• 01
    Feb
    Posted in:
    A City Known For Casinos Gives New Life To Neon Signs

    “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the saying goes. But what happens if what you’re doing in Vegas is making neon signs? The Neon Museum thinks it’s something worth sharing, and they’ve collected some of Sin City’s most famous signs after they’ve been retired.

    But this week, CBS reported that the museum is using a new technique to illuminate these bygone parts of Las Vegas’ skyline. The end results are illuminating.

    Neon Sign Retired

    How does one restore expensive neon signs?

    The signs for iconic destinations and casinos in Vegas, like the Stardust and Lady Luck, can cost thousands of dollars in parts alone. And after years of being exposed to Nevada’s winds and sands, the amount of repairs only grows. So instead of purchasing expensive new parts for these classic neon signs, Craig Winslow, a designer and artist, has decided to light them up in his own way: with projectors.

    The process he uses is called projection mapping, and it’s effect comes from animations he’s created to replicate the twinkling bulbs and glittering letters of each display. It takes a lot of work, combining drone footage and technical wizardry to recreate each light in a way that creates a realistic display.

    Making Something Out Of Nothing

    Winslow often doesn’t have complete signs to work with. Some of his projection-mapped signs are even missing letters.

    “There are moments here where there’s no bulb, but I’ve created a digital bulb that’s in its place.”

    -Craig Winslow

    While his process is complicated, the end product is worth the effort, and it combines history and modern technology in a way that gets spectators excited about pieces from the past. To see just how cool this project is today, check out this video from 2013, showing the museum’s “boneyard” before Winslow was able to bring it to life.

    Winslow’s Project Could Work In Detroit

    If Winslow’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he also worked in a similar capacity with ghost signs (which you can read about here). In this other project, Light Capsules, he used historical data and images to recreate advertisements that had previously been hand painted on buildings in Winnipeg. From there, he projected his replications onto the present-day locations of these signs, creating a juxtaposition between the past and present.

    As Detroiters gain more interest in ghost signs, Winslow’s work in Vegas strikes an inspiring chord. While our city isn’t known for neon signs, there are certain signs that seem too iconic to ever be retired. The well-lit sign over the Ambassador Bridge comes to mind, and there must be a few signs advertising Stroh’s, the Lions, and Ford floating around.

    It seems that the best way to get people excited about the history of where they live is to show it to them in a way that feels modern. Without Winslow’s projection mapping, the signs in the Neon Museum would be non-functional.

    But, with a bit of imagination, he’s given them a purpose.