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Lighting Up the Mile High Tree

For the third year in a row Visit Denver’s Mile High Holidays was lit up with it’s enormous crown jewel – The Mile High Tree. One Floor Up was lucky enough to be able to participate in the holiday fun and create a brand new program to play on the tree again this year. If you made it downtown to see it this holiday season we animated the lights to the sounds of Stevie Wonder – U2 – Mariah Carey and many more…..

Before most people had even thought about Christmas last year we cranked up the holiday tunes, and pulled out the fake christmas tree from the closet. We even had some sugar cookies and set assigning the selected music tracks to animators for our christmas “animathon.”

Our picking order was decided after we all unwrapped small bits of paper. The choices were lined up on hand scrawled sticky notes labeled 1-8. Choosing first during this draft wouldn’t get you a star quarterback or a high scoring wide receiver – instead it gave you first choice of the 8 holiday music tracks that were selected for this year’s new Mile High Tree Program.

After an exciting drama-filled distribution of the songs – the 4 animators here at One Floor Up had our marching orders, and were about to become very familiar with the 40 second snippets of these holiday classics. Each of us tucked away in our edit bays armed with a powerful preview composition with a rendering of the tree, coffee and some frosted sugar cookies. Let the animating begin!

I walked away from the song draft feeling like a winner, despite picking last. There was really no songs on the list that wouldn’t be fun to animate a 100+ foot christmas tree, but the selection of ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ was especially exciting for me because I have imagined turning the Mile High Tree into an virtually decorated christmas tree for a while now. Green background – string lights and swinging bulbs brought this tree to life for that track – and I even was able to have some people dancing around it!

We each took a unique approach to the two songs we chose – which I think adds to the experience of viewing the new program on the tree. From psychedelic kaleidoscope effects to throwback retro 80’s vibes there is a lot to see and feel.

One challenge that we always face when designing for this canvas is the consideration of outside view and inside view simultaneously. The trick is finding the balance of what looks good for those inside and what looks good for those waiting to go inside. At one point during the new program if you look up from the center, you’ll see a perfectly formed heart – break apart! This was enabled by a discovery from Daniel – our techiest team member – when he did some experimenting on the tree last year. He was able to use an effect that translated a flat comp into a warped and wrapped layer perfectly designed for the cone shaped tree.

We also were able to tune in the mapping on the star above the cone shape. Allowing us to customize the color and animation on the star. Much like the years in the past we walked away with lots of lessons learned and exciting new ideas for what else is possible, we look forward to next holiday season when the tree gets built again.

Getting to go see your own work displayed on such a huge canvas in the middle of downtown Denver is a special treat. I’m glad that the whole post team got involved and could enjoy this experience together.

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