A million pinpoints of light scurry along the branches of the trees, on the path in front of you, and back again, like they’re in a hurry and it’s your job to figure out why. This is the work of the team at Moment Factory. They paint stories in the trees, using light, music, projection, and the surrounding environment to spellbind visitors. Moment Factory’s interactive walk-through installations require you to become a participant in a story—drawing you further and further into wonderland until, like Alice, you find yourself standing at the bottom of the rabbit hole looking up and wondering how you got there.
“They’re intense,” laughs one of the show directors, Thomas Pintal, of the large-scale storytelling experiences. Moment Factory is a Montreal-based company, but its teams create dreamscapes all over the world, sometimes telling original stories and sometimes executing an already-established vision with other companies.
In the Vallea Lumina installation in Whistler, you follow a projection of a ranger and his daughter over a bridge and through the woods. On the breeze, an acoustic guitar carries a tune: Stardust will dance through the air, through spruce and through salmon and bear. This is the spell we fall under. Our hearts full of gold and of wonder. Pintal and the composers worked for months to create the perfect melody, which acts as the plot line of the story.
Anywhere from 80 to 100 multi-disciplinaries can collaborate on a given project. “It is very good for the creative process to have all those people around you,” he says. “You work with a lot of different expertise. I have access to a scenographer, a technical director,” not to mention sound engineers and lighting experts.
“It isn’t just about the music and the light and the projection,” explains Pintal. “It is about the way you discover the land and the way you walk through the forest that brings the story alive.” To capture the feeling of the environment, a team of composers and directors will walk around for days in order to get a feel for the place. The question is, “How do we feel when we are walking on the land where we are supposed to create magic?” Pintal reveals. The group will record the sound of the trees and a nearby river so they can re-create the ambience in the studio and incorporate it into their technological alchemy. In nearly every way, the place dictates the story.
Moment Factory worked on set design for Cirque du Soleil before branching out into interactive media for Nine Inch Nails’ Lights in the Sky tour. With each project, its ability to manipulate visuals, light, and sound took its teams all over the world, but it was the Foresta Lumina enchanted night walk in Eastern Quebec that established them as storytelling wizards. Now, the Lumina series stretches from Eastern Canada to the West Coast, using the unique topography of each province and multimedia techniques to weave illusion and capture public imagination.
This is something Pintal was already acquainted with. He started his career in projection mapping and light shows before coming on-board with Moment Factory. So, he was familiar with the moving parts of a large-scale entertainment event. “We need to be flexible. We need to adjust,” he says of setting up a Lumina experience. Even after the initial careful site visit, there needs to be room in the story for movement as the team deploys the technology in nature. “Even if we’re careful in the studio, sometimes there is noise from a river that is louder than expected,” he admits.
As guests wander wide-eyed, they don’t see the teams of people or behind-the-scenes manoeuvring. They willingly hand over their disbelief for the chance to be a part of the story. However, as I walk beneath the canopy of light, I do not feel disconnected from the story despite knowing the hours of work that created it. The aura that Moment Factory is able to create with technology is its own form of magic.
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