we’ve got the work of Rachel Johnston, another Queensland projection designer. She comes from a rock ‘n’ roll background. She used to do all the visual content for Powderfinger – she now tours the world with bands and performers like Azealia Banks – a very, very accomplished projection designer. She hadn’t done anything on a building before and she’s working with a couple young contemporary indigenous artists – a guy out of Cairns named Shaun Edwards and Megan Cope who’s from Stradbroke Island. Megan has actually produced a new artwork which showcases all the indigenous nations of south-east Queensland overlaid on an old military and geological map.”
PIGI OR NOT PIGI
In addition to video projection, The Electric Canvas has done a couple of buildings with PIGI projectors which project large format (180mm x 180mm) slides and film strips. Jono admitted that the PIGI projection onto the old State Library building, which features images of Queensland Industry, is one of his favourites. “It looks incredible, because it’s one of those buildings that is not crowded by the rest of the city. It actually stands out – I think it looks amazing especially in that first 10 minutes after sunset when there’s still a little bit of light in the sky behind it.”
GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT
Even amidst all the razzle dazzle, Colour Me Brisbane was carbon-offset and green friendly. As far as possible, all lighting was LED but with a collection of 40 projectors, ranging from 3kW Barcos and Christie Roadsters up to 6kW PIGI’s, the festival needed a fair bit of electrical input. Every ampere was calculated in advance and the equivalent in Green power was purchased through a wind-farm in the ACT.
So with G20 gone, will we ever see a regular lighting festival for Brisbane? “We didn’t (and don’t) want to just replicate Vivid or White night – it’s got to have something unique to Brisbane,” Jono insisted. Nonetheless, he sees plenty of interest in, and scope for an annual event: “We are pretty fortunate that the George Street end of town, from South Bank, is a perfect theatrical amphitheatre. Brisbane is a city that lights well and the spectacle works well with the public so hopefully…”
Jono Perry Creative Director
Paul Bearne Technical Producer
The Electric Canvas: Parliament House, Treasury Hotel, Pullman Hotel, Old State Library
Rachael Johnston (Strictly & Lowdown): Magistrates’ Courts
Craig Walsh: QPAC
Craig Wilkinson and Stephen Brodie (optikalbloc): Queens Place
Andrew Gibbs (Human Creative) and Richard De Souza: Commissariat Store (Projection & Interactive Design)
Beh Wattenberg: Miller Park (Installation Designer)
Iain Reed Project Manager
Martin Bevz Production Manager
Chameleon Touring Systems
Brian O’Connor QLD Manager
Shannon Ward Hire Manager
The Electric Canvas
Peter Milne Projection Designer and Project Manager
Tillman Schneider Art Director
Glenn Williams Chief Technician / Crew Boss
Kain Jones Project Manager
Olin Winton Technical Manager
Steve Cain Head Technician
Glenn Turner Technical and Creative designer
32 Hundred Lighting
138 × Phillips Colour Reach
174 × 32 Hundred IP65 LED Par x
60 × IP65 LED bricks
20 × IP65 high output LED Tape for City Cats (30m per vessel)
15 × Anolis ArcSource 24 Inground
4 × Catalyst Server
22 × Artnet Distribution- Ruckus
2 × 50inch touch screen w/ 32Hundred custom app interface
28 × Martin MAC Quantum Wash
12 × Clay Paky Alpha Profile 1500
16 × Palco 5
20 × Martin VC Dot 9 Strings
48 × IP65 LED Pars
9 × Par 64 Outdoor
12 × Honeycomb 36
6 × Source 4s
Grand MA Lite
3 × Showstore
Projection (The Electric Canvas and TDC)
6 × PIGI 6k
11 × Barco HDF-W26
8 × Barco FLM HDX-W20
17 × Christie Roadster S+20
1 × Barco CLM-S+10
Watchout and Modulo Control
Lasers (Oracle Attractions)
8 x 18W RGBY OPS Oracle lasers (Suncorp Plaza)
16 x 15W RGB OPS lasers (City Hall clock tower)
Over 30 fully clad scaffolding towers for lighting and projection up to 15m high