In recognition of Grand Central Terminal’s 100th anniversary, the MTA Metro-North Railroad wanted to create a spectacle nobody could miss, just in time for the holiday season. Toshiba stepped in to sponsor the event, and the idea of lighting the west side terminal windows was created by designer Michiru Tanaka.
The challenge was to mount 354 LED fixtures within the windows of this land marked building and then cable and control them individually to create a wall of light as a canvas on which the designer could create images and patterns in every color of the rainbow.
Bestek had to build custom hardware and calculate cable runs to mount LED lighting fixtures in each of the 354 windows which would meet the safety and landmarks preservation guidelines in effect at Grand Central Terminal. Bestek had to research many different fabrics as light reflective surfaces which would serve as miniature “bounce” drops for each window while not blocking the sunlight during the daylight hours. This was a very important Metro-North specification for the project. All materials had to be certified flame retardant and all materials and equipment had to pass muster with the terminal electrical and safety personnel.
Bestek’s steel shop utilized recognized steel components for most of the mounting points. This was to be able to provide acceptable engineering specifications to the Metro-North engineering and safety personnel. The fabric at first presented a hurdle since window films (applique’s) were quickly ruled out by Metro-North and since each window pane includes 100 year old hardware which was formerly used to open and close the panes before air conditioning. After several hours of testing using a mockup in the shop, Bestek scheduled an on-site test to gain approval for the final fabric choice. The test confirmed that Textilene scrim was by far the best fabric for reflecting the light and for allowing daylight to flow freely into the terminal during the day.
The designer needed to obtain the greatest possible control of the LED fixtures and the individual cells within each fixture to accomplish her vision. Therefore Bestek had to choose the best suited LED fixtures for maximum design flexibility and then control them reliably.
Bestek chose the Martin Stage Bar 54s for several reasons. Primarily the fixture was almost a perfect match to the size of the window panes. Each Stage Bar could be set to utilize the six individual cells within each unit as individual “pixels” to greatly increase the ability to shade, blend and mix colors effectively for the display. These fixtures also met the electrical requirement of less current draw so Bestek could work with the existing available power and the requirement for very little heat output. Conventional fixtures might have affected building HVAC operation or become a hazard for Metro-North employees who use the glass walkways within the window daily.
Each of the 354 LED fixtures in the display requires 30 discrete control channels to allow control of color and intensity or brightness. To accomplish this Bestek decided to utilize the Green Hippo Hippotizer V3 media server teamed with a Grand MA Series 1 Full Size console driving a total of 24 universes of Art Net which then flow through ELC DMX nodes creating the 10,620 DMX control channels needed to drive the fixtures. All cabling and connections had to meet the stringent standards of the terminal.
Bestek Project Manager: Van Allen Rice
Technical Director: Buddy Braile
Content creator: Sean Cagney-Amazing Industries
Hippo Programmers: Sean Cagney, Josh Fleitell
Production Electrician: Kevin O’Brien
Content created by: Amazing Industries
Software used: Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photo Shop, Adobe Illustrator
Control: MA Lighting Grand MA Series1 Full size
Content playback: Green Hippotizer V3
LED unit: 354 Martin Stage Bar 54s provided by Main Light Industries