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Illuminating “Star Wars™ and The Power of Costume“

July 2018 - by Soraa

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The Star Wars™ film series has thrilled audiences with its epic storylines, unforgettable characters and groundbreaking visual effects since its inception in 1977. A visit to the The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) reveals another compelling force embedded within each Star Wars™ film: costumes.

DIA’s Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume exhibition features more than 60 original Star Wars™ costumes brought to life with Soraa LED lamps. One look at Chewbacca’s furry mane reminds museum visitors of the creature’s endearing voice, for instance, while a quick glance at Darth Vader’s jet black armor manifests the villain’s menacing persona.

Marc Langlois (ML), lighting designer at the Detroit Institute of Arts, took us behind the scenes to experience Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume firsthand. Read on to learn how Marc and Exhibition Designer Theodora Doulamis (TD) transformed the museum space into an immersive film set transporting guests to galaxies far away with Soraa.

Why did Soraa lighting match the specific needs of the Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume exhibition?

ML: We used Soraa VIVID™ PAR30S and Soraa PAR36 LED lamps for all of the exhibition’s directional lighting. Each LED lamp’s color temperature worked in concert with the show’s traveling elements. The beam spreads also allowed me to show off certain parts of the costumes that were important.

What was your goal for the overall aesthetic of the costume exhibition?

ML: I wanted to create a lighting experience that would mimic that of a film set. I wanted the costumes to look the way people are used to seeing them in the films.

TD: To stay true to the unique Star Wars™ aesthetic and design that has drawn influence from around the globe. We wanted to delight devoted fans of Star Wars™ and the visual arts alike with stimulating, beautiful and interactive displays and environments.

What kind of lighting experience did you want to create for the exhibition’s patrons? How did that impact the lighting solutions you chose?

ML: I wanted the patrons to be blown away with every costume they saw. I wanted them to notice all of the small details that are hidden in the costumes. There were so many impressive details to be seen and it was my job to bring them to the forefront of the costumes so they can be appreciated.

What were the biggest lighting challenges to meeting project goals?

ML: Illuminating the wide array of materials with different textures and finishes was the biggest challenge. Making sure that all of these different materials worked cohesively really tested me.  

What challenges do you face when illuminating museum spaces?

ML: As we are shifting to using LED light sources in a museum we are learning how they behave and how we can use our tools and expertise to adapt this technology into our everyday lives. Museums were traditionally lit with halogen and incandescent light sources, so adapting them and learning how to use them to your advantage is important.

Were there any changes to the lighting plan that required a different lighting product or approach?

ML: Aside from the normal changes that always happen while lighting galleries, you will always find small tweaks in your design when the actual costumes arrive and you see different materials or details that you’d like to highlight. Other than that, lighting the exhibition was an incredible experience.

Did the lighting project meet expectations?

ML: The project was incredibly successful and has received great reviews thus far. The DIA is thrilled to have such an important pop culture exhibition here.

TD: The exhibition has drawn in diverse groups of visitors who are all captivated by the cohesive display of costumes, drawings and exhibition design that all work together to entice their imagination.  

Did the lighting project match your vision?

ML: The project for me was an incredible success of our vision. We created incredible “sets” that walked you through the whole Star Wars™ franchise in an elegant and beautiful way.

TD: We wanted to create unique in-situ environments that captivate the essence of the costumes and characters seen throughout the films. We worked to draw in the visitors and create special moments in every display. Light played as critical a role in illuminating all costumes, artwork and design elements to the wonder and enjoyment of the visitor.FINAL BANNER.png

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