After weeks of shrouding this project in secrecy, we finally got the chance to share our Snowflake Trail animation with Liverpool. We are projection mapping experts, but we rarely have the opportunity to show off in our hometown.
The Snowflake Trail launched tonight in all its projection mapped glory. The beautiful 150 year old Marks & Spencer building was lit up with 21st century 3D animation while live performers danced up the Christmas tree, ‘snow’ rained down on the thousands of spectators and families started the hunt to find the snowflakes dotted around the city in a bid to win a holiday. The ambitious event felt like a success from our vantage point high on Church Street as we watched shoppers weighed down with bags and workers who were hurrying home as they came to a halt to take in a Christmas light show like no other.
The Snowflake Trail has long been in the works at Liverpool City Central BID who assembled a crack team of Liverpool organisations including Open Culture, Hope Street Ltd, Adlib and ourselves to turn this dream into a reality. With Christmas fast approaching, Thursday’s late night shopping is becoming busier and busier with every passing week; the vision of The Snowflake Trail was to create something that encourages people to slow down, look around them, get involved with the city and smile.
As we looked down from our nest high above the shops, it certainly seemed to have worked. The usual passive Christmas light switch-on had become something far richer. “This is much more than some decorations” said Draw & Code’s artistic director Andy Cooper, “The animations, the actors and the soundtrack all add up to a more exciting experience.”
The Snowflake Trail is one of the largest projections that Draw & Code have attempted, and it is certainly the most intricate. The multiple surfaces meant that we had to build a 3D model which was used as the basis for all the animations, something that we rarely need to do. This model originated from a 3D laser scan that created point cloud data which was turned into an exact replica of the unused Victorian upper-floors of Marks & Spencer. The complexity of the projections meant working closely with Adlib Sound and Visual to make sure that everything went off perfectly.
Usually projection mapping is a one-off event from a single vantage point, but this is a show that is running for six weeks and there are no designated viewing spots. There is also unusually high ambient lighting with shop signs glowing, street lights shining and Christmas lights flickering; it has certainly been a challenge to get this projection to look and feel as it should. Ideally we would like even more firepower than the hefty 60,000 lumens that we had, but it still looked great and City Central BID did all they could to help us create better lighting conditions. We found ourselves papering over windows, removing pigeon netting and turning off lights in a bid to beat the ambient light – and all the tinkering paid off!
While Andy led the project and Heidi acted as a producer, it was Emily who was responsible for the 3D model and much of the 3D animations, but she has chosen this week to holiday in New York! Meanwhile our 2D design expert Mike, who was one of Snowflake’s key animators, has flown to Japan! So two of the most important contributors missed out on seeing their work lighting up the city, but with thousands gathered to see the grand switch on we were hardly short of company. Luckily the show is running for six weeks, so all our team will get a chance to see The Snowflake Trail for themselves as soon as they get back.
The projections on Marks & Spencer in Liverpool can be viewed every evening over Christmas from 6pm, so if you missed out then you will be able to catch them. Thursdays are the best time to visit as you will be able to hear the gorgeous soundtrack, from our own Chris Barker, and see Jack Frost and his Snow Sprites performing too.
So where would Andy recommend watching The Snowflake Trail projections? “Head down the side of Primark and Dorothy Perkins in the direction of the Bluecoat and you’ll get a great view.”