Strides in Sight and Sound
Whether it’s creating dazzling displays, adding excitement to dark rides, or revealing the stories behind art and artifacts, the use of audiovisual (AV) technology has enhanced the attractions industry’s ability to create memorable moments.
Today’s guests hold expectations that are higher than ever. Consumers can access impressive AV experiences through their homes, their phones, and even their cars. What sets attractions apart is the ability to blend AV and theming together when telling dynamic stories at scale, in a shared and social way.
Gyeongnam Masan Robot Land, which officially launched in September 2019, is one of the hottest high-tech debuts. South Korea’s government backed “the world’s first robot theme park” as part of a development in Changwon that includes rides, shows, a research and development center, and a convention center. Gyeongnam Masan Robot Land—where assembly line robots dance to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” ballet on stage—provides an entertaining glimpse into the future.
“No effort was spared to deliver the best visual and audio experience for visitors,” says Seung Won Ham, head manager at Star Networks. Star Networks, along with Digital Line Technology Group (D.L.T. Group), acted as Christie’s Korean partners on the project.
Christie hardware and software solutions are “the backbone of almost all the attractions,” says Ernest Bakenie, director of sales for Asia-Pacific, entertainment, at Christie. Christie laser projectors (48 in total) are used for projection mapping and displays, transporting guests to visionary worlds populated by robot helpers.
“All the laser projectors are equipped with Christie’s BoldColor Technology, which creates the color balance needed to accurately reproduce colorful images, without sacrificing brightness. As a result, visitors can experience vividly immersive environments in the various attractions,” says Bakenie.
He believes end-to-end solutions—technologies that work together to achieve engaging visitor experiences—are the way forward for the attractions industry.
Eight Christie projectors are used to produce the media found in the flying theater ride, “Wing of Cosmos.” Fulldome.pro, MediaMation, and D.L.T. Group worked on the theater, which combines a 20-meter-high dome, 4K-resolution content, a wraparound screen, motion seats, and surround sound.
Christie Pandoras Box handles massive amounts of audio and video content for the park, providing media playback and show control “with perfect synchronization for numerous attractions and shows,” says Bakenie.
Bringing Snorri to Life
The new “Snorri Touren” dark ride at Europa-Park opened in November using advanced AV technology to tell the story of an octopus named Snorri. The enterprising character operates a tour business beneath the park’s Scandinavian-themed area. His destination is Rulantica, the mythical island serving as inspiration for Europa-Park’s new indoor water park. Snorri blows his horn to ignite a trail of blue sparkles that leads guests past mermaids, shipwrecks, singing trolls, and the sea snake Svalgur.
“It’s a classic dark ride on a small footprint. But visitors don’t feel that it’s small because the attraction is full of details and atmosphere,” says Matthias Lange, head of design and development at MackNeXT.
The family attraction fits the ride system, animatronics, elaborate show sets, projections, animated content, and AV effects into 500 square meters.
“We used nearly all of our toolbox on this ride—from projection mapping on walls and figures, to Pepper’s Ghost effects and dome projection,” says Paul Kent, senior consultant, entertainment at Electrosonic.
Electrosonic worked with the park’s designers and Jora Vision to choose technical solutions that would provide the best guest experience.
“Everyone learned that close collaboration leads to a better product,” says Kent.
Electrosonic paid particular attention to the lens choices, ensuring high-quality, large-screen projection from a very short distance. Jora Vision prefabricated almost all of the décor, which was expertly cut to discreetly fit the lighting and sound systems on “Snorri Touren.” Props also house sound equipment.
Snorri bobs into view throughout the ride, thanks to seamless media integration in the sets.
“The media perspective shifts with the movement of the vehicle,” adds Simeon van Tellingen, creative director at Jora Vision.
Innovating to Impress
Lange at MackNeXT expects projection mapping’s popularity to continue.
“Further down the line, virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) might take the crown, but today, it is still complex to implement VR or AR features in a ride,” Lange says.
Kent at Electrosonic sees a demand for “more immersive, interactive, and changeable experiences, with a move to virtualized delivery platforms to allow this.”
Digital art museums, powered by projection, are currently mesmerizing audiences with living exhibitions. Culturespaces—the force behind Atelier des Lumières in Paris, Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-de-Provence, France, and the new Bassins de Lumières art center in Bordeaux, France—counts on Barco as its exclusive projection partner.
“Projection can really bring a story to life,” says Leander Werbrouck, segment manager, strategic marketing at Barco. This is especially true when projection is combined with interactivity on dark rides. Barco worked with Sally Dark Rides on the Sesame Street-themed “Street Mission” at PortAventura World in Tarragona, Spain, and with Alterface on “Popcorn Revenge” at Walibi Belgium in Wavre.
Besides looking good on day one, Werbrouck recommends parks use products that are engineered in a way that are easy to maintain. By minimizing downtime, an attraction can continue to please guests and drive business.
Holovis’ HoloTrac technology plays a leading role in the “Lego Factory Adventure” dark ride, which the company created with Merlin Entertainments for the new Legoland New York in Goshen, 60 miles northwest of New York City.
In a world first, the HoloTrac tracking solution will turn guests in real time into Lego Minifigures when the park opens in July. A character named Professor Brick will transform guests into Minifigures so they can fully appreciate the Lego factory tour. Ride vehicles will spin around and face a screen, where riders will see their car and themselves looking like Lego creations. The HoloTrac software matches riders’ hair color, style, and appearance to their Minifigure. Gesture control allows the Minifigures to mimic riders’ movements, giving the ride interactivity and personality.
“This is going beyond wearable technology—you don’t need it; you just need you,” says Peter Cliff, creative director at Holovis.
Small Is Beautiful
Smaller AV projects can also be stunning. Holovis produced a hit in the United Kingdom when the company used projection mapping to turn back the hands of time at Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building.
The display, a love letter to the city of Liverpool, literally shows the inside of the clock tower in a whole new light.
“It was the perfect media canvas,” says Cliff. “Projection mapping allows the building to do the talking.”
The show was designed to be simple to operate.
Elsewhere in the U.K., David Willrich, director of DJW, installed a digital production for the “Strawberry Field” exhibition, exploring John Lennon’s childhood and the inspiration behind the Beatles’ iconic song, “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
The site features 13 projection systems, 14 LCD screens, and ambient audio, all linked to a digital tour guide. DJW worked with exhibition designer Cubit 3D on the AV hardware design, installation, and software production. Five projectors are used in the finale, which features archive images synchronized to the famous song. Visitors can “play” the Mellotron instrument featured in “Strawberry Fields Forever” on an interactive table using projection mapping.
The installation proves attractions of all sizes need not have enormous budgets to use the latest AV tools successfully, distinctively, and memorably when creating guest experiences.
Funworld Contributing Editor Juliana Gilling covers the attractions industry in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Contact her at [email protected].