Big Kahuna Mirrors Excitement for The NGV Gala Night

The National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) Annual Gala Night is a standout event in Australia’s social calendar.

When major sponsor, American Express, had a vision to make it bigger and better than ever, we were approached and asked to create an unforgettable immersive experience – and create, we did!

The star-studded guest list, which included Natalie Portman, Poppy Delevingne and Adam Goodes, entered the hall and discovered our American Express Platinum Mirror Walk (shown above), which quickly became the attraction of the evening.

As the sharply dressed attendees lined up to strut their stuff, they were treated to their own glamorous Cinderella moment as the 20-piece mirror set followed them down the catwalk, with camera flashes, smoke and music swirling all around.

It was quite a thrilling experience. It’s no wonder why over 250 people made their way to the stage to have their own piece of the action.

But something like this doesn’t come together overnight. There’s a lot of work which goes into a project this elaborate.

Here’s the story behind our American Express Platinum Mirror Walk and how we brought this marvellous construction to life in the space of just five weeks!

Reflecting back on the first steps

When we were approached to create a vivid catwalk which would treat guests to an interactive photo experience, we were all very excited.

The NGV Gala is a real “night of nights” event and we were thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of it. However, this project was also going to really test the limits of our ingenuity. But we love a challenge at Big Kahuna Imagineering and we dived right in.

Will Colhoun immediately envisioned a set of position-responsive mirrors that would be placed alongside a reflective catwalk, to create a sense of immersion for the participant from the very first moment they set foot on stage, to the last.

It took three iterations of the initial concept to finally come up with a design that was practical – and with that, our team of specialists got to work.

The centrepiece

Everything began with the catwalk itself.

It had to be robust and sturdy enough to support people’s weight without any balancing issues, while also housing an abundance of electronics connected to the mirrors.  So we custom designed a very high modulus floor system that would return the stiffness required to prevent any wobble of the mirrors when you stood next to them (even the big fellas) and provide the strength and the space we required.

On the upward facing floor, we placed another mirror with an anti-slip acrylic surface – something that the ladies in high heels and the OH&S Department were very thankful for.

The array of mirrors

Once the stage was set, it was time to put together the ambitious columns of 20 mirrors and set up the intricate motor mechanics which would allow each to rotate as a person walked by.

Suffice to it say that this was no simple feat!

The engineering behind the mirrors was extremely elaborate, requiring 20 individual motor drives connected to delicate sensors to give each the freedom of movement required. These were all wired together underneath the stage into a central processing hub.

After many hours of testing, our detailed algorithmic coding was able to correctly track a person using force sensing of a person’s
step under gravity, in turn interpolating the position between both steps as they strutted their stuff.  This data was fed back into the system to coordinate all 20 mirrors in perfect synchronisation.

The result was a fast and responsive mechanism that performed flawlessly as each guest stepped up to have their moment.

Getting it to the Gala

After weeks of meticulous construction, we finally had a finished product… but in our workshop in Sydney. It was then the task of disassembling all of the pieces, transporting it down to Melbourne overnight, and reassembling it at the venue.

With everything finally in place and the NGV Gala in full swing that night, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Our Big Kahuna team had designed, developed, engineered, manufactured, assembled, tested, transported and stored such a marvellous piece from start to finish in the space of 5 weeks (yes, it was a miraculous delivery in the time frame).

The lasting impression

All you have to do is look at all of the social media coverage from the event to see how much the guests loved being part of the glitz and glamour. Who could blame them? It made them look and feel like a superstar.

Lifestyle and beauty columnist, Helen Chick, pictured below, blogged about her experience, saying: “the night truly began with the glittering American Express Platinum Mirror Walk. I never knew what it was like to make a music video until I saw the finished product. So cool.”

The American Express team were just as ecstatic, describing the piece as a “remarkable sight to behold!”

The flawless execution gave the impression of being a living crystal chamber spectacle – and so it should come as no surprise that we’re particularly proud of the project.

What now?

The sky is the limit!

The entire concept was extremely complex and innovative. This has got our team very excited for more future staging applications due to its unique use of interactive, position-sensitive technology.

It has a lot of potential, and we’re seeking opportunities to further build and evolve this concept for many more future events.

Think of what Big Kahuna could do for your next project!

We couldn’t be happier with the result, and that’s why our team do what we do, after all!

At Big Kahuna Imagineering, we love to be challenged and want to hear what big idea you have for your business or brand.

As you’ll see from our previous work, no project is too complicated, too strange or extraordinary. Our team of Imagineers use creativity and innovation to turn any idea into a reality.

Have an idea or project you would like to discuss? Get in touch!

Tel: +61 2 9810 6299

Call us or drop us an email and we will get back to you pronto!

At Big Kahuna…You imagine. We Imagineer.