It's a Christmastime tradition for shoppers, New Yorkers and tourists alike: Checking out store windows decorated for the holidays. Many of this year's windows use high-tech displays to showcase traditional stories and symbols of the season.
At Saks Fifth Avenue, at Fifth Avenue near 49th Street, digital projectors beam images of translucent white snowflakes and bubbles onto the store's facade. The images interact with the architecture in a magical two and a-half minute light show that takes place every 10 minutes from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. nightly. With a musical score playing in the background, the visual effects include snow gathering on ledges, bubbles emerging from windows, and the building exterior appearing to freeze over.
Macy's windows, on Broadway between 34th and 35th streets, are also a mix of high-tech media and traditional holiday themes, taking spectators on a journey through the eyes of 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon, who wrote to a newspaper in 1897 asking for proof of Santa Claus and got the famous response, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
Each window hosts a mini-theatrical show with scene changes, lighting, video and voiceover. The animation in the windows consists of digital video of intricate figures made from paper, and in each set, a small screen shows a scene within a scene, filled with Christmas trees, Santas and other symbols of the holiday.
"It has that old-fashioned feel, but there's a lot of technology in it as well," said Macy's director of windows, Paul Olszewski. The use of paper and the bright colors give the display a "storybook feel," but the windows are also "highly theatrical, each one offering its own little show," he said.
Windows at Lord & Taylor, at Fifth Avenue near 38th Street, offer 12 mechanical tableaus illustrating Christmas scenes set in New York City, inspired by favorite memories that customers shared with the store. The theme of the display is "Share the Joy," and the displays include candy canes, wrapped gifts, snowy streets, snowmen, wreath-bedecked homes, Santa's sleigh with reindeer and decorated trees.
The windows at Bergdorf Goodman, Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, were inspired by fantasy travel to farflung places and are titled "Wish You Were Here." David Hoey, Bergdorf Goodman senior director of visual presentation and window design, describes the windows as a mash-up of unexpected arrivals and departures, drawing on influences as varied as Roman mythology and the movies.
In one scene featuring a mannequin in an Oscar de la Renta gown, an antique caboose pulls out of a station; in another, a ship rolls on the sea while a figure in a striped outfit keeps company with miniature sailors. A third window offers a glittery lunar dreamscape inspired by a 1902 science fiction silent movie, while the fourth features air travel by winged horse. The final window has a Victorian-style flying machine, part bicycle, part carriage, part balloon.
The windows at Henri Bendel, Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, were inspired by "The Nutcracker" with a fun, high-fashion twist. The New York City Ballet partnered with the store on the display, which shows a 6-foot-tall female nutcracker and mannequins posed to look like ballerinas from the classic Christmas story. Inside the store, figures in tutus are suspended from the ceiling.
Finally, at Bloomingdale's, at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, a mosaic of computer-generated animation on 100 digital screens depicts a dreamy winter landscape.