Mardi Gras floats feature festive illumination courtesy of ENTTEC LED entertainment lighting and controls

March 19, 2015
The Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans is known for revealing... almost everything. For this year’s festivities, something more unconventional was revealed: new technology on two of the floats, courtesy of the design talents of Ryan Dolese, Lighting/System Designer and President of ProLumin Lighting of Metairie, LA and ENTTEC Americas of Hillsborough, NC. “We designed and executed something that really no one ever tried to do for any Mardi Gras float,” states Dolese.

Two floats featured ENTTEC LED entertainment lighting and control products. The first was the signature float for the Krewe of Orpheus named “The Leviathan.” Dolese notes, “When constructed by Kern Studios in 1993, this float was ahead of its time. It has more fiber optic lighting than any other float in Mardi Gras. It was lit in a way that was still very archaic aside from the fiber optic lighting; it still had old A19 incandescent lights on it and it certainly had no color changing capabilities. We decided to use WS2812 ribbon lights along with LED wall washers. For control for the LED ribbon lights, we used the ENTTEC Pixelator and an ODE box as a way to control the wall washers.” The Pixelator is one of ENTTEC’s newest products: an LED controller that is ideal for converting large amounts of DMX over Ethernet data into data suitable for pixel products, and is perfect for use with pixel tape, pixel dots and ribbon lights.

Working with Pixelator were the ENTTEC PLink Injectors. Dolese explains, “On the Leviathan we used 21 of them; they controlled digital ribbon. Essentially, the PLinks are what takes the information from the Pixelator and makes it to where your ribbon or your LED can understand it and then interpret that signal to put out the right light.”

Dolese found a color-changing LED for the pearls on the Leviathan, and then turned to another ENTTEC LED entertainment lighting product: the E-Streamer MK2. “To record all the information and to have it play back in stand-alone mode, we used the E-Streamer. I was very impressed about how much information you can actually store and play back. When the float rolled down the street on February 16th, we were playing 23 streams, and we were able to play everything back flawlessly through the E Streamers web interface. This is completely out of the box thinking in regards to Mardi Gras float technology,” the designer adds. The E-Streamer enables users to record and play back up to 64 universes, with additional licenses. It also supports play back of numerous concurrent shows, and has a flexible play list which allows event scheduling by minute, hour, day, and month.

The second float that partnered ProLumin and ENTTEC was the ETV, which was done for the Krewe of Endymion. Dolese notes, “We lined the inside of the letters with WS2812 ribbon lights, then we used two Pixelators, one E-Streamer Mk2 and one ODE to control the float. So you had a total of 200 meters of digital ribbon on there and a couple dozen wall washers. All of that was all controlled through ENTTEC products.” There were also 38 PLink Injectors on the project as well.

Both of the floats were also able to do something else exceptional, thanks to the help of Dolese’s network engineer, Phillip Buhler from Nexus-Tech, and the ENTTEC products chosen. “When we built them, we built them with a designated router for each one, so I was able to get into the network from my phone, access the web interface and control it from there,” he confides. Jeremy Kumin, GM of ENTTEC Americas adds, “I happened to be in New Orleans on Mardi Gras a year ago, but I never imagined our products being used on not one but two floats at the next parade. Now in hindsight, it's an obvious choice. As the nickname for that city states, the creative possibilities are ‘Big,’ and the Pixelator makes it ‘Easy.’ I hope that Ryan’s work inspires other designers in this medium, and others we haven't even thought of yet.”

Dolese has nothing but good things to say about his work with ENTTEC LED entertainment lighting and controls products and its support team. He confides, “The products are very easy to use and the customer support from both ENTTEC Americas and ENTTEC in Australia is hands down some of the best I’ve ever got. It’s very hard to communicate with some of the other big companies when you’re such a small company, but every time I called, I was able to get the answers I needed and the help I needed from ENTTEC. I’d absolutely recommend them.”


Sharon Stancavage - for ENTTEC Americas
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