The long-wondered mystery behind the tower lighting and vibrant colors finally revealed
Standing tall at the heart of campus, the Freedom Tower never fails to catch passersby’s attention. It lights up even the darkest of night skies with vibrant and flashy colors. Sometimes, those colors are mysteries for students to figure out what the colorful lights and patterns mean.
Behind the scenes, there is a team of technologists that give purpose to the Freedom Tower lights.
Michael Gerringer, chief technologist of the broadcast engineering department, and Amy Caun, production lead with campus production, explained that the Freedom Tower’s lights operate using DMX, a type of technology used for concert and theatrical lighting and effects. Channels control different aspects of the light, such as color or brightness. DMX allows several different channels to be transmitted through a single cable. This cable then transmits signals to all of the lights, the values corresponding to the colors the lights will emit.
Gerringer described how a single server in the Freedom Tower controls all campus lighting. This lighting extends beyond the Freedom Tower to the Monogram, the School of Business and even the Academic Lawn.
“In general, Marketing gives us an agenda of colors around specific dates, and we pre-program that into a calendar,” Gerringer said, explaining how the Marketing Department ultimately makes the decision as to what color will light up the Tower that day. “We also get special requests from (President Prevo) and (the chief intelligence officer) for random changes.”
During football and basketball seasons, there are pre-programmed “looks.” People at the different sports venues can let the system know if Liberty won the home game or not. If Liberty wins, a specific look will be displayed until 1 a.m.
All of the colors featured hold unique meanings. The blue and gold stripes represented Liberty’s 50th anniversary. The Tower sports the standard red and blue hues for on-campus Liberty events, such as College For a Weekend, Family Weekend, Homecoming and graduation.
“Currently, the Tower’s default look is set to cycle between red, white and blue every five minutes,” Gerringer said.
On holidays, the Tower is typically lit up in the holiday colors. Caun said that, for example, the Tower is red and pink for Valentine’s Day, purple and white for Easter, pink for Mother’s Day, blue for Father’s Day, green and orange for Thanksgiving, red and green for Christmas and the Pantone color of the year, “viva magenta,” for New Year’s Eve. Red, white and blue are always used for patriotic US holidays such as Independence Day, Labor Day and Sept. 11 (Patriot Day).
Sometimes, the Freedom Tower changes colors for more niche special occasions. For example, the Tower lights up gold for Gold Star Family Day, a day meant to honor veterans who died in service and their families. It features light pink and blue for Sanctity of Human Life Day. The Tower glows pink and white for the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness month in October.
People who pass by should know the colors on the Freedom Tower are more than just a dazzling display. Each unique and different color showcases both meaning and tributes.
Bear is the feature editor for the Liberty Champion