Last Friday, i took a tour of the Bell Lightbox with a few other folks from the indie games scene. The Lightbox is a building in downtown Toronto where the industry screenings of the Toronto International Film Festival will be held. Since the place is still under construction, we donned our orange hardhats and startlingly heavy work boots to see how it was all coming together.
Artist’s rendering. The area does not actually contain a gigantic car-less piazza, and Phantom left town over a decade ago.
The building is basically every film fan’s fantasy. The upper floors are comprised of luxury condo suites that TIFF does not own, but the bottom few floors are a tech and film freak’s idea of a good time.
Our tour guide Markus was the only one among us important enough to get actual steel-toed shoes. The rest of us signed waivers and minded our piggies. That’s Shawn from ][ steeling himself for a girder to land on his foot, while Miguel from Spooky Squid Games adjusts his safety glasses in preparation for a barrage of nail gun ammo aimed directly at his face.
We were all enthused about getting a picture with this thing, because it looks like a mid-level boss from Half-Life. That’s Paul from Forest Games preparing to rip its junk out with his bare hands. Relax! i have a feeling it just smooths concrete.
This is the exhibit hall, where they’ll be displaying props and posters from movies in installations like the Tim Burton show currently at MoMA. One of the earliest events the space will hold is a sort of “best-of” festival, where the festival will screen the best and most talked-about films from years past. In the foreground, Rob from Get Set Games treads lightly.
We were ushered (ha!) into the largest of five theatres. The variably-sized theatres are equipped to handle different film stocks, like 70mm. Our host Nick, second from the right, reminded me that Lawrence of Arabia was shot on 70mm. i nodded confidently, pretending i knew that. A short time later, i asked a Porky’s question.
One of the theatres is equipped with a roll-out piano so that live soundtracks to silent films can be performed. “Neat!” i exclaimed noiselessly, and waited for a title card to pop up telling everyone what i just said.
All of the theatres are equipped to handle digital showings. A master control centre, which we didn’t get to see because they worried our copious drooling would short the electrical equipment, can simulcast content into all five theatres at once. Master control also handles the numerous cameras embedded strategically throughout the building, which can capture star galas and other important events. There were no cameras eagerly eyeing our indie game dev tour, which i found depressingly appropriate.
Tessa eyes a pile of construction ouchies in the middle of the computer lab, wondering if she can MacGuyver it into something awesome. The Lightbox will host school groups for different activities. In the room down the hall, students will be able to film and screen their own movies; the lab will have machines running editing software so that visitors can splice them together.
i wondered if this place was the putting green, but it turns out this area will be used for offices. It’s right next to the scholars center, which will include viewing pods for screening films, and the TIFF’s collection of reels from over the years. This area was supposed to be a giant hole to let the lower-level atrium extend four floors, but cooler heads prevailed and claimed the space in favour of functionality over awesome emptiness.
Miguel and Paul grit their teeth, wondering what insulting caption i’m going to add to this pic once it’s published. (Uh … nice helmets, nerds? i got nothin’.) This open-air balcony has a great view of the CN Tower and the red-trimmed CBC headquarters. Nick points out that the building across the street hosts one of the event spy-cams like the others found throughout the Lightbox, to pull off some voyeur action on the roof. i wonder how the condo people feel about that?
i turned right from the last picture and grabbed this shot of these risers, where guests will sit and enjoy open-air screenings of movies during summer events. (And, presumably, where guests will NOT enjoy screenings of movies during winter events, because it’s hard to enjoy yourself in -30 degree weather sitting on a slab of concrete.) In the background, the Hyatt tries to sneak in free advertising.
So why was a gaggle of game nerds invited to tour the space? TIFF is looking for ways to involve related cultural groups in the goings-on at the Lightbox, and that includes the Toronto indie game scene. Nick has been astonishingly receptive to our suggestions. If half of what’s been discussed comes to fruition, the Lightbox is going to be an absolutely incredible boon to the little guys in the game industry.