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Fire and LEDs

grandMA2 and MA VPU plus help create dazzling Fourth of July pixel-mapped light show on the Empire State Building

The city that never sleeps put on a Fourth of July show that extended well beyond the 37th Annual Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular to the Empire State Building (ESB) where a grandMA2 full-size and an MA VPU plus (Video Processing Unit) controlled a dazzling pixel-mapped lighting display on the landmark.

The ESB and Macy’s partnered on the 37th annual fireworks show. As part of the celebration the ESB tower light show was created by world-famous lighting design artist Marc Brickman and choreographed to music curated by Usher for the finale of the fireworks. Last year the ESB unveiled its one-of-a-kind new LED tower lights with a show Brickman designed.

For the Independence Day spectacular the light show competed for attention with the fireworks by displaying dramatic and fun bursts of color, ripples, sweeps and chases on the top tiers and spire of the ESB. More than 3.900 LED fixtures rapidly flashed solid colours and washed the tiers with breathtaking multi-color displays; some lighting effects swirled around all four sides of the structure like a rotating beacon.

“We were synched to the Macy’s [fireworks] show,” says Marc Brickman. “We were given a pre-visualization of what they were going to do to inspire our design.”

Key to meeting the complex pixel-mapping challenge – with over 17,000 parameters of lighting and video control – was an MA VPU plus for displaying video in full HD, ensuring the highest frame and DMX synchronicity, scaling video and creating myriad effects.

Brickman, who used a grandMA2 full-size last year for the ESB’s pixel-mapping debut, reteamed with A.C.T Lighting for the Fourth of July celebration. He tapped a grandMA2 full-size, with 80 universes, as his primary controller and had a grandMA2 light on hand for back up.

The grandMA2 was set up to send KiNET to more than 3,900 Color Kinetics LED fixtures. The MA VPU’s pixel map was configured to control all the LED lights on the building and output 76 universes of Art-Net to the grandMA2 desk; the Art-Net universes were merged with the grandMA2 patch and subsequently converted to KiNET in order to control the Color Kinetics fixtures. The pixel map was patched to the same DMX channels as the patch in the grandMA2 desk.

This process enabled Brickman to quickly choose between video pixel map effects or direct lighting control from the grandMA2, all controllable by the grandMA2 software. He could send video pixel map data and standard lighting control effects simultaneously allowing for seamless cross-fades between desired looks.

Thanks to pre-visualization and rendering software, all the programming and rehearsals were done prior to the event, first in Los Angeles and then from the 72nd floor of the ESB. “Most of the work was done at A.C.T’s Agoura Hills, California office,” says Brickman. “The team worked with programmer Dietrich Juengling to create an easier, more efficient system that was smaller and more compact than previously used at ESB. We also put ESP Vision in line, which helped us do the pre-visualization.”

The Fourth of July show was the first time anyone saw the programmed show live on the sides of the landmark. “It all worked great – it was incredible!” Brickman declares.

A.C.T Lighting, Inc. is the exclusive distributor of MA Lighting in the USA and Canada.


Used Equipment:

1 x grandMA2 full-size
1 x MA VPU plus (Video Processing Unit)

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