Northern Lights, Falling Snowflakes and Time Travel – Winter Is Coming.

Ned Stark from HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” with his family motto

Last year’s Creating A Winter Wonderland Spectrum Post briefly introduced a number of winter-themed effects. Three of the effects mentioned in the post have turned out to be very popular and we’ve gotten a lot of questions about them: The Aurora Borealis for upcoming wintertime productions of Almost, Maine, Falling Snowflakes for winter & holiday event lighting and the projected clock effect for holiday productions of Christmas Carol.

Almost, Maine by John Cariani, is a romantic comedy set in upstate Maine in the winter, and it has become one of the most produced plays in America as high schools, colleges and local theatre groups around the country find its themes and production values easy to produce. However, if you’re going to put this play on stage, one thing that you’ll have to figure out is how to create an Aurora Borealis. Not only is the effect referenced throughout the play, but if handled correctly, the Aurora Borealis can become another character on stage to help support the action.

Rosco’s X24 Effects Projector creates a stunning Aurora Borealis effect:

The effect is created by replacing the standard X24 gobo closest to the lens with an X-size Cyan Colorwave – rotate the Colorwave in the unit until you’ve achieved the angle you want the effect to have on your horizon, and then stop the rotation. Meanwhile rotate the other standard X24 gobo in the unit upward at the slowest speed possible. Finally, play around with the focus until you’re achieving the most ethereal effect possible and use the shutters to shape the effect onto your stage. One unit with the 50 degree lens projecting 20’ should be enough to cover the background/cyc area of most sets. I’m also a bit of an Aurora Borealis purist, and I think the effect is too Cyan – so I also suggest adding a 1.95″ round piece of Permacolor #31086 Industrial Green into the back of the lens to green it up a little.

The X24’s Aurora Borealis Effect on stage at Bas Bleu Theatre’s Production of ‘Almost, Maine’

The DMX X24 allows you to control the brightness, direction and speed of the effect from your lighting console. This gives you the ability to build cues that speed up, dim or even stop the effect all-together to support the action on stage, and make it feel like the Northern Lights are interacting with the characters.

Falling snowflakes add a nice wintry touch to holiday or winter-themed events.

Probably the most inquiries we got from last year’s blog came from the falling snowflakes effect created by the X24. While the effect has been used on stage a few times, most of the time this effect is getting put to work in special events around the world. The recipe is pretty simple – replace the standard X24 gobo closest to the lens with gobo #81249, which is a special, glass snowflake gobo for the X24.

Lake Compounce, the nation’s oldest amusement park, installed three X24’s to project a fire effect on the façade of some of their buildings for their ‘Haunted Graveyard’ this past fall. Now, simply by changing the gobos, they’re able to project falling snow flakes on the same façade for their ‘Holiday Lights’ events this month.

While the X24 isn’t rated for outdoor use, there are enclosures by Tempest Lighting that allow you to install the X24 outside in the most inclement weather.

Another popular production that’s mounted every winter is Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and one element that’s central to the story for that show is a clock. The ghosts arrive at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00, and most productions choose to have a visual clock on stage to support the dramatic timing for the audience.

Some productions choose to build a clock effect into the scenery:

Ravenswood Studio’s video of the clock they built for Ford’s Theatre production of Christmas Carol

But another approach is to project the clock using gobos and a RevoPRO gobo rotator:

You’ll need two ellipsoidals that have a big enough iris slot for the rotator (a couple of standard Source 4’s will do the trick), one REVO or RevoPRO gobo rotator and three glass gobos: One clock face gobo that will be projected statically using one of the fixtures, and the minute & hour hand gobos that will go into the gobo rotator inside the other ellipsoidal. If you’re lucky enough to have a couple of ETC’s new LED Source 4’s, you can replace the expensive glass gobos with our new Cool Ink or Cool Ink HD Plastic Gobos. From there, simply cue the timing and direction of the effect the way you like so that the clock strikes 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 when needed.

The magic comes through the ability to index both motors in RevoPRO. Other double indexing rotators only allow you to index one of the motors, so in order to achieve this effect before – you’d need three lights – all of which you’d need to aim, line up and focus perfectly. This approach removes one of the lights needed and makes the effect easier to create.

These are merely three of the effects Rosco’s range of Lighting Equipment can help you create. Visit our RoscoEffects YouTube Channel to see more effect recipes, or if you have a recipe you’d like to share with us – post a link to it in the comments below or on our Rosco Facebook Page.

I find there are two kinds of people in this world – those who LOVE winter, to whom I present this quote from Almost, Maine: “You’re about the only thing that feels really good and makes sense in this world to me.” And then there are those that HATE winter that join in a rousing “Bah Humbug!”




The X24 Effects Projector has been discontinued and has been replaced with the X-Effects LED Projector. The X-Effects LED is available in two models – a 5500K and a color-mixing RGBW – and in two wattages: 45W and 90W (HO). This upgrade provides quieter operation and removes the need for expensive lamp maintenance. Learn more:


About Joel Svendsen

Content Marketing Manager: Joel's Rosco career began in Rosco's Hollywood office in 1999 – first in sales covering the Western US and the Los Angeles Film & Television market, and then as Product Manager for Rosco's Film & Television Products. Joel's knowledge about Rosco's products and how they're used in each of our different marketplaces makes him well suited for bringing the stories in Spectrum to life.

One thought on “Northern Lights, Falling Snowflakes and Time Travel – Winter Is Coming.

  1. Ola! Rosco,
    On a similar note,, Flower In Winter
    No particular style 🙂
    © Copyright By Pami Jane Tennant

    A dense, icy frost, blankets the ground

    Animals hunt for sparsely spaced food,

    Many in their dens sleeping, snowbound.

    A wintry wind blows ‘cross shimmering night

    Northern Lights reflected from snow mirrored wood;

    and prisms from snowflakes, as in silver moonlight

    Fall gentle upon the frozen facade of Earth.

    Whilst star sown songs drift from night’s sky

    Father God orchestrates the first strains of re-birth,

    A lone scarlet tulip stands sturdy in Winter’s sigh

    As Father looks upon it smiling, and says, “It is good.”

    I pray you enjoyed it. Hugs, Pami Jane ^_^
    Good Job!

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