Pretoria gains a little bit of Christmas all year round

Pretoria gains a little bit of Christmas all year round

Published: MEA

SOUTH AFRICA: Representatives from Menlyn Main sought out a Christmas tree to decorate Menlyn Main Central Square during the festive period. They approached designer Marcelle Gunter to provide a concept for the Christmas decoration and the result was a 1.6 ton steel structure that will serve as a permanent feature of the square.

‘Our client had an idea of what they wanted. I showed them a previous tree sculpture I had made and they initially wanted to add solar lights to the branches,’ explained Mr Gunter. ‘In essence it’s like a sculpture, but we followed a logical approach as we needed to build it, transport it and physically erect it ourselves without using a crane. It’s about 1.6 tons and we used 2km of wiring inside the tree. There are 512 LED twinkle lights and Longman FacePars for ambient lighting.’

As the project grew into the creation of a more permanent type fixture, Mr Gunter approached lighting consultant Joao Viegas of PPA for assistance. ‘The whole process was spontaneous, and just like a tree, kept growing,’ Mr Viegas recalled. ‘I could help on the lighting side, but we obviously needed some form of control to enable the tree to twinkle and to be interactive.’

Mr Viegas in turn called upon Johnny Scholtz from DWR Distribution, who recommended his colleague Nick Britz as the ideal person to help on the project.

‘It was an unusual concept,’ explained Mr Britz. ‘They initially wanted some Facepars to up light the tree, and as the project went on, I showed them how we could control different zones on the branches. They were going to use twinkle lights and I thought it should have more control.’

A larger, 12-channel LED controller was implemented to provide each lighting zone with control, allowing Mr Britz and Mr Viegas to produce different lighting effects as well as instilling a little interactivity between the tree’s lights and passing pedestrians. This was delivered via sensors that trigger the lights as people walk by.

‘We added motion sensors and custom PC boards were created by our very own genius Derrick Kruger in the DWR workshop,’ said Mr Britz. ‘What happens is as people walk up to the tree, it triggers a scene and an effect. There is also a red donation mailbox in front of the tree, where a sensor has been placed - that’s an override so when anyone gives donations it does quite a fancy effect!’

In addition to the motion detecting effects, the tree’s lighting has been programmed to change appearance every 15 minutes and to play a particular sequence every hour. ‘Amazingly the magic worked with 8 Facepars and in total 18 zones of twinkle lights,’ enthused Mr Brtiz. ‘You can remote control the tree to change scenes and colour. We didn’t add in the router for it, but we did use it to run the first show. The brain behind everything is the Nicolaudie, controlling the schedule and triggers.

‘It took a lot of programming,’ he added, noting that this was done between midnight and 6am over several nights. ‘We could only programme at night when there was no one around as it was supposed to be a big reveal. Even the rehearsals took place at this time and I was touched watching the children.’

‘Obviously, we tried to incorporate festive colours,’ furthered Mr Viegas. ‘Not the typical saturated colours you get from LED!’

The lights were switched on during a special public event named Gift of Light. The evening included performances by young violinists, drummers, acrobatic dancers and singers, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds and receive help from theKingdom Life Children Centre and Leamogetswe Safety Home and Child and Youth Centre.

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