Twin Towns ignites the border with a spectacular LED and lighting installation.
Story: Christopher Holder
2 Wharf St, Tweed Heads NSW
(07) 5536 2277 or www.twintowns.com.au
Legend has it that top-draw DJs can play a ‘countdown’ new year’s set at least three times in one night. All they need is a meticulously planned schedule across three very different time zones (Moscow, London, New York, for example), and a pilot to keep the engines of their Gulfstream idling in the carpark. Exhausting but lucrative.
Tweed Heads, on the New South Wales/Queensland border, is renowned for something similar. NYE partygoers head to the border town to welcome in the new year twice, thanks to the one-hour time difference between states.
The border itself runs right outside Twin Towns. Making the most of its prime position, the club acts as ‘ground zero’ for the double-happiness NYE celebrations.
In fact, it’s Twin Towns’ conspicuous location that accounts for the latest remarkable investment. Cladding the curved structure of the building’s main ‘cotton reel’ is hundreds of square metres of LED.
The design and concept of the new lighting feature is by the ULA Group. At its heart is a VuePix (10mm pixel pitch) LED display measuring 17m wide by 5m high. Surrounding the big screen are some 5900 customised LED nodes. If that wasn’t enough, 424m of Firefly RGB Floppy Flex LED tape stretches out like tendrils around the perimeter of the building, while 52 x Griven colour-changing architectural lighting fixtures are also lassoed into the show.
And what a show it is. Every evening from 6pm (or sundown during Summer), the exterior of the club is transformed into a colourful kaleidoscope of digital footage, imagery, graphics and special effects.
The content has been developed by lighting and media guru, Bruce Ramus and his team and displays aerial footage of the Tweed Valley and videos of outdoor activities such as surfing and Southern Gold Coast and Tweed Coast beaches.
Special calendar events such as ANZAC Day, the local Cooly Rocks On festival, NYE and more will also be celebrated.
venue headed to the border to witness the official launch of the installation, sitting down with club CEO Rob Smith to hear the full story: “We’d recently spent $40m an interior refurbishment, so we asked ourselves: ‘What can we do that complements those improvements from the outside of the building?’.
The local council had something to say about that rhetorical question, placing some tight constraints on the nature of the content, as well as the duration and brightness. Rob Smith picks up the story: “Getting council on board, when you’re talking about a feature like this on a main thoroughfare road, was going to be a challenge. After discussions, they were quite enthusiastic as long as we didn’t use the display to advertise the club per se, as long as it had a general theme that promoted the area, promoted the Shire and would bring people to the border with us as the backdrop.”
The result is an eye-popping feature that in one respect could be straight out of Vegas, but thanks to Bruce Ramus’s carefully selected and pixel mapped content, is a classy and adroit antidote to a big-casino siren-call (5c Slots, Boyz2Men in Concert, anyone?)
Content exploits every last pixel of the hi-res LED screen for shorter periods, while at other times the 80sqm VuePix display blends in with the 200mm pitch LED nodes, creating subtly evolving architectural theming.
Settling on a final design, as well as choosing the suppliers and hardware was an interesting story in itself. ULA and the club were known to each other thanks to ULA suppling some theatrical lighting into the club’s showroom. ULA worked on the design and recommended Bruce Ramus. CEO Rob Smith submitted the design to the board for final approval… which hesitated: “They said, ‘before you write a cheque that large for equipment being manufactured overseas, you may want to satisfy yourself about what you’re getting. Go see the technology for yourself’,” recalls Rob Smith.
In due course, Rob Smith and ULA Group Managing Director, Con Biviano, embarked on a tech tour. The pair took the opportunity to drop by the VuePix factory en route. At that point the VuePix LED screen wasn’t in the design. Up to that point the video content was to be delivered by environmental projection. Rob Smith picks up the story again: “After our visit to the China factory our first call in Europe was to the outskirts of Paris where there’s an impressive building that is clad with a large-scale pixilated backdrop in combination with a centrepiece of a large LED screen. From that moment the conversation moved to that sort of design, rather than our original intention, which was to project onto the building during the breaks in the pixellated LED show.”
COME THE FULL CIRCLE
Having been packed off by the club’s board to personally eyeball the manufacturing processes of its significant technology investment, Rob Smith returned with quite a bit more than they bargained for.
“The board was, in fact, more comfortable than ever that we were getting an outcome superior to the projection-led proposal,” noted Rob Smith. “We’d all heard about the sizeable ongoing costs and although there are stunning Vivid-style examples of projection, we’ve all seen it done badly. Coincidentally, Con and his team at ULA, were supplying a new super-sized LED screen into The Circle on Cavill, in Surfers Paradise. That actually made it easy for me, because I was able to go back to the club’s board and give them an easily inspected example of what we were proposing. And when that scale of screen was superimposed on the building drawings, that became a selling point.”
The result, with Bruce Ramus’s content, is stunning. Bruce has mapped all the LED, lighting and colour-changing Flex tape and addresses it as one large canvas. It provides a classy introduction to just what’s possible for many years to come. Local media artists will no doubt be eyeing off the new lighting feature, and opportunities will doubtlessly arise — after all, this is a large, conspicuous display with a voracious appetite for new content.
Also, being so conspicuous, Twin Towns’ newest addition has been the talk of the town, a fact not lost on CEO Rob Smith: “I live in one of the high rise buildings across the road, so my neighbours have been watching the installation with keen interest. I can safely say, that there’s no more strident a critic than somebody who’s sharing an elevator with you — they’ll tell you exactly what you should be doing. So I get the fact that Twin Towns is part of the local DNA!
“My favourite comment was the young fellow behind the counter at the 7-Eleven. I was standing outside taking in the new display when he rushed out — ‘Epic!’”
• 2.4 million LEDs delivering the vision and colour
• 13 tonnes of steel
• 6km of cable
• Over 10,000 man hours to manufacture the products and complete the installation
ULA Group MD, Con Biviano, explains something of the hardware and the significance of the project to his company:
“This has been a hugely significant project for ULA Group.
“When we first became involved, the project brief was along the lines of exterior isolated projection and colour change to enhance the presence of the club.
“It quickly became apparent that the project could and should be so much more. There was an enormous canvas to work with.
“Once we began to work closer with Rob and the team at Twin Towns to better understand their vision, we soon realised they wanted something dynamic and glamorous like they had experienced in Macau and Las Vegas.
“Designing an installation that provided a large digital canvas wasn’t a problem, we’d done it a number of times before. But we have not put low and high resolution LED together to create a single canvas before. This is a first for Australia.
“This project was designed to allow for a high level of future proofing. By this I mean, there are currently tight restrictions on its use, however we have learnt from our experience with other cities and countries, those restrictions will relax over time. This display is ready.
“It’s also somewhat future proof by using the best possible hardware. The screen is our top of the line GM series with redundancy. We place this series on the decks of cruise liners. It has a design life of 100,000 hours. This screen will perform for a very long time to come.
“That said, every LED screen requires periodical maintenance. From a back-end perspective we’ve gone to great lengths to make the installation practical and efficient to service. And in many regards I’m most proud of my team in this respect. The racks, the wiring and labelling is meticulous.
“It’s been a very personal project as well. We are locals, I holidayed here as a kid for many years. A number of my team come to Twin Towns most weekends, just about all of the contractors are locals; we were all very invested in making this project something special.”
ULA Group: 1300 852476 or www.ulagroup.com
Ramus Illumination: (03) 9191 2544 or www.ramus.com.au