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Film on Capitol adds dimension to 150th celebration

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia history will come to life next week with a three-dimensional light show - the first of its kind in the state - to be projected across the Capitol facade.

In honor of the West Virginia sesquicentennial, Florida company Monster Media has created a custom projection that will take viewers on a journey through the creation of the state to the present day.

Here's a 30-second preview.

It will include past leaders, notable events, famous West Virginians and icons near and dear to the heart of West Virginians.

"It will take us on a ride, starting with the early pioneers through the Civil War and through independence," said Jack Hattingh, who has been working on the creative aspect for Monster Media.

The company has produced projection shows on Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and in China for the Chinese new year.

"It will concentrate on the outdoor elements - mountainous terrain, river rafting, sky diving, and the entertainment aspect - like state cardinals, and as it gets near the end, there will be more and more celebration. It tells a story; it's captivating."

The Sesquicentennial Commission created a list of notable West Virginia people, places and things to be part of the video.

"We sent Monster Media a document several pages long of what we were interested in having them include in the projection show," said Chelsea Ruby, the commission's executive director.

"The Sesquicentennial Commission gave some suggestions of things in West Virginia history that are important, and we took that list and narrowed it down to some main events."

The 6-minute film is not a documentary, however. Instead, it will include highlights of the past 150 years, as well as other elements of West Virginian culture.

"This is clearly a celebration, so it's very state-centric," Hattingh said. "It has some real good West Virginia flavor. We use the history and contain the state bird and state colors and add music - like Bluegrass - all in an entertaining way.

"We include some favorite pastimes and icons - like famous people who were born in West Virginia. The main idea here is a celebration. It's a light show with all these elements."

The company has been working on the show since January. In April, staff members came to take precise measurements of the front of the Capitol, including heights and widths of the building, columns and other architectural features.

"It's all mapped," said Lindsey Fuller, project manager. "During our site visit, we took measurements and photos, and essentially, our team built that building in a 3-D space on their computers. The content was customized to that."

Hattingh and his team used the building as a canvas and created the content, with 3-D effects, through a series of computer programs, making sure to adhere to the parameters of the space limitations.

Fuller said to get the 3-D effect, certain items are on different planes - like the columns, for example. Nine to 12 projectors will be placed on scaffolding in front of the Capitol at precise angles to make sure the imaging syncs with the building.

While one projector has the same brightness one would expect in a cinema, Hattingh said, the show will use many of them to accommodate the expected 30,000 people who will watch the show at the Capitol, from the Kanawha River and from across the river.

The projectors will put back together 200,000 to 300,000 pieces of the puzzle and move them in sync with music. If a projector is moved an inch, its image will be off by a foot on the building, Ruby said.

Hattingh said the short film will include about 24 brief scenes and a fair amount of character animation - something they haven't included extensively in prior productions.  

"We also have some likeness. We have Lincoln - which we've recreated - walking around. Not just a photo," Hattingh said. "I've never seen anyone 3-D walking on the building."

The company hopes to have a finalized version within the next couple of days and will make adjustments on the actual building early next week.

Fireworks will accompany the last minute or so of the film and will continue for an additional 19 minutes. The piece will be shown at 10 p.m. Thursday, June 20; Friday, June 21; and Saturday, June 22.

The projection show will not change, but the fireworks display will be different each night.

The cost of these projects will be released after the event, Ruby said.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at

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