Baltimore’s Inner Harbor kicked off the 2011 holiday season with a brand new attraction that looked like something straight out of Las Vegas.
Dubbed as “Baltimore’s Bellagio” by a local news anchor, The Power Plant Holiday Light Spectacular transformed one the city’s oldest and most iconic buildings into a 32,000 square foot canvas of 3D video motion graphics, multi-colored laser effects, and choreographed pyrotechnics. The Power Plant, which was completely restored and renovated for retail use in the ‘80s and ‘90s, originally served as one of Baltimore’s first electricity generating plants for the city’s growing streetcar enterprise.
In early 2009, Baltimore-based Image Engineering first approached the owners of the century-old Power Plant building about using the façade as a backdrop for a larger-than-life video and laser spectacle. Once the light show project was finally funded in October 2011 by local businesses, Image Engineering’s design teams immediately went to work. The content team started on story-boarding the visual concepts and selecting music while the technical team contemplated how the various display platforms would be integrated together and synchronized. The presentation would have to be played back reliably for over 150 performances from mid-November through New Year’s Eve.
To create the nightly spectacular, Image Engineering leveraged its entire creative capability to design the multi-faceted show. Additional resources to develop the video content were provided by another local firm, NVision4D. The scope of the project was daunting: create a six- to seven- minute holiday-themed show set to music that would bring the nearly 10-story structure to life. The teams would also have to mitigate the building’s inherent dark red brick color that was not conducive to front projection. Finally adding to the challenge, Image Engineering had only five weeks to create the content and technical infrastructure for the six week show schedule.
The display relied on a diverse variety of projection technologies. 3D motion graphics were projected from the brightest video projectors commercially available. Twenty watt full-color laser projectors were mapped to the building to create the laser effect overlays. A complement of intelligent lighting fixtures and color changing searchlights added accents. The integration of video, lasers, lighting, and pyrotechnic effects were all seamlessly choreographed together into one cohesive presentation. Three custom booths were constructed to protect the projection inventory from Baltimore’s unpredictable winter weather and to provide an environment in which to cool the equipment.
The show was an instant success. Spurred in part by intensive local media attention and social media outlets, The Power Plant Holiday Light Spectacular played to over 40,000 visitors to Baltimore’s downtown. The spectacle generated dozens of YouTube video submissions with a combined tally of over 25,000 views. Nationally, Yahoo! Travel voted Baltimore as one of the “Top 10 Destinations for Holiday Lights” citing the video and laser display.
In an effort to encourage families to visit downtown, the holiday light show is a shining example of downtown businesses and organizations coming together to activate the Inner Harbor for the holiday season.
Joseph Suehle/Andrew Suehle/Brett Tillett, Executive Producers
Nick Hock, Lead Technical Systems Director
Dr. John Suehle, Light Vector Laser Design
Michael Cianciola, Technical Systems
Rob Holmes, 3D Artist/Video Content Creation
Genell Canty, Laser/Pyrotechnic/Audio programming
Phil Payne, Lighting Programmer
7 Christie 35KHD+ Video Projector
Alcorn McBride 8 channel Bin Loop HD
TV One 7100 Switcher
3 20W Light Vector RGB Laser Projector
Laser Scope 30W YAG Laser System
3 Raven Systems Showlink Optical Transcoder
Alesis HD24 Playback Deck
4 5,000W Searchlight
6 Martin Professional MAC 2000
Clarity VX20 System w/8 Artnet Node