How does Enlighten Festival get illuminated?

5 March 2019

Ever wondered how the Enlighten Illuminations are created for the Enlighten Festival?

We asked The Electric Canvas, who specialise in large-scale projections, about their creative process and how they create the illuminations.

1. How do you create the illuminations?

The starting point is always the building itself, as it’s the architecture that informs our technical solution and it also inspires the creative illumination we design. Our team surveys each building to develop a 3D model or a series of architectural templates for the building, the backbone onto which the creative illumination is designed.

We create everything from static illuminations through to shows that resemble mini animated features with 3D characters. We also compose and produce custom soundtracks or soundscapes for our work.

During the content production phase of a project, our logistics team takes care of constructing site infrastructure, allocating our technical crew, organising freight and travel requirements, preparing site schedules, as well as ensuring that health and safety of our team – there’s a lot that goes into each illumination.

After weeks, if not months, of lots of hard work and planning, the big moment finally arrives and it’s finally “lights on”!

2. What’s your favourite new technological advance in architectural projections?

We’re always looking out for new advancements in technology, both in terms of equipment and creative tools, so we can continually improve the public experience.

Something that we’ve been exploring more and more of lately is interactive projections. Interactivity can provide a fantastic experience for participants – we really love our photo booth installation on the National Portrait Gallery, where visitors can snap their portrait and see it hung on the wall of this iconic gallery. How many people can say there selfie has been featured on the National Portrait Gallery?!

3. What’s your favourite design from past Enlighten Festivals?

We’ve created and adapted many, many artworks over the years for Enlighten Festival – probably too many to remember all of them. We turned the National Library of Australia into a giant bookcase one year and it really looked stunning.

Our artists always have a lot of fun creating the “Behind The Lines” political satire treatment onto Old Parliament House each year. A favourite from Questacon was the creation of a crazy Rube Goldberg machine onto the building.

One year onto the National Portrait Gallery we recreated a treatment featuring famous portraits, but the humans were cheekily replaced by rabbits. And then, there are favourites that The Electric Canvas didn’t create, like the candle treatment that Ken Done designed last year for Australian Parliament House’s 30th anniversary.

4. What’s the most impressive building you’ve projected onto in Canberra?

All of the buildings are impressive in their own right. It’s truly an honour to project onto Australian Parliament House, however we need to treat the visual content carefully due to its numerous columns and abundant amount of negative space.

Old Parliament House’s sheer size of and architectural intricacies provide challenges with scale and proportion. The brutalist architecture of the National Gallery of Australia contains dozens of complex angles and corners that the images need to be seamlessly wrapped around.

For Questacon we cover two façades that meet together at a right angle, so we can use that geometry to create some great transformative content. The low-lying form of the National Portrait Gallery creates a new set of challenges, but we’re really pleased that the interactive projections have been such a hit with the public and are excited to take visitors on a new experience this year too.

You can catch the Enlighten Illuminations, lighting up the Parliamentary Triangle from 28 February – 9 March.