If you’re looking for a little excitement this New Year’s Eve the Corporation of Hamilton has you covered.
A hurricane, an historic building fire and the Bermuda Triangle will all play heavily in a special light show organised for City Hall tonight.
The man behind it all is actor and animator Philippe Bergeron of LA-based 3D mapping company PaintScaping.
“Normally, when you do a new year’s project it is festive and there is fireworks,” Mr Bergeron said. “To do a hurricane and a fire is quite unique.”
The light show will highlight historic events in the city’s history including the burning down of the Hamilton Hotel on Church Street on December 23, 1955.
The building burnt so brightly, the fire could be seen from miles around. City Hall officially opened its doors on the site, five years after the fire.
Now Mr Bergeron plans to bring the Hamilton Hotel back to life, at least virtually.
“We will not only transform the hotel, we will deck it with Christmas lights,” Mr Bergeron said. “We will create a party inside the windows. Then we will burn it to the ground.”
He and his team will accomplish this with the help of four or five actors, and several 160lb projectors.
The light show was created specially for the specifications of City Hall, but no measuring was required.
“We do it by taking hundreds of photographs of the building,” Mr Bergeron explained.
Those photographs are then fed into a computer to create a 3D map of the building.
“3D mapping is the merging of real and virtual worlds,” he said. “We project images in the real world, onto landscapes, rocks, mountains, even people. These images are lined up with the features of the building.
“It is not just generic images we project. They are images that I have produced specifically and only for that specific building. It becomes a very powerful sensorial experience, because you are able to create 3D effects.”
Mr Bergeron’s customers include the likes of Pepsi, Gucci and Rodeo Drive.
Earlier this month, Mr Bergeron turned the San Diego Zoo into an Arctic wonderland and the Park MGM in Las Vegas into a record breaker.
“In October 2018, we installed the world’s largest 3D mapping currently on display,” Mr Bergeron said. “It ran for a week in Las Vegas, to promote Britney Spears’s residency at the Park MGM.”
The projection was 550ft wide, by 26-stories high with more than 3.2 acres of light.
In the 1980s, Mr Bergeron, originally from Quebec, gained notoriety as a CGI animator. “In 1985, I co-created the first CGI human with emotion,” he said. “The character was called Tony de Peltrie.”
Later, he moved to the United States and worked as an actor. His chief claim to fame is a role on The Sopranos .
“I had a whole scene,” he said. “I was supposed be the Tony Soprano of Quebec. Twelve years after the series ended, if I am at a party and say I guest starred on the Sopranos everyone stops talking and wants to hear everything.”
He said PaintScaping helped to bring his passion for animation and acting together.
It started ten years ago when he was trying to project an image over a backyard pond using a really cheap projector.
“The image was not lined up with the pond,” he said. “It was just projecting. Then I touched my mouse by mistake and painted a rock with light. “That changed my life. I knew at that moment, instantaneously, I would be spending the rest of my life doing 3D mapping.”
What he loved was the sense that he was Photoshopping the world. “At that time, I didn’t know what I was doing was called 3D mapping,” he laughed. “I thought I’d invented something new.”
In fact, 3D mapping was popular in Europe at that time, but not so much in the United States.
“The following day we were painting the landscape with light and PaintScaping was born,” he said.
Mr Bergeron said his company doesn’t do lasers, or fog; they just do 3D projection mapping, but they do what they do “extremely well”.
“A lot of people do mapping just for the ‘wow!’ factor,” he said. “But we do mapping to touch people and to create emotion in people.”
He thought PaintScaping was one of the top three companies of its kind in the world. “I’d like to say we’re number one, but that sounds too cocky,” he said.
He does about 25 projects a year that range from $30,000 in price to $300,000 depending on the duration and complexity of the project.
Given that the City Hall projection is just for an hour or two, the price tag is on the lower end of the spectrum.
“There are many challenges doing something like this,” he said. “For a start, just getting the projectors to Bermuda was quite an ordeal.
“The projectors are huge. We are talking about 100 to 160lbs per projector. You obviously can’t rent those projectors in Bermuda. We have a one shot.”
They’ve even brought a back-up in case the ones they have fail.
He remembers in one project involving a large, well-known Las Vegas Hotel, the projectors were placed near a lake.
The hotel owner, without warning them first, created a mist effect across the lake, and shut down the projectors.
“We have back-ups always,” he said. “So we used the back-up and slightly changed the configuration. We always find solutions. We have incredible teams all over the place who are problem-solvers.”
“We spent a couple of days on that and then the third day we did power point to the team including to the Mayor of Hamilton.
“They were blown away. They said we have to have this and we will tell our story. That is how it all started.”
Looking at PaintScaping, he was most proud of his team’s commitment to give high-end shows.
“I’m proud of the quality of our work,” he said. “All the animators we use come from Hollywood studios.
“Their work ethic is phenomenal, but also their talent is unbelievable. These guys and gals are extremely talented.”
Event MC’s Qian Dickinson and Ed Christopher will open the festivities at 8pm with the first of five screenings of the projection show taking place shortly thereafter.
The remaining screenings will take place every hour on the hour with a special extended show for the 2020 countdown.
Entertainment throughout the night includes dance troupes, Cirqle Circus and their fire performance, DJ Chubb, stilt walkers, LED glow bots and bubble performers and music sets with DIA.
A jumbo screen will check in on other New Year’s Eve celebrations from around the world and a Twitter resolution feed will encourage the audience to post their promises for the new decade.
A food court will feature Herbie Bascome’s legendary fish chowder, along with Johnny Bread, complimentary for the night.
Ashley’s Lemonade will have their famous lemonade for purchase and will also provide free hot chocolate and the Bermuda Cup Cake Factory will be there with glow in the dark cotton candy.
There will also be a free s’mores station as well as a cash bar for champagne, mulled wine and craft beers provided by Take Five Catering.
A Decade of Dance video will inspire the crowd to get its groove on and special prizes will be awarded to some of those caught on the Dance Cam.
• The event is free and begins at 8pm tonight on the City Hall lawn
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