AURA Show (Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal)
On a visit to Montreal for the World Design Summit speaking engagement, Ma Cherie had a chance to come across Moment Factory’s interactive and digitally-lit Montreal’s Jacques-Cartier Bridge. While that delightful infrastructure can be marvelled on its own, there is another project in the company’s portfolio, AURA, which, as a designer, captured even more attention from a professional perspective.
From the outside, the basilica is lit with numerous blue lights giving it a cold, extra-terrestrial feel. There is a much warmer coloured fountain with dancing water reflections right in front - adding a lively, human vibe around the historical square. A thousand or so people, waiting to get in for the show, also hyped up the atmosphere. It’s worth noting that the massive lineup moved surprisingly fast.
Ma Chérie was impressed to see that such a historic religious institution invested in a brand and logo development to be elegantly used throughout all their marketing and communications materials. The handwritten script “N” and “D” initials intertwined with classy simplicity, pointing at history, but looking towards the future. Furthermore, the environmental Aura installation project was kicked off as part of the Montreal’s 375th anniversary, and was brought to life by the Moment Factory team. The team had to build a 3D model to accurately capture all the intricacies of the Basilica’s interior – a tremendous amount of work, even if 3D scanning was mainly used.
Upon entry, we were instructed to walk around prior to sitting down to take a look at the many smaller projections to the sides, embellishing and highlighting some of the depicted iconic scenes. As we wanted to get good and central seats for the show, we decided to leave the walking around until the end. In retrospect, we would recommend exploring the few art pieces before the show to get a taste of effects to come. The bench seats were narrow and comfy, but not for slouching.
We were glad that the show started a bit late, as people came trickling in right up to the kickoff. The initial buildup was slow and warm, soft lighting flowing gently from the top stained glass above the altar. While we assumed that there might be religious overtones, we soon had realized that the show was more nature-focused. Some effects appeared to highlight the architecture, while other motifs were full of scenic landscapes. The arched dome was used for more powerful scenes, such as the autumn leaves being blown and changing colours, and celestial skyscapes, and fluffy clouds passing by.
The level of detail was so impressive that we’d thought some walls were LED screens. Don’t be fooled, - projection technology has gone a long way with the newest laser devices being capable of miraculous performance when combined with an experiential design.
There also was a more concert-like part of the show: a technology-inspired scene with projectors revealing themselves by beaming strong lights at the audience. An important part of the experience was the impressive surround sound. We thought that there was even an organ integrated into some of the tracks. The projectors beaming from all the sides and a well-tuned soundtrack worked together to create a truly submersible experience.
The main projections only engulf the front half of the Basilica’s vault with just a few scenes reaching beyond. The audience is forward-oriented, and we happened to snatch the best seats right in the middle, between the altar and entrance.
This 20-minute performance was $25 a person, with two shows available at nights on the weekends, which sold out almost every show. We highly recommend it – it is a one-of-a-kind experience – a spectacle of technology and art fused in a mind-blowing feast for the eyes and ears, inside an incredible architecture landmark. Hurry in, the installation should be on for about a year, starting March 2017.