Each year we get a variety of displays and functions set up around town to celebrate Christmas. Most of these I generally aren't terribly interested in but for 2009 they did something a little special. Both Auckland and Wellington had extremely large computer controlled lit trees situated down near the waterfront for people to view. Wellington's was down on Frank Kitt's park so had a good view out to the main harbour front including directly behind the Te Papa museum. Each light on the tree was independantly activated and could change colour. This meant the tree was a blaze of swirling patterns that I sorta wish I had brought my more point and shoot camera that can take video as well - still images don't really convey the beauty in the motion.
Also arrayed around the tree were three telephone booths each connected by a strand of lights to the tree proper. The conceit here was that these were 'Santa phones' with a directly line for children to make requests to Santa for presents. While the connecting lights were unlit they were voice activated by the phone in the booth and would travel from the booth up to the tree. You can see one of the booths in the second image below. Also it is hard to see from the images but the tree was a good four stories tall. Making it one of the tallest christmas trees I have ever seen.
While this was spectacular looking at it from the side it was even more impressive to be directly under the tree itself and look straight up. This was, thanks to the motion in the light patterns, quite dizzying too. Forethought had been applied and a bunch of weather proof beancushions were array around the base of the tree letting you lie or sit down and stare up to watch the tree go through it's motions. I've tried to capture so of that view here below. The three stills were taken at a fairly regular interval so you can see the motion of the colour down the tree. Something like 40,000 individual lights were being controlled to make this happen. The lights also seemed to be directly changing colour so my suspicion is that the tree was a huge array of colour LEDs.
As can be seen below it wasn't just solid colour sweeps but individual strands vertically too would change colour. On top of that the pinacle of the tree had it's own sequence of colours to cycle through. Most of the time I couldn't help but think this looked awfully like a conceptual model for an atom with the rings being the electrons in the out valence shell doing their thing. Perhaps I had been working at a nuclear research insitute for too long...
Hopefully with these images I have managed to capture some of the variety of the display. All in all this was a pretty cool display to see in action. I understand the trees used are off to other corners of the globe for use in future Xmas displays.