Data-Driven Light Sculpture Glitters on NYC Skyline

Posted August 28, 2020

The design, fabrication and installation of The Prow at 30 Hudson Yards is an engineering feat that was made possible through the tremendous vision from our client WarnerMedia and the imagination and ingenuity of the project team: ESI Design (experience design), Parallel Development with Craft Engineering (design, fabrication & engineering), VCA (systems integration), CMS Audio Visual (systems design), Ant Food (sound design), Rare Volume (software and motion design) and X20 (CMS development). We’d also like to recognize the larger project team: Structure Tone (general contractor), Turner Construction (amenities general contractor), Forest Electric (electrical contractor), KPF (building architect), Thornton Tomasetti (building structural engineer), Gensler (interior architect), and AMA Consulting Engineers (mechanical and electrical engineers).

The new Hudson Yards head office for WarnerMedia is more than an office building — it’s an immersive media experience tells a cohesive brand story, creating a sense of identity and community. The centerpiece, and beating heart, of WarnerMedia’s new Hudson Yards HQ is the iconic Prow, a data-driven light sculpture that rises 65 feet through four floors of the building’s iconic wrap-around staircase, and includes an immersive audio component.

Take a look in this video:

An Iconic Sculpture for an Iconic Brand

Illuminating and shimmering across the Manhattan skyline, The Prow sculpture anchors the entire HQ experience. The sculpture algorithmically pulls colors from WarnerMedia movies and TV shows into the dazzling light sculpture and animates them across 258,400 LEDs.

ESI Design and WarnerMedia worked closely over the multi-year design process to develop the form and select the content of The Prow. The Prow plays two key modes — Visualization and Brand — which can be changed in real time via two displays. Visualization mode draws from WarnerMedia’s universe of movies, trailers, and TV episodes, and artistically interprets them on the light sculpture.

Rare Volume developed the software that pulls the colors from the frames of WarnerMedia content. Every frame of video is being analyzed for dominant colors with high saturation and brightness. The selected colors are used to create particle effects to play back on the Prow in real time. Additionally, the software is looking for large changes in brightness or saturation as the video plays which often signals a shot change. These detected shot changes create a burst of activity in the visualization.

The colors dance abstractly in one of three styles: rings, streams, and fireflies. Custom software algorithmically analyzes the color of the source video and animates it live on the sculpture.

Prow modes, from left to right: Rings, Fireflies, and Streams.

Brand mode shines with show-stopping branding moments for WarnerMedia’s marquee networks such as CNN. Still images and specific colors for special events or holidays can also be featured.

AntFood created the soundscape which radiates from inside The Prow itself, enhancing the immersive experience. The ambient sound is algorithmically generated from the media playing on the sculpture.

Making of The Prow

During the multi-year design process, we worked with Parallel Development in their Brooklyn workshop to fabricate and engineer the light sculpture. Together, and in collaboration with WarnerMedia, we tested many structural shapes, LED configurations, content types, and animation styles before settling on the LED rings.

Over seven months, Parallel Development installed the massive 65-foot light sculpture that hangs from the ceiling and is made up of 352 rings. The bespoke LED hoops hang at a 60-degree angle on tension cable, strung together in the exposed metal base which hints at the engineering feat behind the sculpture.

Alongside a series of other dynamic digital media activations and interactive experiences, The Prow materializes the iconic, artistic work that happens each and every day at WarnerMedia, and broadcasts it to employees, visitors, and all of New York City. By combining art, engineering, and media The Prow embodies the essence of WarnerMedia’s new headquarters.

Interested in creating an iconic light installation for your workplace?

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ESI Design

NBBJ’s New York experience design studio, ESI Design, transforms places into experiences that seamlessly weave the physical and digital worlds together.

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