Legacy, Elation and Obsidian team up for Nature Illuminated at Minnesota Zoo

Photo: Street Factory

Legacy Production Group creates dynamic lighting environments under Onyx control to highlight unique works of art

This past holiday season, Legacy Production Group of Minneapolis worked with Street Factory Media to present “Nature Illuminated” at the Minnesota Zoo, a magical driving or walking experience that featured brilliant displays of larger-than-life inflatable animals. Their second year working on the project, Legacy used a lighting package of Elation IP-rated luminaires to compose picturesque environments and controlled the lighting scenes using a large Obsidian lighting control network.

The oversized animals – more than 30 specially crafted works of art illuminated from the inside with LED lights – were presented across five different zones on a nearly mile long loop, each zone with its own theme. Legacy’s Tom Gorman, lighting designer and production manager on the project, explains the role of the Elation lighting system. “We didn’t necessarily need to light the inflatables but it was important to have some accent lighting to create the environment around the animals. We wanted to make it look like the animals belonged there so we lit the surroundings – the trees, plants, grass and snow – to dress up each setting. We kept the animals as the focal point but rather than a static scene we made it come alive with movement and colour which really enhanced the experience.”

Gorman and his team gave life to each scene by throwing colour onto trees using Paladin hybrid effect lights and then accenting with slow gobo rotation or slow colour chases from Proteus Maximus LED moving heads. For areas that didn’t require colour change, they placed gels in front of DTW Blinder 700 IP lights to wash groups of trees. They even lit the snow in blue to create a more realistic scene for animals that live in the water. Some 16 Proteus Maximus, 44 Paladins and 16 DTW Blinder 700 IPs were used on the experience – all IP65 rated. IP-rated Par lights were also used for colour accents.

“Nature Illuminated” ran from December 2 – January 16 and with load in taking place in mid-November that meant lighting fixtures were exposed outdoors for two months of the Minnesota winter, a period that saw several freeze and frost cycles. “The weather was always a big issue,” says Gorman. “We had a lot of snow that then melted to form puddles of water. It would freeze again and lock products up in ice. Either everything had to be IP rated or we had to figure out how to protect it.” With nights of frigid temperatures, Gorman says the lighting fixtures ran on a 24-hr program with just enough intensity to keep the units warm. “Everything worked great and we had only minor problems.”

A large area with roads to traverse coupled with wintry weather made creation of a lighting control network a demanding but not necessarily complicated, task. “From a power, networking and data standpoint it was pretty remarkable,” Gorman said. “We used 9 Netron EN4 nodes working with 20 switches and Ubiquiti wireless access points to create the network. All control was from an M6 console that had been upgraded to the latest Obsidian Onyx software.”

With the route crisscrossing the road several times, Gorman had to get network cable, DMX and power from one side of the road to the other and used a series of truss arches used for signage for the task. In places where up and over arch trusses weren’t available, wireless access points communicated with an EN4 node on the other side of the road.

Programming took place using Obsidian’s compact NX2 console, which the Legacy team put in a car and drove to each area. “We’d drive to an area, take out a Cat 5 cable, find one of our 20 switches and access the network and program right there,” Gorman relates. “We’d then save it back to the M6 as the master console. The network was rock solid. It was impressive how well it worked, even with the different types of weather we had.” Probably the biggest problem encountered, he says, was with mice chewing cable and wanting to build nests wherever there was heat. The solution was to place the EN4 nodes in rubber containers to keep them protected.

Gorman sends kudos to Lighting Director Julio Roque, who did the bulk of the programming and maintained the network on a daily and nightly basis.

Known as an accessible platform with an intuitive nature, Legacy continues to upgrade their lighting control inventory to Onyx. “With such an easy learning curve and such good pricing, for us it is our ‘go to’ console line. The bang for the buck you get from it is just outstanding. For smaller corporate shows for example or virtual shoots, the NX2 is the best solution we have found. Do you want to put a big, expensive console on a show like that? No. It’s a small, all-in-one console that you can quickly pull out of its case and start programming, and with the screen built in, it is just perfect.”