Revive the Reef

Reef-inspired interactive sculpture shines the light on climate change.

  • Sydney, Australia
  • 830k
    social interactions
  • 161k
    video views

A partnership with QANTAS Future Planet and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Revive the Reef was an interactive light installation designed to inspire audiences to learn about and act against climate change. Stepping inside a virtual reef, audiences worked together to transform the world around them from bleached white to an explosion of colour and sound, proving that even small actions can make a big difference.

A natural wonder under threat

Background

The Great Barrier Reef is a natural treasure, unlike any other place on earth. Beautiful, irreplaceable… under threat. When we see pictures of bleached coral on our screens, it’s easy to feel like the problem is too big, and not see ourselves in the solution. But everyone’s actions – big and small – are vital to the Reef's future.

Colourful coral at the Great Barrier Reef.
Scuba diver swims over bleached coral at the Great Barrier Reef.

Shining a light on climate change

The Idea

Inspired by the belief that even the smallest of actions can add up to a big impact in the fight against climate change, we teamed up with QANTAS Future Planet to create Revive the Reef. Inviting audiences to step into a magical underwater world, the interactive artwork asked friends and strangers to work together to transform a bleached white virtual reef into a kaleidoscope of colour and sound.

Concept image of creative technology agency S1T2’s Revive the Reef light installation at Vivid Sydney.

Enter an underwater world

Immersion

Stepping inside the 6m x 4m light installation, audiences were engulfed by a virtual reef landscape complete with thousands of light refractive fish and four huge pillars of coral. To begin, the creative technology landscape was relatively sterile and lifeless – motionless fish lit with the bright white of bleached coral.

However, as audiences interacted, 32,736 individual LEDs – covering over 136 metres – built in colour and vibrancy, eventually exploding with light as life was returned to the reef in a truly immersive celebration of the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, and the power of collective action.

Unwind threats to the Reef

Interaction
Girl and two adults spin Revive the Reef’s interactive coral as dohotic film fish reflect bright white light.

In order to transform Revive the Reef from a lifeless monolith into a vibrant ecosystem, audiences needed to work together to symbolically unwind the pressures threatening the real life Great Barrier Reef. Turning the coral-shaped handles atop each interactive light pillar, visitors brought pulses of colour to the bleached light installation.

Building with the speed of the turns – and with the amount of pillars interacted with – these pulses of light would eventually bring colour to the entire creative technology reef. Transformed in a 20 second celebration of the vibrancy and excitement of a healthy reef, the interactive artwork reinforced that everyone has a role to play in saving the Great Barrier Reef.

Bringing the installation to life

Animation

The luminous world of Revive the Reef was brought to life with three distinct states, each created through careful planning and animation. To do this, we adopted a pixel art-inspired aesthetic, mocking up animated blocks of LEDs in a mock up animatic. This animatic was then reduced down to a sequence of thousands of tiny pixels, each mapped to an LED in the interactive artwork.

Three computer screens and notebook show the behind the scenes process of animating the lights for Revive the Reef.

The first, ambient state saw the installation lit only with bright white light, pulsing and spiralling through the coral to entice and attract visitors to interact. Meanwhile, the second state saw each interaction pillar fill slowly with colour (mirrored on the central column) as visitors spun the coral. Here, the animation helped audiences understand how to interact – only when all pillars were full would the whole light installation come to life.

The third state of Revive the Reef was a 20 second celebration of the beauty and diversity of a healthy coral reef. A stunning reward for visitor interaction, this final light display drew inspiration from colours of the reef and featured animations choreographed to music in a dazzling display of light and sound, creating a mood of awe and delight.

Boy spins interactive coral in the Revive the Reef interactive artwork as installation lights up with colour.
Reef glow background.

Combining physical + digital

Social Integration

Revive the Reef wasn’t just a vibrant celebration of the Great Barrier Reef, but also a tangible way for us to make a real difference. In line with the physical light installation at Vivid Sydney, a social media campaign saw QANTAS carbon offset one flight between Sydney and Cairns for every post using the hashtag #ReviveTheReef. This integration of the physical and the digital helped the project realise its core message: that small actions can make a real difference.

Scrapbook of media coverage and social media engagement from Revive the Reef.

Education through interaction

Results

At its core, Revive the Reef was a demonstration of our commitment to sustainability and the protection of our planet into the future. We’ve been honoured to share the interactive artwork – and its message of climate action – with audiences both offline and online at both the Vivid Sydney and Melbourne’s Glow Festival.

Revive the Reef interactive light installation by creative technology agency S1T2 at Vivid Sydney festival.
Cropped image of the revive the reef installation.

Stay in the loop

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates and insights about Revive the Reef and other S1T2 projects.

Welcome to the party