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Proteus helps fulfil Lightswitch design for “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens

Proteus helps fulfil Lightswitch design for “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens
Proteus helps fulfil Lightswitch design for “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens

USA – For years now, Lightswitch has relied on Elation’s award-winning IP65 Proteus line to add dynamic flair to “Enchanted: Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens in Southern California. For the recently completed 2021 iteration, the visual design group upgraded to Proteus Maximus and Proteus Lucius luminaires to add power and reimagine portions of the popular winter night time experience.

Tailor made to enhance the historic botanical garden’s unique geography and flora, “Enchanted: Forest of Light” is an immersive, one-mile nighttime walk through colourful and dazzling lighting displays accompanied by sound and music. Lightswitch has been responsible for lighting design and creative direction of “Enchanted Forest of Light” since the attraction debuted in 2016.

Other garden light shows such as “Illumination” at the Morton Arboretum in Illinois, also a Lightswitch project, were able to pivot to a drive-through experience during the pandemic but Descanso Gardens wasn’t set up to do that due to the geography of the gardens, according to Lightswitch Principal Chris Medvitz. Nevertheless, as a walk-through outdoor experience where guests could safely distance, “Enchanted” was a success, experiencing record ticket sales with many dates sold out. “People were anxious to get back to it,” Medvitz said, noting that the event had taken a hiatus in 2020. “This year, we had prepared modifications to the experience to comply with any pandemic restrictions but in the end, government and local regulations did not make them necessary.”

In past years, “Enchanted” leaned heavily on Elation’s multi-functional Proteus Hybrid arc-source moving head, but this year many of those Hybrid fixtures were replaced by LED-based Proteus Maximus and Proteus Lucius luminaires.

In “Fantasy Forest,” a large, dense area of trees and foliage where layers of lighting synchronise with an ambient soundtrack, Proteus Maximus deployed around the perimeter add a special layer of effect. “We’ve always done a lot of static uplighting of the trees in this area but always wanted movement and gobos to create another layer of dynamics to the area,” Medvitz explains. “We finally got it to look the way we originally intended and a lot of that is due to the Proteus Maximus. We finally got that animation and depth so I was very happy with it.”

Additionally, five to ten feet off the ground and hidden amongst camellia bushes are Elation SixBar 1000 IP colour-changing battens used as direct view eye-candy. RGB Pars lighting trees and plants provide a third layer of light.

Perhaps the most magical area of “Enchanted: Forest of Light” is the “Ancient Forest,” featuring ancient Redwoods and other species of plants that existed millions of years ago. Dramatically lit with accompanying soundtrack and fog atmosphere, “Ancient Forest” crafts an ambiance that is truly otherworldly. “We have always had Proteus Hybrids there, but this year replaced those with Proteus Lucius,” Medvitz says, explaining that the fixtures lined the back of the location and projected gobo patterns and moving beams. “The extra power, the reliability of an LED-based fixture, and smaller size was fantastic.”

The Proteus Lucius fixtures also enriched an area featuring art by sculptural artists HYBYCOZO, who have been involved in the event since 2017. This year, their installation was refreshed by moving it to a more accessible, open area and incorporating motion. Medvitz explains: “We utilised larger scale sculptures than in the past, pieces that guests could walk around and even inside. We wanted the experience around the sculptures to be less ambient and more engaging. We collaborated with the artists to create a soundtrack for the installation and put Proteus Lucius inside six of the- sculptures. In addition to the sculptures glowing, a stream of moving effects emanated through the pieces. That was fun, especially for kids who would interact with the effects and chase them around.”

One area of “Enchanted” where Proteus Hybrids were still utilised was “Lightwave Lake,” a reservoir surrounded by trees and wildlife that utilizes the botanic gardens’ lake to create a dazzling light display. Here, Proteus Hybrids created sweeping beam looks from positions on pontoons floating out on the water.

Prior to “Enchanted” opening in November, many of the show areas had served as the backdrop to a separately branded event called “Carved,” a family-friendly Halloween experience with hundreds of carved pumpkins and oversized sculptures. In 2021, seeking to expand “Carved,” Descanso Gardens asked Lightswitch to creative direct the experience. “The area known as the Fantasy Forest in the Enchanted show became the signature area in Carved where there were jack-o-lanterns and elaborately carved pumpkins. We used the same lighting system in that area – Proteus Maximus and SixBars – but with different theming,” Medvitz said.

From Lightswitch’s perspective, as well as a logistical point, “Enchanted” and “Carved” is all one big project that runs from mid-September until mid-January. Carved ran for 21 nights and Enchanted for 47 nights. “It’s a four-month project now on site which means the lighting is outside and exposed for all that time.”

With fixtures outside for four months, Lightswitch had to meet the challenge of a long duration installation and the moisture that comes with it, both unplanned and planned. “The fixtures got rained on several times, but most of the water they had to deal with came from the sprinkler system,” Medvitz says. “They also had to deal with dust, dirt, animals, kids and a lot of other stuff, but they held up great. Having a range of fixtures like Proteus has allowed us to achieve some of the designs that we’ve always wanted to do. These areas are now doing what we originally had imagined but weren’t able to do six years ago when the show debuted.”

4Wall served as the production partner for “Enchanted Forest of Light,” providing all rentals, sales, systems integration and production management, labor and support services, all working in collaboration with Descanso Gardens and Lightswitch.

“Carved” ran from 11 October to 31 October, 2021, and “Enchanted Forest of Light” from 21 November to 9 January, 2022. Both experiences continue to receive widespread acclaim.

photos: Jake Fabricius and Chris Medvitz

Proteus helps fulfil Lightswitch design for “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso GardensProteus helps fulfil Lightswitch design for “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens

26th January 2022

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