Motor City Fantasee

Located in the heart of downtown Detroit, the Penobscot Building shared in the quasi-rebirth of the city with the opening of the Smart Detroit global conferencing and technology center in early April. To commemorate the opening of the center, and to unveil the architectural lighting of the building (designed by Gary Steffy Lighting Design of Ann Arbor, MI), Nedd Public Relations contacted Fantasee Lighting of Ypsilanti, MI, to help create an exciting event that would involve both VIPs and the general public. The event also included a VIP reception at the Atheneum Hotel, located approximately a quarter-mile away from the Penobscot Building.

The project had two distinct segments--the outdoor event lighting on the building itself, and the interior lighting that was part of the VIP reception in the ballroom of the Atheneum. From its inception, the project was driven by budget considerations. "While we thought briefly about lasers or automated searchlights or Pani projectors or other big, dramatic effects, they got put aside fairly quickly due to the budget constraints," admits Stefan Graf, the principal lighting designer for the Fantasee team. The budgetary answer came in the form of High End Systems gear.

For the event, the north and east elevations of the Penobscot Building were to be illuminated, since these were the only elevations that could be viewed from the VIP reception. Fantasee used 40 High End Studio Spots(TM), 12 Studio Colors(R), five Cyberlights(R), and 12 Dataflash(R) AF-1000 strobes to create the excitement needed. The equipment, which was stored on two 24' (7m) flatbed trucks located across the street from the Penobscot, were controlled using Interactive Technologies Radio DMX transmitters and an MA Lighting GrandMA console located within the Atheneum ballroom, due to weather considerations. Two 200A generators provided by JRW Generations of Livonia, MI, powered the equipment.

The Penobscot Building wasn't the only facility that took part in the festivities. "We wanted to project the company logos across to the Penobscot Building, and if we did it from the ground, there would be so much keystoning that it wouldn't be legible," Graf explains. So the Fantasee design team turned negotiators, and convinced the Bank One Building across the street to put five of the Cyberlights on its roof. Not only did it free up its security to escort Fantasee workers to and from the roof, it also darkened its 1,000W metal-halide exterior floodlights for the show. "In the end, the Bank One Building became part of the light show," Graf notes.

The show, which was cued to music heard only inside the ballroom, focused on large looks rather than the intricate details. "Because the viewing audience was a quarter-mile away, the looks had to be fairly big and exaggerated," Graf reports.

Moving indoors, the Atheneum Hotel ballroom had to be transformed into something special. For the reception, the Fantasee team concentrated on using static light and color. "It was a combination of in-house architectural lighting with some lighting we brought in and color filters that created an environment that was new, exciting, and spoke to the theme of the day," Graf comments.

The Fantasee team used an array of tasteful colors in the ballroom, from the light blue (Lee 118) gels on the fluorescent fixtures in the elevator lobby to the mauve (L126) on PAR-38 floor units focused on the columns in the room, to the apricot (L147) in the sconces on the columns. But the real showstopper of the night was the use of cobalt blue on the ceiling above the ballroom mezzanine. The Fantasee team paired 400W metal-halide floor units with a deep blue (L119) gel, making the ceiling vibrant.

"Blue is a really exciting color, and when you use it on a metal-halide source, it provides a very rich, ethereal saturation," Graf explains. "Metal-halide fixtures have 10 times more energy in the blue spectrum, which translates into a rich blue color saturation. Basically, we redecorated the room with light."