When WestJet Airlines Ltd., Canada’s second-largest air carrier and the number one international carrier into Las Vegas, wanted to celebrate its 21st birthday, the company decided to go all out and set some Guinness World Records in the process. WestJet treated passengers on one of its Toronto-Las Vegas flights to a massive light show in Utah’s Mojave Desert featuring 126 Claypaky Mythos fixtures
Creative agency Rethink devised the rather daunting concept, which Westbury National Show Systems Ltd. in Toronto executed. “We don’t scare easily,” laughs Westbury Vice President Rob Sandolowich. The full-service AV company provides lighting, staging, video and audio services for shows and permanent installations.
Rethink’s idea was to create a giant, ground-based spinning wheel of lights with a prize-winning seat number revealed in the center. The lights would be seen from 12,000 feet in the air in a 20-second fly-over by a scheduled WestJet flight. A flight attendant would signal passengers to peer out the windows to see the light wheel and the changing digits inside: The digits finally froze on a seat number whose lucky occupant won an array of vacation-themed gifts.
As executed by Westbury, the wheel produced over 4.5 million lumens of light in the night sky and was visible from seven miles away. The wheel set Guinness World Records for the largest circular projection (1 km of light) and the greatest light output in a projected image. “We mocked up a proof of concept in our parking lot and realized we could pull it off,” says Sandolowich.
“About a year before one of our guys had a Mythos fixture on the loading dock at night aiming at a water tower almost a kilometer from here. I looked out the window and saw the accuracy of movement and the good focus of Mythos – it looked amazing at that distance. So I filed that away in the back of my head. When WestJet came up, I said I know this amazing beam with a huge light output that we could use.”
A Utah-based site manager narrowed down possible locations to two. “We wanted a very flat area with little if any foliage,” says Sandolowich. “The plane had to come down to about 12,000 feet, and the flight path couldn’t be too close to Las Vegas where other planes were descending and coming in for a landing. So we picked this massive cow pasture, a giant alfalfa field about two-and-a-half hours outside Vegas in Colorado City, Utah.”
Sandolowich wanted to use Mythos fixtures exclusively but he couldn’t find enough to complete the array so he mixed 126 Mythos with another brand of moving-head spots. In such a remote location the crew of some 40 people spent a week trucking in all the supplies and setting up everything required to make the light effects work. “We used all-terrain vehicles for equipment delivery. The days were very hot but it got freezing cold at night and we had wind and dust storms,” he recalls.
“We had to bag the fixtures when they were not in use.” Generators needed to be close to the light sources to avoid lengthy cable runs. “Fortunately, Mythos was super-power efficient,” Sandolowich reports. “We got a lot of brightness without using a lot of power.” Communication with the pilot via the light consoles enabled the light effects to be triggered at just the right moment for optimal viewing by a plane full of surprised and delighted passengers.
“The flyover lasted only 20 seconds so we really had to nail it,” says Sandolowich. “When we heard the pilot say, ‘Wow – amazing!’ we knew we got it right.” WestJet subsequently made a TV commercial commemorating its 21st birthday and sharing the record-breaking moment with a wider audience. “Mythos was the perfect light for the job,” says Sandolowich. “And we’re grateful for the support A.C.T Lighting gave us during the testing phase.” At Westbury Adrian Kent was responsible for the conceptual drawing, Thomas Stehle the infrastructure and Jason Kew the logistics; Andrew Cwierdzinski and Shawn Freeman were the programmers. A.C.T Lighitng is the exclusive distributor of Claypaky products in North America.
Francesco Romagnoli, Claypaky Area Manager for North and Latin America, added, “This is a very cool and interesting project and we were proud to be a part of it.”
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