Chris Werner Uses Iluminarc In Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Show

NEW YORK – Even the most jaded New Yorkers walking down Fifth Avenue could not help but stop in their tracks at 7 pm on November 23 and gaze in admiration (if not awe) when the lights were switched on at the Saks Fifth Avenue Winter Wonders of the World show. Heralded by a 200-member choir and towering eight stories high, the holiday lighting extravaganza, which is made up of 225,000 individually controlled points of light, features frozen fantasy images of iconic global landmarks like the Eifel Tower, Roman Coliseum and Taj Mahal.

Uplighting the background of this dazzling display requires fixtures with an intense output, which is precisely why LD Chris Werner of Chris Werner Design specified the Iluminarc Colorist Line 12Qa RGBA LED fixtures from Chauvet for the task.

Werner selected the Colorist fixtures after he and his supplier 4Wall Entertainment Lighting conducted a shootout between the Iluminarc product and competing fixtures. “I worked closely with Brent Pritchett and Lisa Cameron of 4Wall to spec the fixtures used in this project,” said the LD. “We evaluated several products for brightness, appropriate lensing, and color consistency, the Colorists met our specs and expectations.”

A total of 14 Colorist fixtures were installed on the façade of Saks Fifth Avenue’s landmark flagship store between 49th and 50th Streets. Half of the fixtures were positioned on the ledge separating the first and second stories of the building, and half were placed between the third and fourth stories. Run in 48 channel mode and controlled by a grandMA console, the Colorist fixtures were placed between scenic elements to uplight the exposed building façade.

“We wanted to get as much light on the exposed facade as possible to make it a vibrant part of the show,” explained Werner. “The feature-set of the Colorists works quite well for our application. The fixtures give us the bright output, RGBW color-mixing, white finish, linear form factor, easy-to-manipulate and customize mounting hardware, outdoor rating, reasonable lead-time, and approachable price-point, which is exactly what we need.”

The Colorist fixtures also provide Werner with a considerable throw. Light from the fixtures positioned between the third and fourth stories reaches the top of the eight story structure in some of the scenes the LD created. In addition to warming the stately building façade, the output of the Colorists is also bright and vivid enough to contribute to the flowering of colorful images that seem to glide across the structure during the mesmerizing lightshow.

Werner changes the color output of the Colorists during the 10 minutes show, which runs every day from 4:35 to 11:35 until January 10. (That comes to over 3,200 shows!) Aside from reflecting the flow of the show, the rich hues from the Colorist often add a shimmering magical quality to the icicles that adorn the building.

Elaborating on the larger theme of the show, Werner gave credit to the creative team at Saks Fifth Avenue led by Mark Briggs, which came up with the idea for the Winter Wonders of The World theme. A global flight of imagination, the show embodies “seven wonders of the world,” all glittering in an icy winter theme. Included among these wintery gems are an Icy Eiffel Tower, Frosty Taj Mahal, Ice Cold Colosseum, Great Barrier Reef, Great Wintery Wall of China, and Sub-Zero Sphinx. Rounding out the list is Saks Fifth Avenue itself - The Winter Palace on Fifth. However, the design didn’t stop with display windows; the creative team also made the entire building part of the experience, which is where the uplighting played a key role.

Of course executing this sweeping concept was no easy task. In addition to the 225,000 individually controlled points of light, the show required over 230 Universes of ArtNet controlled by one grandMA2 console and seven MBox Media Servers as well as a complex fiber-based network with just under 275 reserved IP addresses.

“American Christmas, Inc. was amazing as a partner in making this elaborate system work” said Werner. “Fred Schwam the CEO, Kent Fritzel the Executive Creative Director, and Stephen Worthington the Creative Director deserve a great deal of credit for making this happen.”

According to official estimates, creating the holiday display involved 250 people working a combined 10,000 hours. “It was an intense effort,” said Werner, whose team has been working on the project since May. “Dan Efros and Will Gossett of my team have worked closely with me, putting countless hours into this effort. The entire process has been loads of fun. We’ve worked with tremendous partners, great leaders, and out-of-the-box thinkers. It’s an honor to share the stewardship for this holiday season. I hope people on the street are enjoying the show as much as we enjoyed creating it.”

Photo Credit: Robert Figuera