You know the Cinderella story: With the flick of a wand, a gorgeous woman in a worn-out gown gets changed into a glimmering vision. This metaphor describes the large magic behind the new destination at the Neon Museum. Brilliant! is a “360-degree audiovisual immersion experience” that uses the fairy-tale treatment to a collection of old, broken-down neon indications. The outcome is a 30-minute show that will melt the cold, solidified heart of even the most devoted Vegas cynic.
The biggest paradox about the Neon Museum is that many of its indications do not illuminate. The collection is comprehensive, however restoration is prohibitively difficult and costly. Leave it to a traveler to develop an option.
Digital artist and experiential designer Craig Winslow, 29, had never been to Las Vegas when he was picked as one of Adobe’s 2016-17 Imaginative Homeowners. Utilizing his newfound flexibility, the Portland, Oregon, resident took a trip through the Southwest and convinced the Neon Museum to let him use his unique design of art– projection mapping light onto “ghost indications”– to a back corner of their boneyard for a one-night experiment. The ephemeral piece was such a success, it quickly became this long-term exhibition.
So how precisely does it work? Winslow uses photos, video and “3D photogrammetry” to develop a digital design of each sign– down to the specific light bulbs– in the North gallery. Then he utilized software to animate the “lights.” YESCO sign company developed two air-conditioned towers that house eight projectors, which splash 80,000 lumens of life back into the old indications. Simply put, magic.
But the indications do not simply illuminate again. They take the visitor on a journey through the history and mythology of Las Vegas. Nearly 20 songs provide the tracklist for this specialist piece of time travel. The show starts with Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady,” as the huge indication for the now-defunct Kismet shimmers and dances in red. Later on, the Horrible Herbst cowboy gets up to Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Video of Liberace appears on a white grand piano for his rendition of “Complete strangers in the Night.” That same piano reddens, and the cowboy dons dayglo sunglasses throughout Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back.” The show drops us off at our period with Panic! At the Disco’s “Vegas Lights.”
The signs form a circle, with viewers in the center, glancing by doing this which, following the action like a reverse three-ring circus. The juxtapositions of signs that never appeared together in reality produce an elevated experience. It seems like the first time you saw the Strip in real life, that giddy excitement.
During the show, guests aren’t permitted to record or take images (although there’s a short time later for camera indulging). That’s for the very best, since photos and videos cannot do it justice. It resembles trying to snap a sunset. The view is superb, and it can just be caught by memory.
Brilliant Wednesday-Monday, hourly from 6-9 p.m., $15-$23. The Neon Museum, 702-387-6366.