Lights, Sound, Music: Illuminating the world’s first guitar-shaped hotel

7 July 2020

The exterior of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., serves as a screen and stage to orchestrated outdoor music and live shows, displaying the light-emitting diode (LED) lights built into all sides of the structure. [1]

The exterior of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., serves as a screen and stage to orchestrated outdoor music and live shows, displaying the light-emitting diode (LED) lights built into all sides of the structure.

By Jacqueline Geday and Jonathan Labbee

The façade of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., the world’s first guitar-shaped hotel, is both a media system and a dynamic sculpture. Each evening, the hotel becomes a temporary light installation with interactive choreography set to music. The exterior of the building serves as a screen and stage to orchestrated outdoor music and live shows, displaying the light-emitting diode (LED) lights built into all sides of the structure. The lights are programmed to change colour and intensity with every song. Six high-powered beams of light accentuate the production by projecting nearly 6096 m (20,000 ft) into the sky, mimicking the strings of an imaginary guitar neck. These spectacular shows are a testament to how music has been instrumental in defining Hard Rock hotels, restaurants, and entertainment properties around the world.

Team work makes the dream work

Four major companies across North America collaborated to illuminate the 122-m (400-ft) tall hotel. The media aspect of the project was managed, directed, and installed by DCL (Design Communications Ltd.), a Boston, Mass.-based fabricator of architectural elements and environmental graphics. The company also hired three Montreal-based firms to complete the project: SACO Technologies, a solid-state LED technology developer, to design and manufacture lighting fixtures that enhance the nighttime appearance of the hotel; Float4, a multidisciplinary immersive design studio, to create, produce, and integrate the content for the musical shows; and RealMotion, a company that specializes in developing tools for digital experience, whose media server and software program was used to integrate the choreographed content.

The reflective blue-green glass exterior of the $1.5-billion hotel is fitted with 16,800 proprietary lighting fixtures that use high-performance light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display uniform static colours and dynamic video-lighting effects.[2]

The reflective blue-green glass exterior of the $1.5-billion hotel is fitted with 16,800 proprietary lighting fixtures that use high-performance light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display uniform static colours and dynamic video-lighting effects.

The façade elements

The reflective blue-green glass exterior of the $1.5-billion hotel is fitted with 16,800 proprietary lighting fixtures that use high-performance LEDs to display uniform static colours and dynamic video-lighting effects. These LEDs are controlled by 333 power- and data-delivery control systems that use one primary and one backup video processor, which process and transmit high-speed video signals.

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The lighting fixtures were carefully selected, not only for their superior double brightness and clarity that can easily be seen at night (16-bit data sampling for smooth dimming, with 65,536 shades per colour), but also for their versatility, durability, and ability to withstand Florida’s extreme weather conditions. The system is also a perfect direct-view linear light tool, which was crucial for delivering the client’s vision of a clean architectural integration.

The front of the guitar-shaped hotel consists of five main elements: the outline, the sides, the neck and strings, the spandrel glass, and the front and back.

The front and back of the guitar-shaped structure are the main sections where the dynamic video-mapping content is displayed.

The outline delineates the edges of the building’s shape. Content that plays on the outline is used to hide and reveal the guitar’s contours.

The content mapped onto the sides of the structure enhances the illusion of depth of the visual effects.

RealMotion’s software was used to bind, manage, and generate the sound-responsive graphics. A specialized server to power content streams and interactive displays was installed to manage the shows.[3]

RealMotion’s software was used to bind, manage, and generate the sound-responsive graphics. A specialized server to power content streams and interactive displays was installed to manage the shows.

The base of the neck is composed of LED fixtures. The content mapped onto this section, the only true upright element of the façade’s composition, moves in a vertical motion, mimicking fountains, chord strums, string plucks, or slow light crawls. The strings are made of high-powered colour lasers that are projected into the air.

The spandrel glass section expands the content on the front, back, and outline to create the illusion of another ‘level’ of content.

Overcoming one challenge at a time

It was particularly challenging to design the carrier and extrusion system for this project as the shape and angles on the building change across the surface; therefore, the ‘angle of attack’ of the LED fixtures varies across the façade. SACO Technologies designed a swivel extrusion system with predetermined angles, which DCL then staged and installed onto the building. To simplify the design, the same lighting fixtures were installed throughout the designated façade elements, but with different angles of extrusions.

SACO Technologies and RealMotion together developed a process that would facilitate content mapping between their systems.[4]

SACO Technologies and RealMotion together developed a process that would facilitate content mapping between their systems.

SACO Technologies was responsible for the design and supply of the carrier system that would seamlessly integrate the LED fixtures to the building’s exterior. In addition, the company detailed the wiring layout and worked with DCL to determine the best access and connection points across the façade to ease future maintenance requirements.

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Plotting the most efficient wiring layout while reducing on-site waste was another major concern. To remedy this, SACO Technologies used proprietary parametric tools, which allowed the architectural team to mathematically design and implement layouts across the building’s surface based on project constraints. The toolset was used to broadcast an extrusion layout with the corrective angles, and then used to create drawing sets and ultimately a bill of quantities (BOQ) control module, allowing the company to document and make precise changes to the drawing sets.

Bringing the content to life

Float4 used two types of content with elements of motion design: generative content and sound-reactive content. The former is based on algorithms with constantly changing and randomized inputs, so the audience never sees the same design twice. Sound-reactive content was an obvious choice, given the music-heavy brand identity of the building itself; the technical elements programmed to display the content react to the music of the shows.

The Guitar Hotel Light Show is a unique spectacle that breathes new life into an iconic establishment.[5]

The Guitar Hotel Light Show is a unique spectacle that breathes new life into an iconic establishment.

RealMotion’s software was used to bind, manage, and generate the sound-responsive graphics. A specialized server to power content streams and interactive displays was installed to manage the hotel’s grand opening show on October 24, 2019, as well as all other future shows. Using a specialized integrated scheduling and automation control platform, the team developed a system to ingest Float4’s millions of content elements into the server.

The RealMotion platform was built for adaptability and future permutations (via its media effects composer), as well as reinvention by minimally altering its base ingredients to develop project-specific capabilities. Although the server is most suited for video formats of H264 (files encoded with H.264 compression, which is a popular format for high-definition videos), the teams decided against using the content type for efficiency purposes; if last-minute changes had to be made to the content before the show on a video format, it could take hours to render an updated version. Instead, they used image sequencing for choreographing the content; so, if changes need to be made at any given time, all that has to be done is remove a specific image sequence, and replace it with a new one, thus reducing render times. For this, the RealMotion team developed an image-sequencing add-on specifically for the server installed on-site. Nearly 25,000 images were created for a seven-minute show, which comes out to almost 60 frames per second (fps).

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SACO Technologies and RealMotion together developed a process that would facilitate content mapping between their systems. On the ‘screen’ side, SACO’s video processing powerhouse was incorporated into the technical infrastructure of the façade. The device is designed to transmit high-speed video signals via fibre optics. Ten specialized compact systems were added to distribute video control data to multi-branch, long-range systems.

The light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are controlled by 333 power- and data-delivery control systems that use one primary and one backup video processor, which process and transmit high-speed video signals. [6]

The light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are controlled by 333 power- and data-delivery control systems that use one primary and one backup video processor, which process and transmit high-speed video signals.

The show must go on

Following the show, RealMotion handed over the reins of the software to the Hard Rock and DCL teams, training their members to deploy and customize the content.

The Guitar Hotel Light Show is a unique spectacle that breathes new life into an iconic establishment. DCL’s mammoth feat, combined with SACO’s innovative proprietary products and RealMotion’s robust architecture system, resulted in a creative and enduring demonstration of artistic digital signage.

 

Jacqueline Geday carries out the marketing and communications co-ordination at RealMotion. After graduating with a B.A. in cultural studies and marketing from McGill University in Montreal, she began her career at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival supporting Lionsgate, a Canadian-American entertainment company, in their public relations efforts for La La Land and Deepwater Horizon. Geday transitioned from screen to virtual reality at Felix & Paul Studios, an immersive entertainment company. Her work there ranged from organizing the studio’s presence at film and technology festivals (e.g. Consumer Electronics Show [CES], Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest [SXSW], and Siggraph) to co-ordinating joint project campaigns with establishments such as Google, YouTube, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as implementing a successful ‘For Your Consideration’ campaign for the studio’s 2017 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Interactive Programming. At RealMotion, Geday applies her experience in content strategy, brand management, and omnichannel marketing campaigns, along with her skills in copywriting, brand positioning, event planning, and public relations to promote the company’s products and various site-specific interactive multimedia installations. She can be reached via email at jgeday@realmotion.com[7].

Jonathan Labbee honed his advertising skills working with outdoor billboard company Viacom (formerly MediaCom). In 1996, Labbee headed up the original sales team that developed the North American market for the Smartvision light-emitting diode (LED) video display products. Later, he founded JL Consulting Inc., a creative consulting firm that specialized in the use of immersive media. In 2001, he rejoined SACO Technologies to head business development and help redirect the focus of the company. Labbee was instrumental in the creation of the company, where he served as co-president. In 2006, under his direction, the company successfully merged with LSI Industries, where he served as vice-president of business development and custom applications. Today, Labbee leads the SACO design team as co-CEO. For more information, visit www.saco.com[8].

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.signmedia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Hard-Rock_PR-2-scaled.jpg
  2. [Image]: https://www.signmedia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Hard-Rock_PR-1.jpg
  3. [Image]: https://www.signmedia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/HARD-ROCK_RM_SIGN-MEDIA_2.jpg
  4. [Image]: https://www.signmedia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/HARD-ROCK_RM_SIGN-MEDIA_1.jpg
  5. [Image]: https://www.signmedia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Hard-Rock_PR-3.jpg
  6. [Image]: https://www.signmedia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/SIGNMEDIA_HARD-ROCK_3-1.jpg
  7. jgeday@realmotion.com: mailto:jgeday@realmotion.com
  8. www.saco.com: https://saco.com/

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