West London, UK-based Entec Sound & Light was approached by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) to supply lighting design and equipment for a very special one off collection of royal wedding dresses dating back to 1816, including that of Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret and Princess Charlotte, which was put on display in the drawing rooms of the late Princess Margaret's apartments in Kensington Palace.
Too fragile for public exhibition, the display of dresses was open to the world's leading media in order to allow a wider audience to experience them. Ahead of the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey, the dresses received global coverage, filmed by BBC, ITN, Channel 4, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN as well as Australian, Canadian, French, German and Japanese broadcasters.
The extremely delicate and intricate task of lighting the six wedding gowns fell to Richard Lambert, who chose fixtures from ETC's Selador white light Lustr range, which he described as "perfect" for the project.
The challenges were many. To ensure that the preservation of the dresses was not compromised, they could not be exposed to over 200 lux at any point - calculated on elements like room temperature, the age and nature of the different dress materials, and their individual storage methods and so on.
The drawing room also had limited power; each dress required at least three lightsources and everything had to feed off the available supply. With the Seladors drawing only 1.05 amps each, this was viable.
Additionally, the lighting fixtures had to be as unobtrusive as possible in the room.
On the aesthetic front, each dress required its own exclusive, subtle tints of colour, warmth and coolness to accentuate distinctive features and details like embroidery or the texture and consistency of the cloth. They needed lighting to facilitate a variety of TV and stills cameras getting their optimum shots.
Lambert specified 18 Selador Lustr units in total, all of which were rigged on Manfrotto stands. Each fixture has seven individually controllable LEDs that have been designed to render pigments in their natural state, and so were considered ideal for the application. In particular, Lambert needed to produce an almost imperceptible range of beiges/whites and creams which, despite their extreme discretion, had stunning effects on the exhibits. For others, he needed to dial in a minutiae of blue or red hues to lift certain areas.
The Lustrs feature a slide-in groove for the lenses, which are available in 10 degree sections on both horizontal and vertically planes between 30 and 80 degrees, enabling precise areas to be covered with concentrated amounts of light.
Lambert pre-lit the exhibition - top secret until a week before the Royal Wedding, and then open to the press for a few days only - using mannequins in the designated positions. Once the dresses were in place, some tweaks were necessary requiring the alteration of a couple of the lens configurations. However, this was a quick and easy exercise, illustrating, says ETC, the flexibility of the Lustr system.
"There were many challenges but all the solutions were there," said Lambert, who enjoyed the job enormously. In the process, he became quite an aficionado of historical wedding dresses, the finer cultural, political and social ingredients of their design and making and their safe storage and preservation.
For Entec Lighting's Adam Stevenson, it was a "huge honour" for the company to be invited to work on an event of this profile for such a prestigious client. HRP also had it recorded by their own film team for archival purposes.
“ETC's Selador Lustr LED fixtures were specifically designed with a patented system to render whites very accurately, and so are popular in TV studios worldwide,” said Mark White, ETC’s regional manager for the UK and Ireland. “The subtle creams and whites of the wedding dresses were illuminated at just the right levels with the correct tints in the right colour temperatures, providing a heat-free environment that would not damage any of the fragile fabrics and materials."
"Entec's lighting design allowed us to showcase these spectacular royal wedding dresses and the stories they tell to a huge global audience by allowing us to meet the needs of the world's biggest broadcasters,” said Tim Powell, press officer for Historic Royal Palaces. “In addition, the use of ETC's low temperature and power conscious LED lights meant that protecting the dresses didn't have to compromise the appearance of the display."
Lustr is intended for TV studios and theatrical use, and so, according to ETC, proved perfect for this event which combined the two lighting disciplines in a very specific context. Lustr Classic forms part of a now expanded range of Selador LED fixtures from ETC, each optimised for different purposes.
Entec works regularly on a number of fashion shows and events including London Fashion Week, for which these fixtures are also expected to be invaluable creative tools.