ChamSys drives the Illumination Christmas Train
Friday, 18 December 2020
steam-illumination1Each train is adorned with 14,000 individual fixtures
UK - Seen from a distance, the Steam Illumination Christmas Train appears like a rolling band of moving light cutting through the dark night as it rolls past the farms and fields of the Hampshire countryside. To those inside, the experience is even more magical, as they find themselves immersed in a rotating tunnel of brilliant colours and patterns.
Covered entirely by LED lights, this special 120m-long train seems like something out of a fantastical Hollywood Christmas movie suddenly come to life in South East England. In reality, however, it was the result of extensive of planning and hard work by the non-profit Mid Hants Railway's Watercress Line and a creative team that includes Simon Horn.
The owner of Purple Lighting in West Sussex, Horn was responsible for designing and programming the 78-universe Steam Illuminations lightshow with the help of his ChamSys MagicQ MQ500M console and MagicVis software. “This was the kind of project you become completely immersed in,” he said. “The Watercress Line typically has visits with Santa every December, but this year that was impractical because of COVID, so the foundation turned to something new.”
Horn spent two weeks programming and four months on background research for his show, which involved two Steam Illumination trains, each adorned with 14,000 individual fixtures. (Some fixtures are banked, so the console sees just shy of 10,000 heads and pixels.) He programmed roughly 1000 cues for his show, breaking them down into an internally timecoded cue stack for each section, which cover the intervals between the two stations on the 20-mile roundtrip route as well as the time spent at each station.
“I programmed everything on my MQ500M,” says Horn. “Although the design was originally built on another software, I ended up using the MagicVis Visuliser to preprogram this show, as it was far more stable and smoother with visualizing such a big array of pixels.”
The ability to manage a large number of pixels was a key benefit of using the MagicQ MQ500M in this project, according to Horn. “Being able to make pixelmap grids automatically from the plot, saved me days of work, as 10,000 pixels all in a slightly complicated array would have been nearly impossible to do myself,” he explains.
Given the size and scope of this lightshow, the channel capacity of the MQ500M was another important benefit for Horn: “At 78 Universes and with limited space on the train for control gear, my console was a life saver, because it handled everything with no need for any racks of external processing.”

Latest Issue. . .

Tweets from our Friends