Jurassic Lighting

London’s Natural History Museum has a new exhibit featuring animated dinosaurs and eight ELC ministores. Exhibition designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) worked with lighting designers dha to create the traveling exhibit. All DMX networking and control equipment from ELC supplied by White Light.

"Dino Jaws features eight automated dinosaurs and an interactive display area called ‘The Lab.’ The aesthetic requirement was to light each dinosaur, but not to make a light show so dazzling it distracted from them," explains Flick Ansell, of dha design. "The brief was subtle changing landscapes and, importantly, to make shadow play on the different colored backdrop between each dinosaur."

"There was also a practical brief that each display area could, in the future, be toured as a stand alone exhibit. This meant that the lighting for each area had to be integral to that area." To help facilitate this, dha and RAA developed high-level and low-level three-circuit track lighting positions that were then routed back to one six-way dimmer rack per dinosaur.

"The control and dimmer systems were developed with Roger Hennigan and Julie Harper of White Light at a mock up with the Natural History Museum, RAA and the electrical contractor Reed Electrical all present, so that everyone understood what was possible. The difference between ‘moving lights' and 'the movement of light' is best explained to non-lighting specialists by a mock-up," Flick explains.

For programming the lighting, series of linked cues creating dynamic lighting sequences, White Light supplied an ETC Express console. Once the lighting for each dinosaur was completed, that entire lighting sequence was recorded into one ELC ministore per dinosaur. The ministore is a reduced version of ELC's showstore show backup system. It captures up to 512 channels of DMX data from another lighting console in real time, and can then play it back to provide show backup or, in the case of Dino Jaws, complete show playback.

"The ministore had everything dha needed to fulfill our brief for the show," Flick notes. "It was very simple to use, it could be triggered by contact closure to start a sequence or set to looped playback, and it could be 'locked out' to prevent anyone tampering with it when installed. They also remember their settings after being switched off then on, an essential consideration when the exhibition was being switched on and off by non-lighting staff."

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