White Night To Remember

All-night arts festival dawns on Melbourne.


22 April 2013

Text:/ Marcus Pugh

On a balmy February night Melbourne opened its arms and mind to a cultural event the likes of which hadn’t been seen in Australia. It wasn’t a flashy affair designed for television cameras or a sales pitch to sell the city to tourists. It was White Night – a conceptual arts event that has been surfacing in cultural capitals across the globe since its inception in Paris.

White Night was initiated in 1984 by Jean Blaise, founder of the Research Centre for Cultural Development. Since then the concept of an all-night arts festival has slowly grown into a worldwide movement, with emphasis placed on hometown culture and artists at each site to attract and engage local audiences.

In Melbourne an estimated 300,000 attendees turned out over the course of the evening to sample music, food, film, art and light showcased over 80 free events in the CBD and surrounding areas. Forty outdoor areas were converted into performance or installation spaces with more than 50 projectors, 150 moving lights, kilometres of truss and scaffolding, and countless hours of pre-production, show and post production by local designers, producers, manager and technicians.

The event was helmed by artistic director Andrew Walsh AM who, prior to amassing an impressive list of professional credits including the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies, actually grew up in Melbourne. The team at Right Angle Events was tasked with managing the event on the night, and also coordinated suppliers during the pre-production period.

Flinders Lane. Photographer: Eric Lai - @ericlaihk on Flickr
‘Stained glass’ windows on St Paul’s. Photographer: Darren Arentz


The Electric Canvas, the event’s major production partner, provided the image creation, technical design and large-format projection equipment that formed the main showpieces of the night. Façade projections transformed Flinders Street Station into the Theatre of Dreams, framing a stage (for bands who played until 6am) with a red grand drape to invoke a classic theatre proscenium. The station’s copper dome, meanwhile, was dressed with animated projection. The proscenium projection was achieved using two ETC Audiovisuel PIGI DDRA (automated rotating double scroller) projectors, and the animation on the dome was done with a pair of Christie S+20K projectors.

On the Theatre of Dreams stage, which Element Rigging built over the station steps, lighting designer Lynden Gare designed and operated a rig of Martin MAC 101s, MAC Auras, blinder bars and that rock staple: the Atomic strobe. With a wide variety of acts from the RockWiz Orchestra and Bombay Royale to headliners The Cat Empire scheduled to appear throughout the night, versatility was essential. A sound system supplied by Optical Audio kept the crowd rocking till seven in the morning.

On Flinders Street, opposite Federation Square, six building frontages including the iconic Forum Theatre featured projections of five scenes that recurred at 20-minute intervals throughout the night. The Electric Canvas used a total of 14 PIGI DDRA projectors to cover the 120m long footprint and create the montage. St Paul’s Chapter House in particular proved to be a hit with the audience. Spectators gazed on while two Christie S+20K video projectors driven by a Dataton Watchout system animated the building’s fascia.

Over the Princes Bridge, the expansive façade of the National Gallery of Victoria was the perfect canvas for projections of Neo-Impressionist adaptations and other works from the gallery’s collection. The Electric Canvas crew used 10 Christie S+20K video projectors to achieve a stunning result.

National Gallery of Victoria St Kilda Rd. Photographer: Darren Arentz
MMS messages on the Yarra. Photo Courtesy TDC


Not unsurprisingly, lighting was a major feature of the White Night event. Local lighting designer Philip Lethlean delivered some impressive results, backed by event support partner and my employer, Resolution X.

Projects included Mark 1:28, a lighting piece comprising two faux stained-glass windows portraying an AFL player ‘taking a screamer’ (or for the uninitiated, jumping up to catch a football). This work represented Melbourne’s religious devotion to sports and was achieved with a custom gobo designed by Lethlean, projected from Clay Paky Alpha 1500 profiles.

Lethlean and the ResX team used the Princes Bridge and Southbank Footbridge as a projection surface to great effect. Employing 25 Clay Paky Alpha 1500 profiles, they used the shaping shutters system to manipulate the beam and colour as it played over the architectural features.

World Without Sun, an installation designed by Canadian artist Christine Davis, was realised with the help of Optical Audio, Element Rigging and Technical Direction Company (TDC) using Barco HD20 DLP projectors and Watchout media servers. Element Rigging supplied an elegant black truss structure supporting the six satellite dishes that seemed to float in the darkness of Birrarung Marr.

Photographer: Princes Bridge. Darren Arentz
‘White Night’ on Princes Bridge. Photographer: Eric Lai
St Paul’s Chapter House. Photographer: Nathan Miller


Much of Flinders Lane contained small lighting installations designed by Philip Lethlean. The passing crowds were treated to images of ballerinas and a salsa couple dancing across building façades, projected from Martin MAC 700 profiles mounted under Rain MAC covers. Giant inflatables of ever-changing light were created using Air Domes with five-metre and eight-metre cones lit from inside with double LED outdoor floods. Pairs of opaque shoes, lit with LED ribbon provided by Lightmoves, dangled from wires across the street.

From the Melbourne Museum and Royal Exhibition buildings, which were artistically lit inside and out, all the way down to Degraves Lane and the State Library, specialised lighting spread all over the city. While many areas were individually controlled using one of six GrandMA consoles, ResX also used W-DMX Black Box G4 wireless DMX512 transceivers all over the city to control fixtures in hard-to-reach areas. The W-DMX system functioned well in zones notorious for wireless interference, especially given the number of people capturing their experiences of the event on social media.

Giant glowing spheres floated on the Yarra River, radiating projected messages and pictures sent by audience members via MMS. TDC used Barco R22+ DLP projectors and ProVideoPlayer playbacks to achieve this effect.

Almost 300 mirror balls provided by ResX were hung by Showtech Rigging over Federation Square, creating an enormous dance floor where attendees were invited to kick up their heels and participate in any of the 10 different dance styles being taught throughout the night.

Flinders Street Station. Photographer: Billy Chant www.cre8tiv.com.au
Flinders Street Facades. Photographer: Darren Arentz


French artist Michel Blazy’s huge foam-producing sculpture Bouquet Final 2, first exhibited at Nuit Blanche in Paris, was featured at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Great Hall. The installation consisted of a 7m-high scaffold designed and constructed by Element Rigging, which held seven levels of electric pumps slowly discharging cascading foam.

While the State Library’s famous colonnaded frontage was treated with animated mapped projections, its internal architectural features were accentuated using eight new Martin MAC Vipers offset by Tri-colour LED MultiPARs from ResX.

In a dazzling display that wowed the crowds along the banks of the Yarra, the team at Oracle Attractions showed off their new stock of large-scale water fountains and high-end outdoor lasers.

After midnight Melbourne can take on a nasty vibe and is better known for drunken misconduct from the nightclub crowd. Instead, the city was filled with families and a well-behaved throng enjoying museums, art galleries, live performance and a side to their city they may have never seen before.


White Night Melbourne: (03) 9417 6690 or www.whitenightmelbourne.com.au
Right Angle Events: 03 9416 4609 or www.rightangleevents.com.au
The Electric Canvas: (02) 9417 2077 or www.theelectriccanvas.com.au
Element Rigging: 0418 525 473
Optical Audio Productions: (03) 9318 00603 or www.oaproductions.com.au
Resolution X: (03) 9701 2411 or www.resolutionx.com.au
Technical Direction Company: 1300 783 832 or www.tdc.com.au
Lightmoves: (03) 9701 2500 or www.lightmoves.com
Showtech Rigging: (03) 9587 7311 or www.showtechaustralia.com.au
Oracle Attractions: (03) 9391 5482 or www.oracleattractions.biz


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