The 110-foot installation is a dazzling display of digital lighting and computer power

We drove by the new Mile High Tree on Speer Blvd. recently and thought “Wow! That’s really cool!” But it wasn’t until we walked to it through the Denver Center Performing Arts complex and got up-close and personal with this installation that we truly appreciated what it’s all about. If you’re going to a show at DCPA or anywhere in the vicinity this holiday season, you owe it to your visual cortex — and whatever yule cortex you might possess — to check it out.

This is the first year for the Mile High Tree, and according to the Denver.org website it’s the largest installation of its kind in North America. At 110-feet tall and 39 feet at its base, the tree is essentially an enormous, cone-shaped scaffold that supports an astounding array of lights that are synched to holiday songs in a 30-minute loop.

And while the constantly moving light show is impressive from the outside, to really grok its full wow-factor you have to go inside the tree and, if possible, lie down on your back on the astro-turf and look up.

The outside is cool …

Inside is even better …

I can be a little jaded about Christmas stuff and even Fourth of July shows, but this one had my complete attention. It does indeed read a lot like a fireworks show, only far better. For one, the lights can perform an elaborate dance perfectly timed to the music and, even better, they don’t carry the pollution factor of a fireworks show (which is significant).

The Mile High Tree was created by ILMEX Illumination based in Madrid, and other Spanish company, Brut Deluxe, did the design and pixel-mapping. That’s a technique by which the individual diodes in an LED light are mapped to a particular design or pattern. The result is a lighting performance that’s truly astonishing and which had the people inside the tree with us Saturday night all oohing and aahing repeatedly.

In the area, there are also some nice places for holiday selfies and other photos, with giant ornaments, stars and the like as well as real-flame torches. Someone thought to set up an outdoor bar near the tree, so you can grab yourself a cup of cheer along the way.

Located in the Sculpture Park near the tall white skinny dancing people, the tree is accessible from the DPAC entrance at 14th and Curtis streets and is highly visible at night from Speer Blvd. It’s completely free to visit and the 30-minute holiday shows go from 5-10:30 p.m. through Jan. 1. After that, the tree will remain up until the end of January, presumably with some other types of music.

The Mile High Tree attraction is a partnership between VISIT DENVER and Denver Arts & Venues, with the support of the DPAC tenants including Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado and the Colorado Symphony, which will have recorded performances featured in nightly music offerings.

If you’re curious about how pixel mapping works, you can geek out with this video. And if you’d like to understand a little bit about how LED lights can change color, this page is pretty informative.

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