Dive into lac Tranquille in the Quartier des Spectacles

December 16, 2022

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A new interactive experience on the Esplanade Tranquille skating rink, Au bord du lac Tranquille, takes you on a dreamlike journey into the heart of Quebec’s distinctive Nordic character. Lace up your skates and dive into a magical aquatic world! Philippe Belhumeur, the creative director of Normal Studio, and Thomas Payette, co-founder and creative director of Mirari, share the vision and creative process behind this immersive work.

What were your inspirations in conceptualizing this interactive experience?

Philippe Belhumeur (Normal studio): Our first inspiration was the site, Esplanade Tranquille. It’s a magnificent space, a real oasis of peace in the heart of downtown. The lake quickly emerged as the central element for expressing our Nordic character and celebrating the richness of its ecosystems. For many Quebecers, a lake is like a backyard. We live with it through the seasons – swimming, admiring the landscape, doing winter sports. From Les Escoumins to the Laurentians and the Far North, lakes are populated with unique aquatic flora and fauna that we wanted to highlight. The interactive aspect, the fact that all the elements are interdependent, is also echoed in the human-environment relationship.

Thomas Payette (Mirari): The dreamlike aspect is front and centre. The deeper you get into the experience, the more things change and become a little bit magical. In the end, we appeal to the imagination as we approach the climax – a grand psychedelic festival in which we celebrate being together.

What should people expect?

PB: From start to finish, the experience lasts 30 minutes. It spans dawn to dusk and the four seasons, from the winter to wild summer nights. So there are several tableaux, but in reality we’re trying to create an interrupted trip for the public. The idea is to transport people through the story, no matter when they arrive at the Esplanade.

TP: The different interactive effects take us from one ambiance to the next. We move snowbanks, reveal plankton. Whirlpools and water and ice trails appear behind us. We’re connected by constellations, we’re part of a massive cloud that we can reshape, and so on. It’s the skaters who activate and generate the visuals. We also designed everything to be just as interesting for people who aren’t skating. From the Grand Salon, on the second floor of the Esplanade Tranquille pavilion, as well as the upstairs decks, you get a panoramic view of the entire rink coming to life like an enormous fresco!

How is the project innovative, as compared to those your teams have created in the past?

TP: Working in collaboration with VYV, we succeeded in maximizing the potential of the video server used by the Quartier des Spectacles, thanks to LIDAR, a new technology based on laser scanners. The scanners make it possible to generate 3D images of all the skaters in real time and create interactive visual effects. There’s an enormous amount of data to be processed! And of course, every innovation comes with challenges, because you have to learn to use the new tools and what they have to offer. Throughout the process, we’ve had to find creative solutions for making progress despite the constraints we faced.

PB: Au bord du lac Tranquille is an exceptional project that incorporates all the elements of a powerful immersive experience: a narrative with a beginning, middle and end; visual and audio effects; lights; projections; and, of course, interactivity.

Au bord du lac Tranquille is the product of the first collaboration between two Montreal creative studios, Normal and Mirari. Why did you decide to work together, and how did your respective teams get it done?

TP: Philippe and I already knew each other through our networks, and it seemed like a natural fit. Normal creates a lot of visual content, while Mirari has expertise in developing interactive effects. Rather than compete, we wanted to combine our ideas, talent, contacts and resources. And I think it’s precisely because of this collaborative spirit that we’ve successfully completed such an ambitious project.

PB: The entire process was highly collaborative. First, Normal imagined an artistic framework and universe, which Mirari’s team enhanced. Then, to create an interactive story, Thomas took our work as the basis for designing the right effects. Mirari also handled the technical side. Méduse Audio composed the soundtrack, which magnifies and highlights the immersive aspect. Finally, the team at VYV handled image programming.


Part of the 13th edition of Luminothérapie
Until the beginning of April 2023, at Esplanade Tranquille
Free, presented daily at 8:30 p.m.*

*Schedule subject to change on Fridays.