Making Magic – behind the looking glass

22 December 2010,

For the 55th season, Myer presents the world's most beloved Christmas fairy tale...

E.T.A Hoffman's story of

"The Nutcracker"

The creation of a set of animated Christmas window displays, is a combination of traditional theatre craft production techniques, animatronic and stage automation technology and theatrical lighting / special effects – all squeezed into a space, the size of a broom cupboard!

For the past 55 years, the Myer Melbourne Bourke Street windows have hosted this international department store Christmas phenomena. Stage One (a Melbourne, Australia based art production facility) have produced these niche displays for numerous clients including Myer Melbourne, Myer Brisbane, and previously, Crown Casino and David Jones Sydney.

Lighting a set of Christmas windows starts at the conceptualization stage of design. John Kerr, Creative Director of Stage One, is both production designer and lighting designer, and very early in design development, locks in the effects required to create truly magical dioramas. This ensures set, scenery, stage mechanisms, fly towers and rigging are all designed to fit and compliment each other.

Stage One, have now produced the Myer Melbourne animated windows for 17 consecutive years, over which time, having invested in static and intelligent lighting equipment capable of withstanding the demanding challenges within a window environment (a typical season being 18 hrs daily x8 week duration). The bulk of the static lighting fixtures are proudly Selecon. Some stock still going strong after 17 years!

There are many restrictions when lighting within a window environment, namely:

  • Competing with daylight
  • Balance between lumen output and fixture size
  • Ambient and radiant heat issues
  • Colour limitations and gel life
  • Lamp life
  • Beam angles due to the short throw distances
  • No FOH lighting opportunities

Stage One utilise a stock of 650 watt Selecon Acclaim Fresnels and profiles to create the filler and key lighting states, complimented by Selecon 1K Fresnels (predominately as backlight) and 90º Pacific Profiles for scenic textures and dapple effects. Within the Melbourne windows, there are over 160 luminaires creating multi cue shows – patched via a new hardwired house patch system, back to temporary installed 144 channels of dimmers.

The Selecon Pacific fixture has, over time, become Stage One's main workhorse for lighting windows, as an extensive library of alternative lens tubes and metal halide lamp bases been developed, which adapt the existing luminaires for other seasonal window and display presentations. For the window technician, the arrival of the 90º Profile was a prayer answered from the lighting heavens!

This year, 18 of the 90º Pacific stock, were fitted with Rosco Prismatic gobos and rotators fitted to their gates, projecting dappled colour palettes over set and characters, creating a common "moving dreamy" design element, across the vastly different fantasy scenes.

The way of the future for seasonal special effect window lighting is LED technology, as radiant / ambient heat and gel life have always been a battle within the window environment. I'm sure Stage One's arsenal of fixtures will overtime, transform into a new generation of Selecon PL3 LED luminaires!

Stage ONE Productions VIC Pty Ltd

61 3 9372 2122