Birth­day bash

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - COMMUNITY -

For­mer Marl­bor­ough Boys’ Col­lege stu­dent Jon Bax­ter is help­ing to bring some sparkle to Welling­ton’s 150th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions this week­end, in­clud­ing a birth­day cake which will be pro­jected onto the Par­lia­ment build­ings.

The founder of Auck­land com­pany Per­cep­tual En­gi­neer­ing is the au­dio­vi­sual di­rec­tor of the sound and light show at the Big Birth­day Party, cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Welling­ton com­pany Story Inc.

Jon says the show is nine min­utes long and will be pro­jected onto the walls of Par­lia­ment. It re­veals dif­fer­ent as­pects of the city’s history, us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of phys­i­cal mod­els and tech­nol­ogy.

The first ‘‘act’’ is a ex­plo­ration of the artis­tic at­mos­phere of Welling­ton.

Then the show moves onto an­cient Maori times and the myth of Maui pulling the North Is­land from the sea. The third se­quence is ‘‘fly­ing into the fish’s head’’ and fea­tures a ‘‘doll’s house’’, which is built around a scale model of Par­lia­ment the size of a din­ing room ta­ble.

Po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions are rep­re­sented by levers, pul­lies and boil­ers in­side the house.

Fi­nally there is a ‘‘shout out to the sub­urbs’’ which fo­cuses on dif­fer­ent ar­eas, and then a spec­tac­u­lar, Par­lia­ment-shaped birth­day cake will be pro­jected onto the build­ing.

Hav­ing to por­tray so many dif­fer­ent as­pects of Welling­ton has meant he has had to go ‘‘quite deep’’ into the city’s history. He is fin­ish­ing work on the doll’s house model this week, and it has been both ‘‘ex­cit­ing and ex­haust­ing’’, he says.

‘‘It’s been a re­ally awe­some pro­ject, the dive into history and cul­ture is awe­some. I’ve had a cool crew to work with,’’ he says.

Many dif­fer­ent peo­ple were in­volved with dif­fer­ent sides of the pro­ject, with Jon ‘‘cross­ing over ev­ery­thing’’.

The doll’s house seg­ment in­volved peo­ple film­ing, Welling­ton artist Stephen Tem­pler phys­i­cally cre­at­ing the model, and ‘‘phys­i­cal and 3-D an­i­ma­tions’’. Jon’s brother-in­law com­poser Cam Bal­lyn­tyne cre­ated a ‘‘scream­ing sound­track’’ which is a real ‘‘toetap­per’’.

‘‘It’s very much a zoo,’’ Jon says.

In ad­di­tion to the light show, mu­si­cian Dave Dob­byn and Welling­ton’s Or­pheus Choir will be per­form­ing dur­ing the evening.

Jon founded Per­cep­tual En­gi­neer­ing 15 years ago af­ter work­ing free­lance in vis­ual ef­fects in New Zealand, Aus­tralia and Asia. It was ‘‘con­stantly evolv­ing’’ and he had a va­ri­ety of projects to work on, he says.

In the next two months a ‘‘time ma­chine’’ for Welling­ton will be com­pleted, which will take the viewer back to the start of time and into the fu­ture. It will be ex­hib­ited in Welling­ton mu­seum for 10 years which is ‘‘quite ex­cit­ing’’, Jon says.

He works with many dif­fer­ent free­lance artists and the com­pany tended to ‘‘shrink and grow’’ depend­ing on what was on, Jon says.

Jon went to Marl­bor­ough Boys’ Col­lege for a few years be­fore mov­ing up to Palmer­ston North, and go­ing on ex­change to San Fran­cisco. He was in­ter­ested in film and tech­nol­ogy from his school days, he says.

Jon stud­ied com­merce and psy­chol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Otago, be­fore tak­ing a course in TV broad­cast­ing at Christchurch Poly­tech­nic. His in­ter­est in per­cep­tual psy­chol­ogy comes into his work ‘‘ev­ery day’’ and the light show it­self will be ‘‘quite trippy’’ and will chal­lenge peo­ple’s per­cep­tions.

Jon has some fond mem­o­ries of liv­ing in Marl­bor­ough, and jump­ing of the jetty at Ngakuta Bay stands out to him. He still likes go­ing back to the area, though he does not get to re­turn as of­ten as he would like.

‘‘In the school hol­i­days I take the kids to see their grand­par­ents: that’s the good thing about the hol­i­days,’’ he says.

Jon Bax­ter with the birth­day cake for Welling­ton’s 150th an­niver­sary party.

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