Once again suburban Chicago is aglow with the holiday spirit as “Illumination: The Lights at The Morton Arboretum” opens for its annual run, November 21 to January 3. Visitors to The Arboretum follow the one-mile paved path lined by trees that shine with LEDs and responds to touch and sound. Clay Paky Sharpys and new Clay Paky Mythos fixtures housed in Igloo domes and programmed on grandMA2 consoles, provide innovative lighting effects for the one-of-a-kind holiday display. A.C.T Lighting, Inc. is the exclusive North American distributor of Clay Paky lighting and MA lighting.
The Morton Arboretum was founded in 1922 by Morton Salt magnate Joy Morton whose father inaugurated Arbor Day in the U.S. The annual “Illumination” event features lighting effects along a one-mile outdoor path through the trees and offers opportunities for visitors to interact with the trees to change the color and intensity of the lights.
Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC) in Chicago was already on site testing elements for this year’s “Illumination” display when A.C.T Lighting brought some new Mythos fixtures for ILC and Lightswitch to look at. The versatile Mythos is a highly-advanced hybrid light: It serves as an excellent 470-watt spotlight with a large beam and zoom optimized for focusing, as well as an extraordinary beam light, which remains parallel for its entire length even at great distances. Mythos is smooth, fast and very quiet and offers an indexed visual effects disc.
“We did a shoot out in The Arboretum for lighting designer John Featherstone of Lightswitch, and he loved the brightness and the zoom of Mythos, as well as the rotating gobos and prisms,” says Matt Pearlman, senior account executive with ILC. “There were a couple of key feature areas where Mythos made a much bigger impact than the Sharpys. So we decided to purchase a handful of Mythos units and use them for this years ‘Illumination’ display.” ILC is already planning on adding more Mythos fixtures to their growing Clay Paky inventory of Sharpys, Sharpy Washes, B-Eye K20s and Alpha Profiles .”
The Arboretum wanted this year’s “Illumination” display to be “bigger and better” than the one staged in 2013, which met with great visitor response. “So we’re growing the experience from last year,” Pearlman says.
The new Mythos fixtures are mounted in Igloo domes and illuminate custom water features in the iconic Meadow Lake. “They have more punch and more functionality for the show, including the ability to zoom in and out and go even bigger with the prism effect,” notes Pearlman.
Forty-eight Sharpys are mounted in a combination of Igloo domes and custom built ILC domes. “They’re lighting the trees and creating aerial patterns for the show,” he reports.
‘The brief from The Morton Arboretum for the project was for guests to ‘see trees in a different light,’” added project lighting designer and creative director John Featherstone. “So we are always looking for new fixtures to support our design in interesting and unexpected ways. The Mythos offered us a combination of an incredibly bright, pencil tight beam as well as remarkable zoom range and gobo capabilities – we simply had to have them and ILC and A.C.T moved heaven and earth to get the fixtures to us in time, and we added them to LED B-Eye’s for a flexible and versatile palette of fixtures.”
Dennis Conners and Benjamin Roy crafted the lighting programming using three grandMA2 light consoles with pre visualization from MA3D. The show is controlled from multiple grandMA2 onPC’s and MA Nodes, which are scattered around The Arboretum. “All of our consoles are from MA,” Pearlman says. “The grandMA2 has become the console of choice for programmers and lighting designers alike. The reliability and ease of networking has become something we depend on for large scale events, and this show was no exception. Plus, we always get great support from MA and A.C.T Lighting.”
Featherstone added ‘I can’t remember the last time I designed a show that wasn’t on the MA control platform. The combination of cutting edge technology, exemplary support from Will and the rest of the A.C.T team and their willingness to always help us push the boundaries of what is possible makes MA the only real choice for us.’
Joby Benoit is the Lead System’s Technician for “Illumination: The Lights at The Morton Arboretum.” He was joined by a talented crew of over a dozen technicians that spent almost a month loading in this event.