14 Dec 2022

A Merry Christmas with Vectorworks!

How many universes do you want for Christmas? Well if you’re the City of Melbourne Christmas tree standing 16.5 metres tall in Federation Square then that would be 36! 

The tree that grandly sits there is about 9m at its base. This year there is a new structure with LED screens and two infinity mirrors. The tree has 211 branches with 9 channels of RGBW LEDs with the star having 12 channels of RGB LED. 

The spectacular nightly show is under the design control of Luke Hawley who has been working on this project since 2018, for it’s second year on display. He says :


“It has had improvements and upgrades every year and each year an additional music and light show is added”.

He continues: “The original drawing of the tree was a .dwg that I imported into Vectorworks Spotlight. This year it had some refurbishments done to it and modelled in Blender but in any case I could easily import the .obj file straight into Vectorworks”.

“The Tree lighting and screens are controlled by PRG MBox Studio. The infinity mirrors are also pixel mapped via PRG Mbox. Both mirrors have a combined total of 757 RGB Pixels. MBox syncs with audio via Timecode keeping the lighting effects in sync and allowing the tree to operate automatically for the Christmas period.”


He does all the planning in Vectorworks Spotlight and the programming using Vectorworks Vision. “Because the tree branches are a ‘custom’ lighting fixture, I created a lighting fixture using the GDTF builder then import that into Spotlight and export MVR into Vision. With Vision’s ability to input video and then crop that video input, I was easily able to send the one video feed out of MBox and then apply the correct segment of the feed to the correct screen surface.”

All up the tree uses close to 36 full universes of sACN. All of which he is able to previz in Vision without any issues. He has been using Vectorworks from the start: 

“With the use of MVR files now between Spotlight and Vision, the ability to make changes within Spotlight and easily import them into Vision is great. No longer needing to do a full export of the model when making minute changes. Which also keeps the Spotlight file up to date.” 

So when you’re stringing fairy lights around your Christmas tree maybe it will pass your mind that you could design it all in Spotlight and previz in Vision?! 


City of Melbourne Christmas Tree

Client: City Of Melbourne

Technical Direction: Sound Environment & LIDA Industries

Tree Design Refurbishment & Video Content: StudioZeil

Music Composition: Marlon Grunden

Video Content Animations: Glen Art Productions

Lighting Design & Programming: Luke Hawley


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