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4Wall Systems Part of ‘Land of 1000 Delights’ Lighting Team

By Andrew Quinones on Jan 30, 2017
Posted in Press Releases

New York, NY- Over 500,000 pedestrians during the holiday season stopped and gazed at the iconic façade of Saks Fifth Avenue to watch the light show created by American Christmas, Inc. and Chris Werner Design. The 4Wall Systems and Design Division also played a key role in transforming the full city-block wide exterior into the 'Land of 1000 Delights.'

In 2014, American Christmas, Inc. (ACI) invited Chris Werner Design (CWD) to bid on the 2015 holiday installation. "I've been fortunate enough to have a long relationship with the team at ACI, having first collaborated with them in 2004," said Werner. "I helped with the original snowflake display at Saks Fifth Avenue while working at an architectural firm in New York City."

The holiday display at Saks Fifth originated in 2004 utilizing LED snowflakes, strobe fixtures, and metal-halide wash lights programmed to a techno-remix of "Carol of the Bells." With several different looks over the years, the creative team at Saks Fifth Avenue and ACI decided to go in a different direction several years ago.

CWD, with support from the 4Wall Systems division, created "The Winter Palace on Fifth" in 2015. The new look for the store's façade included an installation of large, illuminated scenic elements - most of which were comprised of individually controlled LED pixels.

"This year's (2016) iteration uses the same physical components and famous David Foster audio track," explained Werner. "However, the programming of the lighting is entirely new to showcase a new color palette in support of the theme for the iconic window display, "Land of 1000 Delights."

Associate Designer Dan Efros created the entire show in Adobe After Effects. "The really great part of using After Effects is that we could simultaneously generate the needed files for the media servers as well as client pre-visualization all within one platform at the same time," explained Efros.

Efros continued, "In addition to helping the client visualize all the elements, this helped us preview and synchronize all the timing for all the components long before we got to pre-vis in Los Angeles. While not as simple as just exporting a file directly to the server, we were able to export keyframe data for the dimmer controlled elements and translated that to MA2 programming during our pre-vis time. Once everything was programmed and in timecode, it was just a matter of making minor corrections and revisions."

Pre-programming and pre-visualization took place at 4Wall Los Angeles. "As soon as I was approached with the possibility of working on the project, I reached out to Brent Pritchett to invite 4Wall to be a part of the installation," said Werner.

 Lighting and video data was distributed via a complex network, created by 4Wall's System & Design division, which included outward-facing port for remote monitoring, wireless connectivity for on-street programming, and managed network hardware in custom, outdoor, ruggedized enclosures.

Due to the mass number of pixels needing to be mapped for control, 4Wall spent a decent amount of time specifically placing every string LED pixel on the drawings so the information could be used for assembly by ACI.

"The actual installation is a lengthy, arduous process," said Werner. On-site work begins in mid-October for the late-November opening. Careful preparation is required to manage on-site deliveries, arrange for city permits, plan boom-truck-ballet, and allowing for adjustments due to weather. The team at American Christmas handles most of the logistics. Fabrication, refurbishment, repairs, and pre-production at American Christmas typically begins mid-summer. Media content development begins with the CWD team in the spring.  

Animations are shared with the creative team for feedback at several steps along the way. Concept development begins with conversations between American Christmas and Saks Fifth Avenue about 12 months in advance.

"There would not be enough time to simply put the pixels on and flash through them onsite so it all was done months in advance the first year we did it," explained 4Wall's Brent Pritchett.

The show's opening was on November 21, 2016 and ended in early January. Visitors are treated to a 2-minute, 30-second show which plays every 10 minutes.  Each evening, the show plays for the first time at 4:35pm and the final performance is at 11:35pm. An abstraction of a countdown clock is revealed near the top of the display, indicating how long till the next performance.  

Speakers discretely mounted on the facade direct the audio toward the West side of 5th Avenue where the best viewing location is in the Channel Gardens of Rockefeller Center - home of New York's most famous Christmas Tree.

"This project is a ton of work, much of it done in the middle of the night while battling cold winds and a lack of caffeine," said Werner. "But, the entire team is remarkably pleasant, enthusiastic, and dedicated.  I suspect that I'm speaking for most of the team when I say that we're tremendously proud of the work and truly grateful that we get to do projects like this together."

Brent Pritchett, 4Wall's Director of Systems Sales and Account Executive for this project, spoke of 4Wall's involvement in the highly successful holiday display.

"American Christmas, Chris Werner Design and 4Wall have amazing teams that work so well together to make this experience happen. We each play our part and communicate well to pull off this great holiday experience that so many get to enjoy. I am so grateful to be a part of it."

Last year's installation was recognized for the follow awards:

Illuminating Engineering Society of North America - Award of Merit - Exterior Lighting

Illuminating Engineering Society of North America - Award of Merit - Advancement of Lighting Controls

Illuminating Engineering Society, Los Angeles Section - Award of Merit - Advancement of Lighting Controls

'Land of 1000 Delights' Team:

American Christmas, Inc. - Fred Schwam, CEO

American Christmas, Inc. - Kent Fritzel, Executive Creative Officer

American Christmas, Inc. - Lance Caffrey, Chief Production Officer

American Christmas, Inc. - Stephen Worthington, Creative Director

Chris Werner Design - Dan Efros, Associate Designer

Chris Werner Design - Will Gossett, Draftsman & Pixel-mapper

AMA Sign & Electric - Rigger/Installer

Systems Integrator:  4Wall Entertainment

Account Executive:  Brent Pritchett                                     

Account Manager: Lisa Cameron

Project Manager: Nick Downham

Project Technician: Nick Fazio