Next Wednesday, August 2, The North Carolina Arboretum will debut its new outdoor concert series and light show, Summer Lights. Open nightly from 9:00 to 10:45 p.m., Summer Lights will feature a specially designed projected light show that is synchronized to music performed by the acclaimed Blue Ridge Orchestra and conducted by Milton Crotts. Held in the Arboretum’s Outdoor Events Amphitheater, the light show will be projected onto the Arboretum’s woodland forest backdrop. The Arboretum has enlisted the help of Highland Mediaworks to create the light display, which is the same company that created the Arboretum’s Plantasia light display at last year’s Winter Lights holiday light exhibit.

We recently had a chance to catch up with Highland Mediaworks to learn more about their projection light shows and what to expect for this year’s Summer Lights event.

1.) Projected light shows are not very common. How did Highland Mediaworks get involved with this medium?

Highland Mediaworks’ anchor location is in Franklin/Highlands, N.C., the western-most part of the North Carolina mountains. Our remoteness means that we must be ever expanding with our offerings and applications of technology in the local area. As a natural consequence, we try to make new technology a commodity in local markets for real estate agencies, hotels, art museums and other venues. Above all, we love to entertain. When we saw the possibilities that projection mapping offered, we realized that one could better communicate with their audience through digital media and light. The Bascom: Center for Visual Arts enlisted our services to create custom animation installations in its gallery and for an event. We built a white-space stage in our studio so we could experiment and create “niche market” video examples of how companies might utilize projection mapping. Before we knew it, our “Wedding Cake” video example was picked up internationally because Disney just did a projection mapping wedding cake, and everyone wanted to see what else had been done in the field. At that time in the world of projection mapping, there were only two or three previous examples of wedding cake projection mapping.

As a team, we decided that projection mapping was the most intrinsically satisfying of all digital art forms for our company, largely because it is a mastery of all our service offerings – from photography to web design, to animation and video, to virtual reality and search engine optimization (SEO).

2.) What inspires each display, and what sources do you draw from to create your shows?

Art is infinite, and digital art creates opportunities not afforded with the use of real-world materials. We continue to be inspired to utilize projection mapping in ways that have never been done before. We love to work with other artists and create a digital media experience that one wouldn’t be able to experience anywhere else in the world! It is a joy and honor to do something so rare, especially in such a magical place as the mountains of North Carolina.

3.) What can visitors expect to see at Summer Lights?

Visitors will enjoy seeing our visual interpretation of the musical selections by the Blue Ridge Orchestra through the artistic lens of custom animations, which will be mapped onto trees and plants above the Arboretum’s Outdoor Events Amphitheater. Essentially, the trees and plants are the canvas for the light show. The visuals will enchant the eyes as the music enchants the ears. It will be like nothing you have ever experienced in the area.

4.) What drew you to work with The North Carolina Arboretum?

We had thought for a while of using projection mapping in the Arboretum’s Bonsai Exhibition Garden, and when the Arboretum approached us about coming on board for Winter Lights, it could not have been a better match for our local company. Dale and I met at Mars Hill College, and Asheville is where we began our lives together. Dale is originally from Georgia, and I have roots in Macon County dating back to 1802. Our company has long believed that as Highland Mediaworks grows and becomes nationally known for our work, the local towns and region where we draw our inspiration from should also be able to see the benefit from our skills in the industry. The Arboretum’s commitment to local artists and businesses, and their deep conservation networks that have a “love of all things unique, rare and natural,” is a perfect match. We hope to light up all aspects of the Arboretum’s initiatives. Projection mapping will bring its gardens to life at night and opens the door to a whole new experience with nature.

5.) Are there any challenges when designing a show for a natural setting?

There are always challenges in outdoor settings, especially with the weather. However, most of those problems can be mitigated with proper planning. The Arboretum is a great partner, and they are dedicated to providing their visitors with top-notch experiences. We have enjoyed this great collaboration and are blessed to be working with their staff.

 About the Author

Dawn McGiboney and her husband Dale are the co-founders of Highland Mediaworks, a digital media company based in Franklin, N.C. Throughout the years, the company has worked with brands such as Caterpillar, Biltmore Farms, Pack Mule and other major hotels and luxury communities. Highland Mediaworks specializes in projection mapping, a cutting-edge technology that creates specific animations to multiple surfaces that creates a stunning visual experience.

 The North Carolina Arboretum’s Summer Lights event is open nightly August 2 – 6, beginning at 9 p.m. For more information on Summer Lights and to purchase tickets, please click here. Support for Summer Lights is provided in part by The North Carolina Arboretum Society, iHeartMedia Asheville, The Laurel of Asheville and Travel Guide.