In Winter 2019, we provided full event production and technical support for Forestry Commission’s ‘Enchanted Christmas’ trail at Westonbirt Arboretum. Westonbirt’s illuminated trail incorporated event lighting, sound, projection, lasers and live performance – all procured and implemented by SXS. The job was just under a month to set up and test before being open to the general public, and provided a large scope for creativity and new tech exploration for our team.
But what are our top 5 highlights for this job?
The first part of the trail saw visitors walking through an illuminated portal. We used LED strip and a time-code system, which provided guests with a grand walkway to step into the forest, and also was a fun backdrop for photo opportunities.
Visitors also got to walk under a ‘Northern Lights’ effect which was created using a wide-angle laser and 2 haze machines. The laser light show involved blue and green “waves” which drifted over visitors’ heads in a dream-like motion, and allowed our team to play with the space and depth of the forest.
We hid contact mics in tree logs which essentially became drums for visitors to interact with. The backdrop to the logs was a cluster of trees with long trunks. When the contact mics were hit, this would trigger a magical sound and a tree to be uplit. A simple yet effective design which allowed visitors to create different jingles and colourful lighting sequences in an immersive setting.
Making the Forest Come to Life
We picked a tree on the corner of the trail which greeted walkers to the forest – through the use of projection mapping and hidden speakers. Our “talking tree” foretold of the ‘wonders’ visitors would discover in the forest, and was truly enchanting for young children to discover an enchanted tree along their walk.
Further along the trail, visitors discovered performers dresses as enchanted fairies, who were fun and mischievous characters people could interact with. The fairies had LED lights to enhance their “wings” and also encouraged children about what other wonders in the forest there were to discover. Towards the end of the trail visitors could also interact with Father Christmas.
We used projection mapping for 3 separate features along the trail – the “talking tree”, secondly for three owls sitting in a tree and sang a Christmas Carol as guests walked past, and lastly for projecting onto large letters which made the word ‘Westonbirt’. This was one of the last features on the trail and our in-house content studio put together a series of different animations to be projected onto the letters, which became a focal point for visitors to take photographs and videos. By using specially made enclosures for the projectors which we designed and made in-house, it meant we could utilise outdoor projection without damaging the kit.
One challenge was to provide power for all site necessities, whilst finding ways to reduce our power and fuel consumption. Our aim was to help our client with fuel budgeting, as well as, reduce any long-lasting impact on the environment. We achieved this through choosing LED lighting fixtures for the Westonbirt Lighting, that require less energy than filament fixtures, and incorporating our SolCell system into the site plan, which provided clean energy for part of the installation.