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SoCal Connected

Behind the Towering Light Show

Anyone driving past downtown L.A. at night has seen the colored lights on the top of the US Bank building. But how many of us have gone 75 floors up to see the lights from the inside. Reporter Derrick Shore discovers how the lights are programmed, how they choose the colors and he takes a walk on the helipad 1018-feet above the ground to see the US Bank lights like few people ever have.


Derrick Shore: At more than 1,000 feet in height you can’t miss it. If you’ve seen downtown LA you’ve seen the bank tower. And you might have noticed that sometimes the lights at the top - -they change color. So how does it all happen? Well you're in luck, because I'm about to show you. Since 1989 the US Bank Tower -- formerly the Library Tower -- has been the tallest building west of the Mississippi. This is unbelievable.  I didn’t think I was afraid of heights… until now. And today… I’m just a few steps away from the edge. I mean -- this is a view unlike any other in Los Angeles. But I’m not just here for the incredible view. I want to know how the lights at the top work.

Derrick Shore: Our tour guide is John Gamboa, Senior VP for OUE. That’s the Singapore-based company that owns the building. So you can get us into all the special places we need to go, right?

John Gamboa: Whatever you want.

Derrick Shore: Excellent! All access! Let's do it. Before seeing the crown lights, John gave me a look at the software program that controls them.

John Gamboa: This is our dashboard and basically from here we can basically orchestrate a whole light symphony.

Derrick Shore: Whoa so you could choose any color in the rainbow?

John Gamboa: Basically, yeah.

Derrick Shore: The light colors are chosen based on things like special events, causes or holidays.

John Gamboa: It's a team effort when we decide what the lights should look like for one particular night. This was pink here, that was done for breast cancer awareness.

Derrick Shore: Today John would be showing us how the lights change color….but not just yet.

John Gamboa: See this button here that says fire now? That's a delicate button.

Derrick Shore: So don't push it is what you're saying?

John Gamboa:  Do not push that exactly. We can play around with this but as soon as we hit that button -- all the lights change upstairs.

Derrick Shore: Okay that's the button that you push after you've already programmed what you want the lights to do.

John Gamboa: That's right.

Derrick Shore: OK. Then it was time to begin our journey up to the crown lights. How many elevators are in this building? There's.... uh.... How many are there Anastaysia?

John Gamboa: 44.

Derrick Shore: I'm sorry, what now? You heard the man. 44 elevators. These people mean business! Whoah!  Wait let’s bring our television audience inside.  There are really 44 elevators in this place? Wow, my ears just popped. Did yours?

John Gamboa: Yeah.

Derrick Shore: Oh I have to keep swallowing because they keep popping!

John Gamboa: And we're only half way there almost.

Derrick Shore: Then we transferred to another elevator. This is a fast elevator. It's kind of a fast ride, isn't it?

John Gamboa: We're in another atmosphere.

Derrick Shore:  But we aren’t there yet.

John Gamboa: We have to climb this marine ladder. DS: Ok. JG: So everyone be careful.

Derrick Shore: Alright. They don't make it easy to get to the crown lights. I feel like we're really on an adventure now. No more elevators. So we've gotta be getting close to the top now.

John Gamboa: That's right.

Derrick Shore: After a few flights of stairs… and a scary warning sign...Wait -- health hazard? Deadly, extreme... yeah we just won't read this.

John Gamboa: No, I think uh....

Derrick Shore: We'll just pretend we haven't seen this. We had finally arrived at the crown. This is the moment of truth.

John Gamboa: This is it.

Derrick Shore: And we’ll ignore this little sign, too.

John Gamboa: Let's do it.

Derrick Shore:Okay!.... Wow, that's soo cool.

John Gamboa: So what you're looking at now is basically one of the twelve light wells, or wedges of the US Bank Tower Crown.

Derrick Shore: Can I just carefully step right here? Don't worry. I'm like a cat. I have really good reflexes so I'm not going to fall. It's amazing from the ground how small the crown looks but we're inside one of the wells and this thing is massive.

John Gamboa: Yeah.  Just the amount of light it takes to fill one of these things up is extraordinary.

Derrick Shore: Inside each of these 12 light wells are 20 light panels.  That’s 240 light panels total to illuminate the entire crown. Are you able to show us how you change them?

John Gamboa: Definitely.

Derrick Shore: OK. Let's see! When John’s not in front of the light control panel, he can change the colors using an app on his phone.  

John Gamboa: They're about to change.

Derrick Shore: OK. Whoah. Okay now they're off. Uh oh. What did you do? Wait for it...

John Gamboa: Right now we've got the 4th of July colors up. Basically red, white and blue. Uh for the fourth of July we do a dynamic show

Derrick Shore: And a dynamic show is-- that's essentially what we're seeing now. where the lights are blinking on and off and changing colors, right?

John Gamboa: Right.

Derrick Shore: I can't believe you're controlling all of this from your phone.And I couldn’t believe just how many different light combinations John was showing us.  I mean, were we really allowed to do this? How significant does something have to be for you guys to change the colors of the crown?

John Gamboa: Usually it has to be something of at least citywide significance. You know we play with different colors that represent sports teams, individual people. countries, specific holidays. So it's gotta be something of cultural significance at least a citywide level.

Derrick Shore: From a Lakers win … to the death of Prince...

John Gamboa: This is a form of expression and we can connect with the local community, we can connect with the rest of the country. You know what we do here with light it's fun and it's easy but you know it actually shows a lot of support for different things that we believe in. Right, we're not a typical office building -- the building now has its own conscience.

Derrick Shore:So next time you look at up the US Bank Tower, take a moment to think about the meaning behind the crown lights.  Those colors weren’t chosen by accident. Unless, of course, I’m in the building.  

John Gamboa: Did anyone see the haywire Bank Tower lights the other night?

Derrick Shore: No, no -- it was just Derrick and John messing around with the lights.

John Gamboa: Exactly.

Derrick Shore: For "SoCal Connected," I’m Derrick Shore.

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