A Re-occurring Theme

The Frankston Christmas Festival of Lights

Illumination Physics has a reputation for large scale architectural lighting. In reality the company has a broader offering including many and varied applications.

This is an example.

Photography: Jacob Manfred

The City of Frankston lies on the east coast of Port Philip Bay approximately 40 kilometres south of the Melbourne CBD as the crow flies. Frankston is many things, part suburban, part industrial, and part recreational, situated on the tranquil coastline that the sheltered bay provides with kilometres of sandy beaches.

Christmas comes in summer in Australia and outdoor celebrations are the norm. The City of Frankston has organised a Christmas Festival of Lights with a 22-year history, according to Frankston Council. Sadly, interrupted by Covid 19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021 – the family event was reinstated bigger and better than ever in 2022. Numerous Christmas themed activities and entertainment are staged and, of course, there are fireworks.

There is a centrepiece to the event and the festive season. A massive Norfolk Pine stands in Davey Street. It is rumoured to be 130 years old. Over decades it has become a local annual tradition to place strings of lighting amongst the branches of this majestic plant, to create a Christmas Tree on a grand scale.


Photography: Jacob Manfred


Photography: Jacob Manfred

Since the lighting of the tree was destined to occur every year, it made economic sense to purchase a lighting system that could be installed for 6 weeks, then taken down and stored for the following years. The strings of lights had required properties. The emission of light from the light fixtures must be visible from all directions. The light fixtures must be able to change colour individually and be controllable in pre-determined animated sequences to produce a light show, unlike the random twinkling of domestic Christmas Tree lights.

The installation and programming of the lighting equipment has been entrusted to Australia’s premiere entertainment rigging and staging company, Showtech Australia, for many years. We were approached by David Sagen and Rohan Thornton on behalf of Showtech Australia. Every November the lighting system would be safely installed in conjunction with an arborist to ensure that that special tree was protected.

Over the years, the lighting system had physically aged.

The search for a suitable replacement system began.


Showtech Australia were our client.

Their specification of the new strings of light fixtures contained the following mandatory requitements:

  1. If a light fixture failed, it must be easily possible to replace just that fixture only. The rest of the string would remain.
  2. There would be an in and out cable for DC power and DMX data combined, with male and female connectors that could be connected by hand without tools.
  3. The new fixtures should be more robust than the system they were replacing.
  4. Every outdoor part of the new lighting system must have an ingress protection rating of 67, meaning that they could be submerged temporarily without any ingress of water.
  5. The LED colours in each dot would be RGBW (red, green, blue, and white).
  6. The light fixture would have an extended diffused domed lens so that the effect of the light could be observed from many angles.
  7. The system should be as maintenance free as possible.
  8. Another critical component of the Frankston City Council brief was the UV factor of the product.

Photography: Jacob Manfred


The new fixture would require customisation, but the existing IP Data Dot was an excellent platform upon which to base the new fixture. It was available in RGBW format with a suitable light output. Constructed of die cast aluminium with heavy duty cable glands and a solid domed lens, it was already extremely robust. The fixture naturally has an ingress rating of IP67, and it was designed to be connected in strings.

The standard IP Data Dot used a continuous DC power and DMX data cable to interconnect the dots into a string. In order that a single fixture in a string could be easily replaced we would replace the continuous interconnecting cable with an IN and an OUT cable on each IP Data Dot with a push-to-snap connector. The cables would be 500mm long meaning that the Data Dots would be placed at one metre centres, which was considered perfect for the height of the tree. There would be 25 Data dots in each of 22 strings, 550 in total. There is an 11m starter cable carrying DC power and DMX data for each string, together with a 24-volt DC PSU rated at IP67.

The Data Dot uses the DMX RDM protocol (remote device management), so that if a fixture was replaced, its DMX address could be easily set using a handheld RDM Commander device.

The shape of the Dome became the next challenge. The existing domed lens on the standard IP Data Dot was not prominent enough. Two alternate shapes were considered.

1. A spherical diffused lens.
2. An extended diffused domed lens of the same diameter as the standard lens, but three times taller.

The visibility of both options was similar but the tooling for option 2 was more economical, so this was the design that was chosen. PMMA was the material chosen because of invulnerability to ultraviolet radiation without any yellowing.

Finally, the transparency vs diffusion of the lens had to be established so that excellent colour mixing would be achieved whilst maximising the light output. A variety of samples with differing levels of diffusion were made and tested to find the best result.

Photography: Jacob Manfred

On the 26th of November 2022, the Frankston Christmas Tree was ceremonially turned on and the delightful display was revealed for all to see.

The new Illumination Physics lighting system will provide a reliable and easily maintained high performance solution, designed specifically for purpose.  It will serve the City of Frankston far into the next decade.

Photography: Jacob Manfred


  • 550 x IP Data dot RGBW in strings of 25 dots
  • 22 x PSU 60W/24VDC IP67
  • 6 x IP 6 way DMX splitters