BLINK Cincinnati: Light projections to offer high-wattage 'wow'

CINCINNATI -- Comparisons between Lumenocity and the BLINK Cincinnati art and light festival are easy to make.

Lumenocity projected animated light shows onto Music Hall from 2013 to 2015 and then inside the Taft Theatre for its final edition last year. The light spectacular, which was accompanied by live performances by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, drew thousands of viewers.

Brave Berlin created light projections mapped onto Music Hall for Lumenocity in 2015.

BLINK promises to dazzle audiences this Thursday through Sunday by mixing similar light-projection mapping technology and other art forms. Brave Berlin, the creative design firm that designed Lumenocity's 2014 and 2015 light shows, is behind BLINK's light projection mappings as well.

What sets BLINK apart, though, is its scope, according to Brave Berlin co-founders Steve McGowan and Dan Reynolds.

"Voices" is a Brave Berlin light projection that will be mapped onto the Freedom Center as part of BLINK.

Reynolds and McGowan recruited 11 local creative agencies to help produce 21 light projections that will be mapped on buildings located along the 20-block route of the Cincinnati streetcar. BLINK also will incorporate 27 art installations and multiple permanent murals to act as breadcrumbs between the light projections.

"We have no business having so many artists and creative organizations and rich architectural history for a city of our size," Reynolds said. "BLINK is designed to showcase that talent and history."

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McGowan and Reynolds started planning for BLINK after wrapping up Lumenocity in 2015. They pitched their idea for a citywide festival to Tim Maloney, the CEO of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.

Maloney agreed to provide initial leadership and financial support for BLINK. The Haile Foundation then recruited marketing and creative agency AGAR to oversee creation of the murals, nonprofit ArtWorks to recruit artists to create light installations and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber to organize the event.

Charlie the Peacock is one of the light installations that will be part of BLINK.

"It's been awesome," McGowan said of collaborating with other local artists and firms, some of which Brave Berlin competes with commercially. "The artists are being paid. We told them, 'You are your own client,' and we gave them a little of our secret sauce."

Jason Snell, a partner in creative design firm We Have Become Vikings, helped Brave Berlin with Lumenocity in 2015. Reynolds and McGowan then invited Snell and his business partner Brandon Hickle to create two light projection mappings for BLINK.

One is an animated light projection over the mural at 119 E. Court St., Downtown, that honors Cincinnati-based modernist wildlife artist Charley Harper.

Jason Snell (left) and Brandon Hickle (right) of We Have Become Vikings.

The other projection, called "King City," will tell the story of King Records and its founder, Syd Nathan. Snell and Hickle recruited 92-year-old Cincinnati resident Philip Paul, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame studio drummer, to narrate their animation, which will be projected onto St. Xavier Church at 607 Sycamore St., Downtown.

"We're looking at it as storytelling," Snell said of "King City." "I think it's a good time to tell this story."

To accommodate the number of light projection mappings, McGowan and Reynold recruited international Production Resource Group (PRG) for its technical expertise in setting up shows. PRG designed the lighting effects set-up for U2's "The Joshua Tree" tour this year.

"PRG is generally brought in to surmount problems that haven't been confronted before," said Scott Renick, PRG's lead account person for BLINK. "BLINK holds the vision. We execute the challenges."

Renick arrived in Cincinnati two weeks before BLINK to plot logistics for the 30 people who would install 27 media servers, 71 projectors, more than 300 lighting fixtures and 10 different lighting consoles to control the projection sites. Some of the projectors, such as those at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, will utilize new, cutting-edge laser technology to map light onto buildings.

The brightness of those projectors ranges from about 4,000 lumen to 40,000 lumen. For comparison, Renick said a typical desktop computer screen emits about 2,000 lumen.

McGowan said Brave Berlin used 40 projectors all pointed at Music Hall for its last Lumenocity show; this is a much bigger challenge.

"BLINK really is a labor of love," McGowan said.

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