ETC Lights Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium

Life can be tough for aquarium-bound fish. Their days are spent patrolling the confines of their tank, staring back at the young faces pressed against their glass walls. On the upside, there is companionship, regular meals, and freedom from predators. For the denizens of the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium in Omaha Nebraska, there is the added bonus of a stunning environment and a spectacular after-dark light show, controlled by ETC’s Mosaic system. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) added Special Citation for Playful Use of Integrated Color to its outdoor lighting award, and it’s easy to see why.


The playful element starts with the re-designed entry canopy that established the aquarium as the focal point of the Omaha Zoo. Blue stainless-steel panels with a rippled surface texture and a front canopy of perforated metal suggest a coral reef seen from underwater. The theme carries upwards to a roof decked with eight stainless-steel wave sculptures. The stainless steel oceanic-inspired structures reflect sunlight in the daytime and become a pallet for dynamic lighting after hours.

Lighting designers Steve Gollehon and Jeff Frank of Morrissey Engineering were part of the original project team. “As we got into it, we realized that color-changing effects would play a key role in the final design,” says Head Designer Steve Gollehon, “and this led us to the ETC Mosaic control system.” Power and control for the color-changing fixtures is provided by a 50-universe Mosaic Show Controller X, 15 Response Mk2 DMX Gateways, and an Echo Relay Panel. A Mosaic Tessera touchscreen controller acts as the user interface. 


“For added effect, we imported custom video content into Mosaic to support the standard effects,” adds Gollehon. “We had fun creating the effects of waves crashing, bubbles forming, and fish swimming and a couple of bioluminescent themes that caught the attention of passersby.” Nine custom shows were created to cover the various social functions that the aquarium hosts. “The ETC wireless interface proved essential as we experimented with the effect of light and video on the diverse surfaces we were dealing with,” says Gollehon. “We were able to color-correct on the fly.”

Heartland Scenic, with Michele Yindrick as project manager, provided the ETC control elements. The one-year time frame for construction and installation allowed the team to test full-scale mockups in Kansas City and design the custom touch screen for show control. “The main challenge was integrating the multi-manufacturer lighting fixtures and keeping track of it all,” says Yindrick. But ETC’s Mosaic system provided a clean, comprehensive interface that got them all working in harmony. “This was a smooth project,” finishes Yindrick.


photo credit: Thomas Kessler

Creating a Whack-a-Mole Game in Eos

Previous article

Stage Lighting Design, Part 2: Objectives of Lighting Design

Next article
Marshall Bissett
Marshall Bissett grew up in Central Scotland and studied theater direction at the Old Vic Theatre School. He worked on the original productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and toured with such acts as Chicago, Neil Diamond, and The Rolling Stones. In 1983 he founded TMB, a worldwide supplier of lighting equipment. He’s kept his hand in directing, which in retirement now vies for his time along with freelance writing and fly-fishing.