CMU School of Drama

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Niagara Falls Lighting Episode

The Podcast at The decision to upgrade the lighting that illuminates Niagara Falls seems as though it should be the main story but, it’s not. The part of the project we are interested in is the one where the Niagara Falls Illumination Board (NFI) added a requirement to build a more flexible color illumination scheme to replace the old guillotine color-changing scheme that had been in place since 1974. The guillotine color-changing synchro-server mechanical system was to be replaced by a digital color control system and the twenty-one 4000w Xenon lights were to be replaced by 1400 digital-friendly nine-light LED modules in which the LED’s would be multi-color rather than having to place a filter in front of the white light of the Xenons. The LED system of lights would be software controlled from a 22-inch touch screen from over a 2000 foot distance from the falls.


Angel Zhou said...

The only time I have gone to Niagara Falls was when I was very little, and I believe I only saw it from the United States’ side. I did not actually realize that the waterfall was lit up (and if I did, I definitely didn’t put much thought into how it was done). This article and its embedded videos has helped open my eyes to this sort of lighting effect, and it reminds me a lot of the lights on the Pausch bridge. I do feel as though the article is written for those who understand the lighting software industry, though, since there were a great many terms that I did not know or understand. I feel as though they could have made it more new-person friendly, but the videos and visuals did make it a little clearer. However, the written aspect of the article immediately jumps into intricate terminology and advanced specifications that I found hard to follow.

Claire Krueger said...

I’d be concerned with hacking. I’m sure the old system is lower tech but I wonder if the high-tech revamped system would be susceptible. With the current situation, placing colors over white light, it's pretty much unhackable. And even if you did vandalise it the would have to change out the color tints eventually and the scale they light up would make pretty much everything illegible. With walls of LEDs I can't help but wonder if the system could be hacked, and like any other wall of LEDS, make images or even words, or at the very lead some cool media design. Maybe in the future, like in the white washed ghost in the shell, they’ll be advertisements projected into the waterfall. Otherwise I’m sure newer equipment will save a lot of power for the next twenty years or so until better technology is developed. Then the waterfall can literally and figuratively ‘go green’.

Chris Calder said...

I remember visiting Niagara Falls when I was a kid and the technical aspects that I got to see where probably the coolest part of the entire trip. I’m sure it is a little different now that they have improved the technology, but it is still very cool what they can accomplish with such a large surface. The coolest part of the video was probably the beginning when they created the visual effect of lightening. To be honest I thought they were pumping in fog but then I realized the amount of mist that is given off. (yeah I felt like an idiot) I hope that I will get an opportunity to return to Niagara Falls and get a glimpse of all the updates that have been made to the rig, and also see the different media elements that have adapted over the years. Although it is not explicitly stated in the article I know that some people have issues with this tech taking away from the natural beauty of the falls, but personally, I think it adds to the experience and if anything it magnifies the beauty.

GabeM said...

The concept of backlighting Niagara Falls is one demanding task, but I learned that I had thought of different challenges than were discussed in this article. My primary thought when I first read the headline was how they were going to get the lights behind the falls since there is no way to get the millions of gallons of water to stop falling for a moment while a team goes behind and replaces all of the previous fixtures with new LED's. Instead, the article talked more about the vetting process and how the NFI were going to pick a control board for the new LED fixtures. I do appreciate how they wanted these lights to simply add to the natural beauty of the falls so I completely understand the logic behind not needing a board that can program all sorts of strobe effects and more concert lighting because it would be to distracting. Although, I do feel they over complicated this process a little by not just buying an appropriate board for LED's and only using it for what they need. It seems to be better to have the option to do more than being left stranded wishing you could.

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