Loading ...

At dusk, a collection of woodlands and botanical gardens across North America, Europe and Asia illuminate into celestial dreamscapes, with orbs, cosmic visions and descending stars glowing to the mystical harmony of an original soundtrack. Welcome to Lumina Enchanted Night Walks, a ticketed outdoor experience growing like a constellation around the world—at press time, nine exist in Canada, including all-season walks in Whistler, British Columbia, and Quebec City; four in the United States, including Los Angeles, New York and Gatlinburg, Tennessee; five in Asia, including in China and Japan; and two in France.

Dominic Audet and Sakchin Bessette,
cofounders of Moment Factory.

The night walks are the product of Moment Factory, a Montréal-based studio that turns public spaces into otherworldly realms designed for self-reflection, multisensory exploration and interconnectedness. On other projects, the studio’s canvases include iconic landmarks, famous basilicas, international airports and the stages of the biggest acts in music.

Executive creative director Sakchin (“Saky”) Bessette, who cofounded Moment Factory in 2001, characterizes the studio’s output as “emotional entertainment spectacle,” and says, with a twinkle in his eye, “We give people a shared transformative experience without psychedelics.”

Browse Projects

Click on an image to view more from each project

Moment Factory has staged more than 550 mind-bending multimedia spectacles, from conception and design through to production and execution. “We’re far from being an advertising agency, as we don’t develop concepts for clients and then supervise a production company to get it off the ground,” Bessette explains. “We assume responsibility for everything.”

That end-to-end capability is reflected inside Moment Factory’s roughly 80,000 sq. ft. headquarters in an old industrial red-bricked building. In place of a reception area is a funky cafeteria with a residential kitchen, a menu board of the week’s chef-prepared lunches for staff, and long wooden tables with overhanging plants and twinkle lights strung across the ceiling. The sprawling area sometimes hosts themed costume parties for staff of up to 500 people.

Adjacent to the cafeteria sits a two-story, 40-by-60-foot green-screen studio called the “Black Box” for the black curtains that can conceal it. Here, multimedia content gets filmed and installations tested with larger lighting and video equipment, brought in through a loading dock at the building’s rear. The Black Box enables Moment Factory to host client viewings of an installation on a larger scale.

The studio is scattered with detailed replicas of global landmarks like Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, the magnus opus of architect Gaudi, which was constructed by Moment Factory for projection mapping of a 2012 sound and light experience that the studio was hired to stage on the basilica’s facade. Called Ode à la vie, it required 16 video projectors, 13 computers and 25 moving lights. Also on display: a replica measuring about nineteen feet long of Montréal’s 11,240-foot-long prized steel structure, the Jacques Cartier Bridge. It was used for testing a 2017 light installation that turned it into the “digital pulse” of the city, with projections of colors and animations changing based on inputs like traffic data and mentions of Montréal on social media.

Moment Factory’s offices are on the top floor, where staff work at open-concept adjustable workstations and convene with project teams in themed conference rooms—one, for example, mimics a starship. Bessette’s office resides at the far corner, furnished with shelves displaying an eclectic jumble of objects picked up during his travels: a life-sized Darth Vader helmet here, a gold metal figurine of the Statue of Liberty draped in a polka-dot shawl there and a Salvador Dali–esque melting wall clock. “The contrast of random objects inspires me,” says Bessette. “These objects are weird alone but become weirder when they’re beside something else, and, for me, that’s where creativity lies—connecting things together that weren’t connected before.”

It’s not just that it’s cool to bring people together in the physical dimension. We think it’s fundamental to humankind. But we’re not anti-metaverse or anti–social media. We just use the digital world and technology to help create in the physical world.” —Sakchin Bessette

What you won’t see: photos of himself with music superstars, despite Moment Factory having counted Celine Dion, Billie Eilish, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails and Ed Sheeran as clients. “My brain doesn’t go to the past. It’s always about tomorrow, next week, next year,” he explains. However, he did recently attend Madonna’s retrospective Celebration tour stop in Montréal. “She has a very good sense of humor,” says Bessette, who worked closely with the Material Girl when Moment Factory conceptualized and produced the visual elements of her Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show in 2012. “She’s intense, passionate—a visionary artist.”

Music is at the roots of Moment Factory, with Bessette and another of the studio’s cofounders, chief of innovation Dominic Audet, getting their start as rave and nightclub DJs and promoters. Their first visual projections were from VHS tapes against makeshift canvases—think bedsheets hung from venue walls. In 2008, the duo joined forces with Eric Fournier, a former exec at Cirque du Soleil, and started staging events for the famed troupe as well as launches into new revenue streams—like its first nightclub collaboration, LIGHT, at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay Resort in 2013. (Fournier left the studio last year, but a number of other Cirque alums hold senior creative duties.)

Moment Factory could be a very different operation today had it followed the money trail paved when digital technology presented new opportunities. “At a certain point, we were being asked, ‘Can you also make a big music video for us? A CD-ROM? A website?’” recalls Bessette. “And we could have because of the multidisciplinary talent in our studio, but we had dedicated ourselves from the beginning to live experiences.”

And so, while other studios have been focused on the metaverse as of late, Moment Factory has doubled down on its motto, “We do it in public”—the first words visitors to the studio’s website see. “It’s not just that it’s cool to bring people together in the physical dimension. We think it’s fundamental to humankind,” says Bessette, citing research from the US Surgeon General finding that loneliness and isolation can be as bad as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. “But we’re not anti-metaverse or anti–social media. We just use the digital world and technology to help create in the physical world.”

That has included bringing wonder to transit systems, such as railways in Tokyo and Ottawa and airports like LAX and Singapore Changi Airport. At Changi, Moment Factory collaborated with Bangkok- and Paris-based design studio BOIFFILS to create Wonderfall, a four-story digital waterfall set to instrumentation by Montréal-based composer and pianist Jean-Michel Blais.

“We’re looking forward to creating more of our own shows and for them to shine for a long time.” —Patricia Ruel

Given Moment Factory works with infrastructure that has never had such installations, the culture at the studio is focused on continuous learning. It runs its own school called MF School, housed in a separate space on the studio’s main floor, for onboarding and has masterclasses and online learning tutorials developed for each discipline. Last year, around 100 hires were onboarded through MF School, bringing the employee count to 420 globally. (Most staff members are in Montréal, but the studio also has satellite offices in New York, Paris, Singapore and Tokyo.)

“A lot of good talent knows how to do motion design, but for interfaces like a computer, film and video game screens—not for a real forest or airport or bridge,” says Catherine Turp, executive director of creation. “We had to develop masterclasses from scratch for people to understand how to create in such large scale. MF School also helps talent develop their careers and stay with us longer. We have a mix of disciplines, and so if someone is interested in new skillsets or, for instance, wants to move from project management to production, the school helps them achieve their goals.”

The Lumina Enchanted Night Walks are a critical area of focus. They’ve been successful, with the number of visitors to the 20 night walks that have opened to date being an estimated five million people. More partners than clients, the custodians of these lands have been thrilled with the results. The 14th in the series is located in Wendake near Quebec City, an Aboriginal reserve of the Huron-Wendat Nation with nature trails. “Our ancestral values of respect for nature and balance between our economic activities and the community have motivated our unwavering support for this project of major importance for our tourism industry,” says Rémy Vincent, Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation. The 21st walk launches this year in Australia, and Moment Factory is scouting sites to add to the US footprint in 2025. “We’re still creating shows for clients, but with Lumina, we’re creating our own experience, Moment Factory’s IP,” says lead creative director Patricia Ruel. “While adapting each experience to its unique site and working in close collaboration with the client, we have a lot of creative liberty. This freedom has led to interesting discussions between staff, allowing us to push the boundaries of innovation and artistic expression in those projects.”

As it has with clients, Moment Factory brings the same creative rigor to its IP with the founding of a “Forest Lab.” One of the co-owners owns land in the countryside two hours from Montréal; there, employees test ideas, innovate collaboratively and discover new perspectives on environmental installations. “We go out there for three or four days at a time and test the prototypes, sometimes installing the show programming,” says Ruel. Moment Factory also tests in winter for all-season walks, in particular to see how the light reflects off snow. The Forest Lab also hosts an annual weekend where the studio’s employees, family and friends are transported into an ephemeral world.

Last year, Moment Factory also pioneered Miroir Miroir, an original indoor sensory playground. With its first and second installations launching in Montréal and Adelaide, Australia, the third opened in February in Calgary, with nine dynamic art installations such as Memory Storage, where sharing memories by mobile devices activates a unique choreography of light. The Mirrors of Tomorrow section, meanwhile, involves a tarot reading. Calgary’s Miroir Miroir is in a shopping mall, providing it with a unique experience to lure in shoppers. Lumina Enchanted Night Walks and Miroir Miroir circle back to the formula of one of Moment Factory’s first big clients: Cirque du Soleil, where Ruel was previously creative director for shows that often toured the world for ten years. “We’re looking forward to creating more of our own shows and for them to shine for
a long time,” she says. ca

Toronto-based Chris Daniels (chris@chrisdaniels.ca) writes about advertising, marketing and visual communications for publications such as Applied Arts and Marketing


With a free Commarts account, you can enjoy 50% more free content
Create an Account
Get a subscription and have unlimited access
Already a subscriber or have a Commarts account?
Sign In

Get a subscription and have unlimited access
Already a subscriber?
Sign In