Santa Grotto Lighting and Effects

November 15th, 2009 - 

Every Santa’s Grotto should look festive and enchanting, especially to the younger visitors.  One of the easiest methods of adding a wow factor is lighting and it doesn’t have to break the bank either.

In this article, I’ll discuss lighting methods and ideas, sources of economic supply and also safety considerations.

When adding Christmas Illuminations to your Santa’s Grotto or Christmas attraction, think carefully about the colours selected and the actual amount of light present.

Always try to select colours that match the Christmas Feature or Scene within the Grotto, either matching colour for colour to bring a feature to life or by adding contrast to make a feature stand out or become highly visible to the passing visitor.  Avoid just putting any colours in a scene, think if they match and the overall vision is attractive to the eye.  I find it’s always better to grab a few people and ask their opinion, remember that everyone may have a different opinion, so you may have to mentally average out the feedback.

Also consider the amount of light generated, if it’s too little, the visitors may be less than impressed.  If you’re in an area of bright lighting or daylight, you may have to add significant lighting to be noticed above the existing ambient lighting.   If you’re in a darker area, then less will be needed.

Try not to over-do the lighting amount, too much light can be almost painful to the eye, plus it may detract from your actual Santa’s Grotto or Christmas Decorations.

Consider hidden lighting methods, this can be done with spot lights or other lighting, by simply having the light source out of direct visitor view.  By using this method, you can add great lighting effect without dazzling your visitors.

When it comes to buying Christmas Lighting and Decorations, you may be shocked at how expensive it could be.  I find that taking a lateral view of the problem helps at times.

Depending upon the event, in respect of how many days the Grotto or attraction will be open, the budget available and the location, you will have a different view on the problem and solution.

You can buy much of the lighting equipment you may need from auction sites, like ebay, below is a list of links to possibly very useful products.  Depending upon many factors, you may grab an absolute bargain, I personally often have.  I’ve quite often purchased damaged goods, knowing that the remaining working parts fit my needs or that it can be easily repaired.

Depending upon your own skill set or that of your colleagues if working as a team, you may wish to buy products to modify them.  This will ensure unique features within your Santa’s Grotto and may result in an overall lower cost.

Great sources of ‘donor’ product include:

  • Fibre Optic products – can be purchased quite cheaply, include a light source and fibre optic threads which can be stripped and re-used within your own features.
  • Toys and Novelties – look at these items in charity and discount shops, they may have nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever, just look at the lighting or motion functions and how you may re-use this within your own feature or scene.

When purchasing lighting products, always consider the end effect or product.  Many times, I buy a number of lighting sets with the idea that I will remove the bulbs and create single or custom colour sets to fit in with the scene or feature – this is generally not possible with LED lighting so beware.

One effect that you may want, but will no doubt need to be totally safe is a Fireplace for your Santa’s Grotto.  There are a number of ways to do this, again dependant upon what you have laying around or your budget.

  1. The Quick and easy way to illuminate a fireplace is to use a set(s) of chasing Christmas lights, ideally just a mixture of red, orange and yellow colours and embed these amongst the fake fire.  Do this by putting them under wood, around the back, maybe even behind a diffuser panel behind the wood.
  2. Another method is to purchase a flame effect light source, have this projected on a background material.
  3. The other, more technical method, is to get hold of a video file of a file, then insert a computer screen in the fireplace, giving a fake fire.

Always with anything involving lighting and electrical installations, safety must be the first thought.  You will have visitors of all ages, abilities, shapes and sizes.  You will also have tampering fingers and possibly vandals.  Always consider the worst case scenario – that may be a shock hazard, fire, broken glass, darkness etc.  Consider how that scenario will be avoided and dealt with.

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