Dallas, USA – A brand-new visitor attraction designed to showcase the Christian view of earth science and history within the context of the Bible is benefiting from an advanced, integrated lighting control solution from Strand.
Specified for the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) by The Lighting Practice’s New York office, the control solution successfully combines the varying needs of multiple exhibit zones, user requirements and technologies.
Discovery Center for Science & Earth History takes visitors on a tour through ICR’s science research, and its exhibits explain how science fits with the Bible. From the Origins of the Universe to the Garden of Eden, and from Noah’s Ark to the formation of the Grand Canyon, each experience zone tells its story with the help of the latest lighting technology.
To create a consistent narrative through these zones, high quality lighting and sophisticated control are essential. The Discovery Center’s complex system includes a mix of individually addressed track lighting units, in-grade uplighters in the exhibit floors and various accent luminaires highlighting the various areas. Heading the team from The Lighting Practice, which included David Seok and Alina Wolf, was Jon Hoyle. “These luminaires use DMX512 to allow for individual control so that we can balance illumination levels in each of the spaces,” says Hoyle, “while some of the architectural lighting fixtures require 0-10 Volt dimming control.”
This variety of fixtures and control protocols across multiple zones, combined with the need for staff to access lighting pre-sets, made the control specification a particularly demanding challenge. Adding further to the complexity was the fact that certain exhibits – the Grand Canyon, for example – allowed for visitor operation of the lighting, to highlight certain areas and sequences.
ICR’s system administrator Bill West says, “One of the more difficult projects was the lighting for our Grand Canyon model, where visitors can light specific areas of the Canyon by pressing a button at the educational kiosks. Vari-Lite treated this project as their own, and they clearly took pride in their work.”
To help ensure the most effective solution, control systems experts from Vari-Lite’s Dallas office worked closely with The Lighting Practice team from the outset, and throughout the course of the project. Prior to the Discovery Center’s construction, Hoyle met with Vari-Lite’s Bobby Harrell in New York City. “I was new to the Vari-Lite system and its capabilities,” says Hoyle, “so Bobby talked me through everything and answered my questions, which made me feel confident that the system would operate as anticipated.”
As construction neared completion, Vari-Lite’s product specialists joined Hoyle and his team on-site to supervise the installation, including the aiming of adjustable luminaires and the programming of the control system. “Vari-Lite-trained technicians were on-site with us,” says Hoyle. “They worked quickly and efficiently to troubleshoot and correct any issues that arose. Their knowledge of the system helped us make the most of the time we had on-site.”
The control solution exploits Vari-Lite’s ability to integrate entertainment and architectural lighting in one, seamless Strand system. It combines powerful Strand NEO RACK playback controller (with a second as backup), which is responsible for playback of the exhibits’ show lighting, with the flexible, scalable Strand VISION.NET platform, which looks after the various area lighting zones. “This was my first experience with the NEO Rack,” says Hoyle. “It worked well for this project and I would certainly consider it for others.”
Strand VISION.NET allows for various Control Stations to be installed on a network using low-cost Cat5e Ethernet cabling, with Strand’s programmable 8-port DMX Networking Nodes providing flexible connectivity across the network. Each access point can be programmed to give access to predetermined levels of functionality, for example allowing access by non-technical users to simple pre-sets for each zone.
“The VISION.NET Control Stations were specified to allow for easy scene recall from different areas of the exhibit,” says Hoyle. “The day-to-day operation is based on triggers received from the A/V system. However, the Control Stations are convenient for activating a cleaning mode, or an all-on mode if additional illumination is required.”
The Strand NEO RACK outputs the basic lighting looks for each exhibit, as well as receiving triggers over the network from two different systems. The first is from the Grand Canyon exhibit, where the visitor touchscreens trigger a computer server, which in turn sends commands over the network to the NEO RACK. The second system is a show control server which triggers the lighting sequence outside the Noah’s Ark exhibit.
“The NEO RACK and VISION.NET lighting control system at the ICR Discovery Center is state-of-the-art,” says West. “I was able to learn the system very quickly so that if I have to troubleshoot it in the future, I can do so with ease.
“I’m amazed at what Vari-Lite and The Lighting Practice were able to accomplish with the lighting so that every visitor gets a great view of the exhibits. The team worked meticulously to ensure they highlighted each area to our preference. When we wanted to dazzle guests with our iconic T. Rex, or the lightning effects on Noah’s Ark, they made those areas shine.”