On Thursday, Feb. 1, the Neon Museum will debut “Brilliant!”—an audiovisual immersion experience that uses technology advances to reanimate 40 monumental examples of the museum’s iconic vintage signs. Presented after dark in the Neon Museum’s North Gallery, “Brilliant!” was created by digital artist and designer Craig Winslow using projection mapping to arrive at a shared augmented reality experience.
Earth Water Sky served as the system designer and integrator.
To guests immersed in the 30-minute experience, the unrestored, non-working and in some cases broken signs will appear to be suddenly re-electrified, as though by magic, before their eyes. Up to 50 guests at a time will be transported directly into Las Vegas’ history, where the static signs come to life while accompanied by music from some of the entertainment industry’s most storied performers.
“Brilliant!” utilizes 24 3D-sound speakers and eight projectors emitting a total of 80,000 lumens of light to create a 360-degree audiovisual experience. Two 20-foot climate-controlled towers, designed to resemble the classic Champagne-bubble cylinder from the old Flamingo Las Vegas hotel and casino, were constructed by noted sign company YESCO. They house the projectors, which are aligned at precise angles to cover the entirety of the North Gallery space. To create the projections used to give the impression the signs have been re-electrified, Winslow took a combination of flat photography, drone video, and 3-D photogrammetry, all used as references to recreate each sign, bulb by bulb, in Adobe Illustrator. He then used a process called structured light scanning to obtain a precise view of the projectors’ output, before fine-tune warping the content to perfectly align to the actual surfaces—the bulbs, bent metal and broken neon tubes of the signs in the gallery. This process, known as projection mapping, aligns digital animations to the physical world, allowing signs that have not been illuminated for decades to shine once again.
“The addition of ‘Brilliant!’ to the Neon Museum’s roster of offerings further defines our role in sign collection, conservation, restoration, historic preservation, research and learning,” explained Rob McCoy, president and chief executive officer, Neon Museum. “This is truly a first. Nowhere on the planet has anyone attempted to create what we are about to launch at the Museum.”
Winslow, selected as one of Adobe’s 2016 – 2017’s Creative Residents, previously created a smaller-scale, one-night-only projection for the museum’s North Gallery last February. That work was part of a larger, site-specific series Winslow created called “Light Capsules,” where he uses projection mapping to revive “ghost signs”—unrestored, faded, no longer legible painted signs on buildings. After seeing his eye-catching artistry applied to its neon signs, the museum began discussions with Winslow about creating a permanent projection-mapping experience for visitors.
“Working with the Neon Museum’s collection has been a moving experience for me,” says Winslow. “Reilluminating these signs pays homage to their designers. It’s an honor to be able to give people a chance to see these signs exactly as they used to be.”
Performances of “Brilliant!” will take place at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m., Wednesday through Monday (the experience will be dark on Tuesdays). Tickets are $15 for locals and $23 for general admission and are available here.