Focus Lighting designs LEDs into Times Square Ball

Nov. 21, 2007
Focus Lighting describes the huge amount of design work required to optimize the LED lighting incorporated into the New Year's Eve Ball.
As we reported last week, the famous New Year's Eve ball for the celebrations in Times Square, New York, has been fitted with LEDs.
Colored LEDs illuminate the crystalline triangular facets that make up the panels of the Ball, while white LEDs highlight the skeleton of the geodesic shape.

Focus Lighting, the New York-based company that created the lighting design and programming for the Ball, has provided more details. The Project Lighting Designer was Christine Hope, and the Principal Lighting Designer of Focus Lighting is Paul Gregory.

Focus says that the challenge for the 100th anniversary re-design of the New Year’s Eve Ball was to explore and enhance all the brilliant facets of the Waterford crystal, creating the appearance of a sparkling gem in the sky above Times Square. This experience is not only for the more than one million revelers below but also for the more than one billion television viewers worldwide.

"We analyzed different views of the Ball depending on the location of the audience. A person standing 10 feet away will experience the beauty and intensity of each individual crystal triangle," says Focus. "A television camera from 50 feet away will enable television viewers to experience the kaleidoscopic moving patterns of light and color radiating from the crystal triangles. And, a reveler celebrating 500 feet away on the street in Times Square will see the intricate, colorful moving patterns of light sparkling in the sky. Each view of the Ball will be equally dramatic."

Concept development

Focus says that they wanted the Ball to appear larger than life, and experimented with a variety of new concepts. "Finally, we decided that real success would not be creating a larger spectacle but bringing out the inherent beauty of the traditional crystal Ball."

"We turned our focus to making the crystal triangles as brilliant as possible. We asked Waterford to create a pattern of back-cutting on each crystal triangle in order to increase the refractions of light. After experimenting with many different patterns, we developed a back-cut that beautifully enhanced the trademark pattern that Waterford developed for this year’s theme "Let There Be Light". This second layer of facets greatly increased the inner refractions of light.

"Our next objective was to utilize the best lighting technology available for illuminating the crystal Ball in a multitude of colors and patterns. We worked with the Philips Lighting to install new solid state lighting technology that would dramatically increase the efficiency, brightness, and color-capabilities of the new Ball."

The 600 light bulbs on the previous Ball were replaced by 9,576 Philips Luxeon LEDs. The LEDs created bright vibrant colors, but these colors were muddled by the multiple layers of refraction from hundreds of crystal triangles.

"Through many mockups with our test LED panel, we created a mirrored baffle that isolated each crystal triangle into its own chamber of light," says Focus. "This enhanced the colors produced by the LEDs, and through infinite mirrored inner reflections created the brilliance of light and purity of color desired for each individual crystal triangle on the Ball."

Focus also added a second layer of LEDs tracing out the lines of the Ball’s geodesic structure. For the first time, this created a look that reveals the Ball skeleton while also creating a glint of front light on the crystals. These LEDs are pure white, creating a bright contrast to the rich colors of the LEDs inside.

The result of these new lighting methods, combined with the advanced crystal cutting technique, LED lighting technology, and flexibility of the control systems, created a new vibrant look for the 100th anniversary of the Ball yet retains its tradition. This year the Ball will be brighter and more colorful than ever before, a brilliant gem shining above Times Square.