Jack Frost and the Stirring Giant
Swarovski's Crystal World Sparkle in a Spellbinding Light Show
Winters in Austria’s Inn Valley can be a bit nippy, but with a little imagination and creativity, this icy winter wonderland makes a dandy stage for an enchanting experience. The magical Garden of the Giant in the Swarovski Crystal Worlds at Wattens was recently suffused with a glorious light show envisioned by the members of an artist collective called phase7 performing.arts. Björn Hermann of his eponymous light design company, artistic director Sven Sören Beyer, visual art expert Frieder Weiss, and music director Christian Steinhäuser came up with a concept to immerse the art installation and other attractions of the fantastic outdoor complex at Swarovski Crystal Worlds in a wash of light, laser beams and sound. The awe-inspiring Light Festival incorporated the park’s stellar features—the famous Giant, the Playtower, Crystal Cloud and Mirror Wall—in its brilliant display. StudioNOW Berlin managed the production; satis&fy furnished the technical support. The decision to task satis&fy with this challenging task did not come as a huge surprise, as the production company had served the Austrian jewelry maker well in several other successful projects. And although this project’s brief was to give expression to the ethereal beauty of art and light in the dark of winter, it took something more substantial in the way of equipment, experience and wool underwear to pull this particular show off.
The planning shifted into high gear after a shootout was held with Björn Hermann lichtdesign and phase7 performing.arts to determine which lamps would work best for this particular pageant. All the installed equipment had to be weatherproofed for a six-week stint on location to stand up to the wear and tear of a mild +5 °C during the day and an arctic -25 °C at night. Humidity skyrockets when snow melts, and that kind of moisture can take a toll on lighting and other devices. So much can go wrong with over 570 lamps. These lights had to be installed around the four-hectare site with a little more stealth than usual, so as not to disturb visitors ambling about the park. The Playtower is for children to enjoy by day, so much of its lighting went up at night, including 120 ASTERA AX3 lamps mounted inside the tower by a crew in full climbing regalia. It took a truck-mounted crane to install on top of a 20-meter truss tower the 20 Clay Paky Supersharpys that slashed at the sky like colossal light sabers.
The cable count was bound to be an issue, so the decision was made to go with 360 Wireless DMX Astera lamps. Cordless architecture requires powerful remote-control capability, which is why the crew deployed a full-scale WLAN network with LumenRadio transmitters. Setting up a network as large as this is not exactly easy in these adverse conditions, but satis&fy’s specialists tackled the task with aplomb. The signals were distributed by six stations heated and weatherproofed to keep Jack Frost and his cousin Harry Humidity at bay. Some 60 metric tons of equipment went up in 12 days of construction with the crew wielding metal detectors to find electrical outlets buried deep in the snow. They schlepped 56 Clay Paky Mythos spotlights weighing 30 kg each up a 330-meter slope, one at a time on sleds. Technicians hauled in industrial blow-driers to thaw out cables that had been frozen stiff. And they secured every lamp with theft-proof mounts, which gets a little tricky when you’re wearing heavy gloves and handling AX3 Lightdrops that are hardly bigger than an apple. Every crew member trudged a good 15 kilometers a day on average. Riggers erected two speaker towers clad in wintery white to augment the park’s permanent PA. And the crew installed the heart of the system, a computer that played the sound file and controlled all the devices in lockstep with a precision timecode.
Despite all these minor trials and travails, the Light Festival was as magical as Björn Hermann Lichtdesign and phase7 performing.arts had envisioned. Shimmering lights brought to life the park’s inanimate Giant. Blue and red clouds of crystal drifted overhead; white lights pierced the sky. And all this was bathed in a symphony of sound. While at least one technician remained on site throughout the festival, the rest of the crew was free to strip down to just three layers of clothing and imbibe beverages based on something other than boiling water. The satis&fy crew kept its cool during a heat wave at Swarovski’s 120th jubilee in 2015 and its operating temperature up during the Alpine wintertide at the Light Festival. Having mastered extremes at both ends of the spectrum, the team relishes the opportunity to return for another gig, whatever other surprises the weather may hold in store.
Photos by Sandra Sommerkamp