General Motors kicked off what should be a big year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The company’s 121,000sq-ft. exhibit—the single largest at NAIAS—encompassed distinctive areas for each of GM’s individual brands. This entirely new "art gallery type setting" (Design And Technology Rule The Road In GM's North American International Auto Show Introductions. GM Media Online. 1-7-2007. http://media.gm.com) was designed and fabricated by George P. Johnson Company of Auburn Hills, and required a decisive, yet elegant lighting design.
Nautilus Entertainment Design of La Jolla, CA, was brought on to illuminate the display as well as design lighting for all three General Motors press events. The press events, produced by Clear!Blue, were the world premieres of several of GM’s most important new products: the 2008 Cadillac CTS and Chevrolet Malibu, as well as the Chevrolet Volt and Camaro Convertible concepts. The lighting for the press events was comprised of 74 automated fixtures, primarily Vari-Lite VL3500 and VL3000 spot units.
While NED has designed lighting for GM’s press events at NAIAS since 2005, this was the first year they worked directly for GM on the exposition as a whole. With a display of more than 100 vehicles distributed over an area the size of two football fields, this was quite an undertaking. Although the output and versatility of moving lights can be a great aid in quick implementation and revision of the lighting in a display booth, the sheer scope of the project made dependence solely on automated fixtures impractical.
NED, therefore, chose to use ETC Source Four PAR fixtures (over 1,200 of them), with a mixture of incandescent and metal halide lamps, as the mainstay of their design. Being able to work with multiple source types allowed NED to bring an extra level of precision to their work, changing color toning between booths and complementing the paint on specific vehicles.
While the cars were certainly the main attraction, the décor—and in particular, the Gehry-esque aluminum sculpture at the grand entrance to the booth—required its own specific lighting treatments. The low, multi-layered ceiling, constructed of white fabric panels between exposed aluminum truss had a dedicated ring of 203 Source Four PARs as well as 144 fluorescent fixtures creating a halo effect around the "amoeba" (as the amorphous opening from lower ceiling to upper was commonly known). Many of the displays integrated Halo Monorail track and other architectural fixtures into the decor pieces and used halogen, metal halide, fluorescent and LED sources to illuminate walls, graphics, waterfalls and vehicles.
The abstract metal structure at the exhibit entrance, which served as a dynamic backdrop for five key GM concept cars in their first appearance before the American public, was lit by 20 devoted VL3000 spots, as well as five VL2500s and four Arri 650W fresnels. The dramatic white sculpture hovering over the center area, which contained the Volt concept vehicle, was lit by 30 VL3500 spot fixtures. The scenery below, while lit mainly with a combination of VL3500s, VL2500s, and PARs, was further enhanced by the use of four High End DL.2 digital projectors.
The principal designer for Nautilus was Jim Tetlow. Lighting designer Don Hill and associate designer Will Cooper-Daub were responsible for the display, while lighting designer Kurt Doemelt worked on the press events. All lighting equipment and crew was provided by Light Source, Inc. under the direction of Rick O’Neill.
The North American International Auto Show takes place each January at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan and has a typical attendance of over 700,000.