Christmas 2022

Wonder Works



It wouldn’t be Christmas without our annual festive Wonder Works display and this year’s creation was a real team effort. Drawing on the expert skills from across the team, we created an all singing, all dancing QLab controlled winter wonderland sequence to light up our courtyard in Caledonian Rd.

As well as a traditional Christmas outdoor lighting display, this year’s seasonal show features a minute-long automated window scene with the theme ‘Getting ready for Christmas’. The sequence, which kicks in at sunset every day and runs until 10pm, was devised by CAD Designers Esteniah and Eddie and depicts a scenic island celebrating the Christmas holidays. Houses on the island light up whilst animations show how the families inside are preparing for Christmas day. When people approach the display, they initially view a looping animation of a snow globe (made in Blender), containing the scene from the display, then when they get close enough to the window, the snow globe smashes, revealing the scene behind it. We achieved this effect by projecting the animation onto a gauze, kindly sponsored by our friends at Showtex. As the snow globe explodes, the lights in front of the gauze fade off and the scenic lighting comes on, ‘revealing’ the scene. The gauze is also used throughout the show, with the snowfall, aurora borealis and firework animations projected onto it, giving the display a sense of depth.

The team enjoyed assembling the ferris wheel, which was driven by a bespoke 3D printed belt driven mechanism designed by Piers. The addressable LEDs on the wheel are driven from a Raspberry Pi via a slip ring. Like most of the props, the carousel was made from card to match the handmade aesthetic of the stop-motion animation video content. To make sure everything fitted together properly, CAD intern Eddie Carrington designed the nets in AutoCAD and machine-cut the parts. The large rock that the castle sits on is made from Plaster of Paris, with a chicken-wire skeleton and the whole display sits inside a wooden frame dressed with black serge, also provided by Showtex, which helps to block light from outside the scene and makes it look like its own self-contained world.

All of the video content, lighting and motorised fairground rides are centrally controlled from QLab show control software with assistance from Node Red, some custom coding here and there and various other open source projects. Node Red allowed us to knit together the various protocols and provide front end control, scheduling and motion detection triggering logic. We then wrote a small app (for a Raspberry Pi), which allowed us to control the ferris wheel and carousel over OSC, direct from QLab. 

Making use of 3D printing, stop motion animation, light projection, QLab show control, Raspberry Pis, microcontrollers, AutoCAD, and paper craft, this year’s display was an opportunity to flex our technical tinkering muscles. For the techies amongst you, below is a list of the various software, protocols and technologies that we used:

QLab, Node Red, Docker, Art-net, OSC, MQTT, Eclipse Mosquitto, Entec Art-net / DMX interface, Glasson Electronics smart festoon, WLED Project, Adafruit Huzzah32 Feather Board, Raspberry Pi 4, Prusa 3D printing, Christie Projectors, Hikvision, Gosund Smart Plug, Tasmota