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Technical Magic Creates Multi-Media Wonderlands At ‘Winter Lights’
‘…a walking trail of magical light and sound…when the days are at their shortest, Winter Lights is a unique experience that will light up the darkness…’. Ammonite Studios and Autograph deliver a unique winter experience in Sweden
Designed by London-based production company Ammonite and presented by Temple Live Entertainment and FKP Scorpio at two locations close to Stockholm and Gothenburg respectively, Winter Lights is a seasonal attraction that defies the cold and darkness of a Scandinavian winter with sophisticated multi-media technology to deliver a unique visitor experience.
The installation near Sweden’s capital city is at Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, which showcases Swedish life in times gone by. A trail of around 1.5km features 14 separate installations, each of which combines lighting, projection and sound (including a mix of special effects, traditional classical music and original works by composer Daniel Nolan). Taking inspiration from the park and it’s history, the trail uses design to add a contemporary twist to the site and appeal to guests of all ages. They include an ancient windmill which is brought to life by the sounds of creaking sails and millstones, a watermill where the water is replaced with light and sound and even one area where the sound of elephants recalls the period when there were elephants residing in the zoo on the site. A lake in an enchanted forest moves between day and nighttime via amazing lighting effects and specially-composed music combined with the sounds of the forest which change with the passage of the day.
The ‘Electric Playground’ is a fully interactive area including projection-mapped visuals on an old farmhouse, where the media is triggered by visitors via levers and buttons. An obsolete quarry is filled with hundreds of small fire pits and a discreet but capable sound system, while the stunning finale is a belfry, filled with moving lights and a powerful audio rig, which presents three different shows in rotation, one pop from the most popular Swedish artists, one of most-streamed Xmas music in Sweden and one of classical music.
Meanwhile, near Gothenburg a similarly-themed experience occupies the baroque grounds of Gunnebo House and Gardens, where visitors experience 12 individual installations plus ‘The Spectacular’ finale. The areas include a huge trellis adorned with multiple LED tubes, pixel-mapped to the music of Holst’s Planets Suite ‘Spring’ and an interactive element (with more music by Daniel Nolan) equipped with six podiums, each with a big red button that triggers various media which is hugely popular with younger visitors. Visitors will also find ‘Duelling Sphinxes’, where huge mythical beasts are brought to life with startling audio effects; a giant pinball machine on the meadow near the house and a 3D AV celebration of the music of Swedish music producer / songwriter Max Martin.
‘The Spectacular’ is a magnificent finale with visuals projection-mapped onto the house itself, which includes a narrative animation telling the story of the frieze on the top of house briefly coming to life, ‘Aurora’ which is based on the patterns and artworks in the house and an audio mix of Swedish pop and Christmas music delivered through a concert-sized 5.1 surround sound system.
Autograph were contracted to supply sound design and creative implementation services for both locations and dispatched their immersive / experiential theatre specialist Luke Swaffield to assist. “The trick with this project” he recalls, ”…is that everything has to work together – lighting, projection, sound, every media element compliments and supports every other, even though the various tableaux are mostly quite different from each other in terms of the sensory impact the producers wanted to achieve.”
His work with successful shows such as SAW – Escape Experience London, Monopoly Life-Sized and others informed much of his work in Sweden: “There are certain techniques that make interactive elements work well – for example, visitors usually need a sound to tell them what to do, it’s effectively a cue – also they might need one sound to tell them they’re doing the right thing and another to tell them they’re going the wrong way!”
“There are also numerous instances of where the principles of sound design for theatre were applied at both sites – the Sphinxes at Gunnebo and the enchanted forest at Skansen are perfect examples, where the narrative isn’t so clear because there’s no commentary, so sound has to help the visitor engage with the experience.”
Luke relied on tried and tested technology to deliver his designs, with many locations using QLab 5 running multi-channel file formats, with the entire multi-media ensemble programmed to start, run and finish completely automatically, commencing at 2pm and finishing at 10pm. The chilly Scandinavian weather also prompted some equipment and maintenance choices – Luke continues, “A lot of the playback is handled by BrightSign hard disc players simply because they’re quite happy down to the low temperatures we can expect in that part of the world. Also the audio system is never actually off as between shows we run a constant low-level white noise through everything just to keep the speaker drivers mobile and stop them from freezing, so we needed playback devices to run 24-7 uninterrupted.”
“It’s been a lot of fun” says Luke, clearly relishing yet another new challenge in the ever-expanding word of immersive / experiential attractions. “I was lucky to have a great team with me on this, because both sites are large outdoor areas which required a lot of equipment, discreetly placed and in challenging conditions. The audio and multi-media designs are fairly complex and I relied heavily on my associate sound designers Raffaela Pancucci and Avgoustos Psillas (Skansen and Gunnebo respectively) and Ian Brame who was PSE at both sites. Patrik Midelf (head of audio) and Karl Grönvall (project manager) and the team from Creative Technology Northern Europe supplied all the equipment and were great to work with as always.”
Speaking to one of the directors at Ammonite Studios, Rob Casey commented: “Having had a relationship with Luke for over 10 years, it’s been a complete pleasure to collaborate once again on the Winter Lights projects. We knew we had to create a very high-end experience to fit with the Scandinavian aesthetic and expectation. We are hugely pleased with everyone’s contribution to creating that; and the combination of creative flair and technical know-how the Autograph team always brings to a project, suited the requirements perfectly.”
Winter Lights website HERE