InPark Magazine Issue #44 (November 2012)

Page 1

#44• volume 8, issue 5

spreading their wings The Producers Group’s Edward Marks and Bob Chambers talk about building Crane Dance and some of the biggest one-off entertainment spectacles in the world

T #44• volume 8, issue 5

5 9 19 22 24 28

east meets wet

waterparks reach out to asia • by Edward Shaw, et. al.

building the unseen

The Producers Group talks about project production • by Judith Rubin

shedding some light

a lighting designer roundtable • edited by Judith Rubin & Mark Andrew

disney printerncess

a journey from Disney princess to Disney intern • by Arielle Rassel

can you DIGSS it?

giant screen looks for standards in digital projection • by Joe Kleiman

projection killed the video star

Busch Gardens Tampa paints the ice with projectors • by Martin Palicki

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CO-EDITOR judith rubin CONTRIBUTING EDITORS joe kleiman mitch rily kim rily DESIGN mcp, llc

InPark is leading the way in this area. As one of the first publications in the industry to offer an iPad version of the magazine, we now have multiple channels for you to get information from. Our print edition is still available, and especially popular at trade shows like IAAPA, WWA, AAM and the Asian Attractions Show. We offer digital versions in multiple formats, including a virtual issue. There’s also our weekly email of top news stories, our news blog, editor’s feature blog, facebook page, linkedin group, twitter feed, youtube channel and more. And nearly all of it is free to access. As a trade publication, we are here to support your industry, increase your business, be spokespeople to mainstream media, and provide you with insight, news and trends that help make your job easier. We depend on the support of our advertisers, so please remember to patronize them. Without them, we aren’t able to accomplish all of the above. So thank you for continuing to read InPark, thank you to our advertisers, and to everyone in the industry who helps to contribute to everyone’s success. Have a profitable IAAPA, and be sure to stop by the InPark booth at #1850. I will be in the booth all day Tuesday and Friday and would love to meet you. -Martin Palicki


staff & contributors EDITOR martin palicki

he times, they are a changing. With recent reports of Newsweek ceasing print publication, the future of the magazine business may look questionable. While consumer-oriented magazines operate differently than trade publications, the way we all process and consume information is changing. The rush to go digital is inevitable, but the smart publishers are managing to find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

CONTRIBUTORS christian aaen mark andrew matthew l. earnest joe kleiman arielle rassel edward shaw SALES martin palicki

InPark Magazine (ISSN 1553-1767) is published five times a year by Martin Chronicles Publishing, LLC. 2349 E Ohio Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207. Shipping address: 2349 E Ohio Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207. Phone: 262-412-7107. Fax: 414-377-0769. Printing by Crescent Printing in Onalaska, Wisconsin Contents © 2012 InPark Magazine. All rights reserved. Nothing in the magazine may be reproduced or used in any manner without the prior written permission of the magazine. InPark Magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or illustrations. Such material must be accompanied by a self-adressed and stamped envelope to be returned. Postmaster: Send address changes to InPark Magazine 2349 E Ohio Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207. Subscriptions are available annually for $30 per year ($40 international). Opinions expressed in editorial matter are not necessarily those of InPark Magazine or its publishers, Martin Chronicles Publishing, LLC.

cover The Producers Group’s Edward Marks and Bob Chambers stand in front of a celebratory scene from Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa. Photo editing courtesy of Stefan Lawrence, Editor’s Photo credit: David Lauersdorf


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east meets wet Waterparks are a central component of Asian attraction development strategy By Edward Shaw, Senior Associate, Janice Li, Senior Associate, Christian Aaen, Principal/CoFounder, and Matthew L. Earnest, Principal/Co-Founder – Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA).


ince the 1990s, the primary focus of themed entertainment destination development in Asia has centered on theme parks and cultural attractions. However, over the last decade as developers have attempted to manage capital costs and leverage the high levels of investment required to develop a large-scale destination resort, waterparks have become an increasingly attractive opportunity. Waterparks can be both the primary project driver as well as a strong second gate development opportunity to enhance the overall experience of a theme park resort destination complex. They can act as key resort drivers and can help establish a project as a multi-day destination by adding critical mass to extend length of stay, induce overnight stays on-site and increase average visitor spending. Waterparks require significantly lower levels of development capital compared to theme parks (on a per attendee basis) and achieve higher operating margins, particularly as second gate attractions. Waterparks can also achieve stronger admission pricing relative to the required capital expenditure. Case in point is

the highly successful Chimelong Waterpark in Southern China, which commands the highest admission pricing during peak season above existing theme parks. On average, waterparks have operating margins of 35%-50% or more. Waterparks adjacent to theme parks have even higher margins as marketing and management expenses are shared. A family oriented product, waterparks typically perform very well with the local and regional resident market, visitors and resort guests, add to the appeal of a destination during fluctuations in weather patterns and allow for a scalable offering dependent on anticipated demand and climatic conditions. During the last decade, Japan, Korea, China, and Indonesia have been the Asian market leaders in terms of numbers of parks and volume of visitors. While most of the waterparks in these markets are of the traditional type with wave pools and slides, some have hot-spring, spa and wellness components, and an increasing number of future projects are incorporating

some level of theming, branding and intellectual properties, and hotel resort properties similar to the program of Center Parcs in Europe. The following ranges give an overview of typical Asian waterpark characteristics: Attraction sizing: •5,000-20,000+ square meters (indoor) •7-25 hectares (outdoor) Annual attendance range: •China: 300,000 – 1.9 million •Rest of Asia: 300,000 – 1.7 million Adult peak admission: •China: US$20-40 •Rest of Asia: US$10-60 Asian waterparks come in a variety of outdoor and indoor formats, including: •Freestanding waterpark in a destination area: themed waterparks that do not include a lodging component, although the destination area is likely to have various surrounding accommodations, other theme parks and entertainment attractions nearby. Example: Sunway Lagoon (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia); Chimelong (Panyu, China) •Waterpark with hot-spring, wellness and spa component: the waterpark is combined with large indoor and outdoor components, often incorporating a hot spring; the waterpark is a core amenity for children while adults attend the spa. Very popular in Korea and Japan. Example: Deoksan Spa Castle (Chungcheong, Korea); Nagashima Spa Land (Kuwana, Japan) •Resort with waterpark feature: the waterpark serves as an amenity to the hotel/resort accommodations, which serve as the focal point of the development; the waterpark is principally available to hotel guests only and admission price is usually

Proposed expansion of Wild Wild Wet in Singapore. Courtesy NTUC Club

included in the room rate. Example: Bukit Merah Laketown Resort (Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia)

Regional Spotlight China The Chinese waterpark industry is in the early stage of development with the majority of the regional and destination waterparks opened within the last 5-10 years. Leading Chinese waterpark operators include Chimelong, OCT Group, Haichang, and Happy Magic Watercube. Attendance to the major Chinese market waterparks range from 300,000 to 1.9 million with the highest being Chimelong Waterpark.

and relaxation with saunas, Jacuzzis and other features. Typically a combination of indoor and outdoor features, the waterpark/spas take advantage of year round opportunities. These selected parks are either located in a destination area or are a destination waterpark with a resort/hotel component with other amenities surrounding the park.

Future Waterpark Projects

Bali Waterpark opened in 2011 in Fushun, China featuring a mixture of water themed attractions and reports that it will be one of the largest indoor/outdoor waterparks in China.

China As part of the upcoming Ocean Kingdom Theme Park Resort due to open on Hengqin Island in 2013, Chimelong Group will open a waterpark slated to be the largest in Asia. OCT will open two waterparks in 2013, one in Shanghai (12 hectares, RMB500 million/US$79 million Playa Maya waterpark) and a second in Yunnan province in a resort setting just outside Kunming.

Korea Waterparks are very popular among Koreans and are heavily visited by residents. In addition to a theme, these waterparks also have a hotspring and/or spa emphasizing health, rest

In Chengdu, a 20,000 hectare-plus indoor waterpark, Paradise Island, is planned to open including multiple hotels (Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, other), spa facilities, food and beverage, large shopping mall, cinemas, and

other amenities. It will be located within the New Century Global Center mixed-use commercial complex, including an art performance center designed by Zaha Hadid In Hong Kong, Ocean Park plans to open Water World as a second gate adjacent to the park combining the natural setting with pools and waterpark components and the on-site planned hotels. Finally, Village Roadshow and Guangzhou-based R&F Properties recently announced plans to partner and create a US$550 million theme park destination resort in Lingshui, near Sanya, on Hainan Island which will also contain a branded Wet’n’Wild waterpark as a second gate and is due to open in 2015. Malaysia Southern Malaysia will experience significant growth in the waterpark market over the next few years with the opening of the LEGOLAND Malaysia waterpark in 2013 complementing the existing LEGOLAND theme park and Ocean Splash waterpark at Desaru Coast in 2014/15. The LEGO-themed water park is part of Themed

Economic insight for thE AttrActions industry RECENT PROJECT LOCATIONS

LOS ANGELES Los AngeLes· · HONG Hong KONG Kong

LOS ANGELES 9430 Olympic Boulevard Beverly Hills, CA 90212 Phone: +1.310.862.9555 Fax: +1.310.862.9556 HONG KONG Suite 2909-10, 29/F China Resources Building 26 Harbour Road Wanchai, Hong Kong Phone: +852.9403.3533

extending length of stay and increasing visitor spending by offering a full day’s worth of activities to families beyond the traditional core theme park destination. By spurring an overnight stay and a second day of spending, waterparks can propel overall destination resort economics, not only diversifying the attraction offer to the customer, but also expanding the financial opportunity for the developer. ECA also expects to see more eco-resort development with water park components and self-contained family resorts such as the Center Parcs model in Europe and Great Wolf Lodge in the U.S. There will also be increased efforts to integrate theming and branding in Asian waterparks while balancing development costs and a focus on delivering a compelling water-based experience and attractions content. • • • Attractions Malaysia (TAR) overall RM720 million investment (US$230 million) in Nusajaya and Johor including an on-site LEGO-themed family hotel. TAR will also open Ocean Splash, a themed waterpark at the upcoming Desaru Coast resort on the southeastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia with close proximity to Singapore. Ocean Splash will be adjacent to the immersive Ocean Quest marine life park. TAR plans to invest RM267 million (US$87 million) in the combined 12+ hectare, Ocean Splash and Ocean Quest attractions. Singapore In Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa, the Adventure Cove Waterpark is due to open at the end of 2012/early 2013. Adjacent to the new Marine Life Park and Universal Studios Singapore, Adventure Cove will feature Southeast Asia’s first hydro-magnetic roller coaster and feature integrated marine-life elements. Additionally, the Wild Wild Wet waterpark at Downtown East will double in size as part of a S$200 million (US$165 million), 5-year redevelopment of Downtown East by the waterpark’s owner NTUC Club. Phase 1 of the project includes the waterpark and a 400-room resort and phase 2 of the project comprises event venues and retail, dining and entertainment establishments. Australia Village Roadshow is planning to open the A$80 million (US$80 million+) Wet’n’Wild Sydney, Australia in December 2013. The 25 hectare waterpark will have 42 slides and attractions. Thailand In Pattaya, Phuket, Thailand, the Cartoon Network Amazone waterpark is slated to open in 2013. Set on 5.6 hectares, developer Amazon

Falls is planning an initial investment of 1 billion Thai Baht (US$32.5 million) and will feature the Network’s popular animated characters in a rainforest setting.

Outlook Going forward, waterparks have a highly positive outlook within the Asian attractions industry and strong growth potential. As evidenced by the development history of waterparks in the United States and Europe, waterparks are a key resort component and complementary to the main first gate. The waterpark presents a viable second gate opportunity for destination projects, Soaring Eagle hph:Park 135x198 hph template 23/08/2012 10:51 Page 1

Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA) is headquartered in Los Angeles (Beverly Hills), California and has a regional office in Hong Kong. ECA is an international advisory firm focused on economic and market analysis for world-class destination entertainment and cultural development projects throughout China and Asia. Email: christian@entertainmentandculture. com / / / Further information on ECA is available at www.

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building the unseen The Producers Group talks about project production at Resorts World Sentosa By Judith Rubin


he Producers Group (TPG) defines itself as a company specializing in one-off visitor attractions, and has distinguished itself on several large, recent projects in Asia. TPG endeavors to supply “everything but the creative,” and to manage the lot. In the themed entertainment industry, creative management teams are often headed by designers, so theirs is a non-traditional approach. But TPG principals Bob Chambers and Edward Marks maintain that the 21st century visitor attraction, rich in technology, rich in storytelling and frequently in Asia, demands a producer-centric development model to be realized in a robust manner, adhere to schedule and budget, and protect the integrity of the designer’s vision.

While many, if not most of today’s projects rely on equipment that is available off the shelf, those pieces of sophisticated gear are being put together in novel, bleeding edge configurations that challenge designers and producers to the limits of feasibility. At the same time, production timelines and budgets for these custom attractions are often pared to the bone. Here are two tales from the front lines of production. Note: The projects described here preceded the formal creation of TPG in 2011. It was on the basis of these and similar collaborations that Chambers and Marks decided to found the company. For simplicity, the Chambers and Marks team is referred to throughout as TPG.

Programming in the midst of construction Lake of Dreams at Resorts World Sentosa Designer: Entertainment Design Corp. (Jeremy Railton) Client: Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore TPG staff’s role: Owner’s Representation, Project Management, Technical Design and Management, Oversaw Construction and Installation, Client Contract Management, Vendor Contract Management, Complete Production Services What happens when show production must move forward and the installation hasn’t attained the dust-free conditions that protect sensitive gear? Says Edward S. Marks, co-CEO of The Producers Group, “If we don’t get our dustfree environment at the appointed time, we erect a programming tent. It allows us to remain productive and do what needs to be done to honor the opening date.” Lake of Dreams is a dramatic, musical extravaganza featuring multidimensional laser effects, high-powered water cannons and two fire breathing dragons. The 15-minute nightly show is set up in an outdoor amphitheater on a marble plaza between two hotel towers, above the basement-level casino at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), near the entrance to Universal Studios Singapore. It entertains people of all ages, often in family groups.

Bob Chambers and Edward Marks with the 2012 Thea Award for the Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa. Photo courtesy of The Producers Group

TPG set up an elevated work tent outdoors to commence programming and other tasks in the thick of construction. Resembling a sportscaster’s nest, the 25’ x 25’ tent was designed and positioned on a 3-tiered, standalone platform with movable jacks to obtain the correct sightlines. It was a functioning office running on temporary power: staired, carpeted and airconditioned, with computer equipment and Internet access, cable drops for each vendor’s needs, a meeting room, craft services, and security. The front was of clear plastic. “We get input from various disciplines and draw up a wiring diagram and programming hierarchy


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to make sure everybody has what they need,” explains Marks. Lake of Dreams was one of three shows designed by Railton for Resorts World Sentosa; the other two are Crane Dance and the Hall of Treasures. Brought in by Railton, TPG’s team (Edward Marks, Bob Chambers, Chris Homsley, Andrew Rubio and Rob Palmer) were responsible for budgets, schedules, vendor management and negotiations, client management and negotiations, overseeing the complete production and installation, and managing the design process. “The idea is to relieve the creative person – in this case, Jeremy - of the left-brain burden,” says Marks. Vendors included OASE (Water), ATECH (Scenic & Lighting), EAS (Audio & Video) and Patrick Woodroofe (Lighting Design). Lake of Dreams needed to be open for RWS to obtain its gaming license, adding urgency to the project. Access paths and roads wouldn’t be finished for months, and the programming tent was raised amid unpaved earth and construction crews working on tiling, marble walls, landscaping and pipe-laying, with the attendant jackhammers, earth-movers, dust and noise. “Dialing the Lake into the middle of that was complicated as well as hazardous,” says Marks. “We had to negotiate for a spot where we

could work and they could work. Hardhats, steeltoed boots and ear protection were part of the uniform.” TPG would occasionally halt the construction workers in order to test all guest vantage points of the 360 degree show they were programming. “The only really effective thing to say is, ‘We’re going to run a show - do you want to see it?’” observes Marks. Other tests, such as for the highpowered lasers, required getting the crews out of the area altogether. “Every minute of every day is scheduled,” says Marks. The programming in progress becomes a showand-tell opportunity for the client. “The show is coming together; the marketing & PR people start showing up; interviews start happening inside the tent,” notes Marks. “This is a time to carefully manage client expectations so they don’t think you are further along than you really are. The first 50% was done quickly, but then we hit the inevitable plateau: the painstaking effort of tweaking and focusing and timing for video, water jets, lighting and other elements. From the client’s perspective it may not seem like much is happening during that stage.” Running tests has its risks. “The reason it’s a test is it doesn’t always work,” says Marks. “It can be great for building public awareness, but also a bit nerve

wracking, especially with one-of-a-kind shows like this. So we work with management and the owner to try to find a realistic balance between what you can conceal, what you should conceal and what you can’t conceal. Once all the pieces are working, the client may clamor to start the opening party early. But that’s like wanting to open a theater before you’ve rehearsed the play. Having functional components isn’t the same as having a programmed show of actual content.” Stressing the importance of on-site programming and mixing, Marks said, “Usually when we go into the field to program, the show exists in a virtual form. All the show motion has been written in virtual space. But that isn’t the same as moving real mass in real space. This is a critical aspect of a one-off project. Sometimes you come within inches of what happens in real space, but there will always be moments where something feels, sounds, or looks one way virtually and the other way in reality. You have to be able to adjust in real time, in the real space, and for that you need a setup on site.” Marks continued, “In the case of audio, if you’ve mixed for headphones, you still have to make a mix in the real space. Lake of Dreams occupies a 360 degree space that has slight variations in sound depending on where you stand. During programming, acoustical conditions constantly

Lake of Dreams combines water effects, lasers, lighting and technology to create an inspiring show. Photo courtesy of The Producers Group


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What weighs 160 tons, stands 90 feet tall, and is in love? Photo courtesy of The Producers Group evolved as the site acquired vegetation and buildings. This is why a composer needs to write music that is three-dimensional, with many elements and layers. You bring all the elements to the site, take it apart and move it around and adjust it and test it until it works. Similar steps are followed in video, lighting, and even animation: we even keep a render farm on standby from the booth.” Marks continues, “Make no mistake: It is risky to mount a tent full of equipment in the middle of a construction site. A hardhat won’t save you from everything. But risk is inherent to our work: Financial risk, scheduling risk, and of course physical risk. Those are all heightened when the project is a one-off. But that’s what we do. Assuming risk is our business.”

Unification through communication Crane Dance Client: Resorts World Sentosa Designer: Entertainment Design Corp. (Jeremy Railton) TPG’s staff role: Owner’s Representation, Project Management, Technical Design and Management, Oversaw Construction and Installation, Onsite Lighting Design, Client Contract Management, Vendor Contract Management, Complete Production Services,

Special Effects Design, Mechanical Systems Design In honoring Crane Dance with a 2012 Thea Award, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) stated: “What weighs 160 tons, stands over 90 feet tall and is, well, in love? The two cranes that perform every evening at Sentosa Island in Singapore, located on a man-made island in the channel between Resorts World Sentosa and the Singapore mainland.” Open since December 2010, this multi-million dollar project stands nine stories high and weighs 500 tons, and is now under consideration by the Guinness Book of World Records for the title of “Largest Animatronics in the World.” The vast scale of Crane Dance does not prevent it making a powerful emotional connection with audiences. “Through the use of ultrasophisticated computer and motion controls, similar to those used on Japanese bullet trains, the cranes move with a grace and precision that is patterned after the mating rituals of real cranes,” stated TEA. “Additional character and personality are expressed via specially designed digital eyes. Each 6-foot diameter eye can blink, squint and react. The enormous, flapping wings of each crane incorporate multiple jets of streaming water that spray thousands of gallons of sea water up to 40-feet in pulsing arcs. Accentuated with pyro, theatrical lighting and audio effects, this technical marvel crosses cultural boundaries and amazes guests of all ages.”


In August 2009, Crane Dance had gone out to bid, and independent vendors were producing technical design documents. “The problem was, they were not communicating,” says Producers Group co-CEO Bob Chambers. Says Chambers, “This big piece of machinery was going to be a Frankenstein monster if we didn’t all get in a room together and organize the design tasks. We arranged multiple meetings with groups of vendors each week. We broke the project down into pieces above the deck – which included the crane itself, pieces below deck – which consisted of several rooms underneath for electrical, hydraulics and electronics, and pieces on the deck: pipes, cables, stuff running from one room to another.” TPG staff also scheduled and enforced a weekly project management meeting and an owner update meeting. The five principal vendors attending these meetings with TPG staff were LYS, PH Hydraulics, EAS, ATECH and OASE. Over the course of 10 weeks, the interchange bore fruit and the design took shape. “Dialog and collaboration started to happen,” says Chambers. “The vendors would get a bunch of new tasks, but they’d also get answers to important questions. It’s a sequential, iterative process. Every time you change something it affects all the others.” LYS was contracted to do the bearings and steel that formed the skeletal structure of the cranes. PH Hydraulics was responsible for the giant

piston cylinders and their power source. “Unless those vendors were talking to each other, we weren’t getting anywhere,” explains Chambers. “The way you move the cranes is with big hydraulic hoses. There are stainless steel pipes in the ocean, 4” diameter rubber hoses, and 5k horsepower hydraulics. Some of the PH pieces are under the deck; the pipes came through the deck and up through the birds. Then there were the ‘drag chains’ or cable ladders. They come from the industrial world. If a big cable has to slide back and forth but a hose has to go through it, you need a linked ladder that the cables tie to that can bend and roll over on itself without the hoses getting pinched. At 6’ tall and 2’ thick, it was the biggest I have ever seen. The birds are so big and there are so many hoses, it’s like a drilling rig. The drag chains had to mount to the mechanical bird.” Chambers continues, “Above the deck, there were such issues as how to route the cables and giant water hoses and how to get those up through the bird – routing some of those pieces was almost unimaginably challenging. There were control wiring, power for the head, video signals for the video screens on the chest and eye blinking. This added up to a combination of high power and sensitive electronics near one another.”

EAS was the overall AV show control vendor, and through them Panasonic had been contracted to supply the entire facility, so special arrangements had to be made, because Crane Dance required saltwater-proof, 26’ x 26’ outdoor digital screens of a certain resolution (32 mil) that were only available from Barco. “A video screen needs a frame, too – and in this case the frame was on the chest of a giant crane,” observes Chambers. “That takes a drawing, and then there are cables going to the screen – another example of how everything affects everything else.” ATECH, the lighting and scenic vendor for RWS on the project, provided marine-rated lights on the structure of the cranes. “Those lights needed a place to mount, and their cables had to be routed all the way down the bird and into the lighting room: it affected the bird, the deck, and under the deck,” notes Chambers. OASE was the fountain vendor responsible for the mechanized water wings that create the cranes’ 125’ wingspans. “It used a giant, German made water manifold with a motorized, huge metal pivot the size of a desk, fed by 8” diameter hose or pipe, with a 1500 horsepower pump. That had to be integrated into the design at the same time as everything else.”

Of course, when a high-tech project is done well, the audience doesn’t pay much attention to the mechanical specifics, or think about how many weeks it took to build – they get lost in the story, as they are meant to do.” These tales from the production front lines are meant to convey what it takes to realize a hightech, custom attraction so that the technology and equipment become transparent, and the designer’s vision is fulfilled. As TEA described, “The cranes dance, flap their watery wings and bless RWS guests with love, long life and good fortune.” Current projects for TPG include Lights of Liberty for Historic Philadelphia Inc, “Killer Karaoke” for TruTV, and The Red Sea Astrarium for RGH Entertainment. Visit •••

“We’re especially proud that this design challenge was met in 10 weeks,” says Chambers.

One of the different “moods” created at the Lake of Dreams show at Resorts World Sentosa. Photo courtesy of The Producers Group


shedding some light championing the lighting designer - a roundtable

edited by Mark Andrew, Yeager Lighting Design, and IPM co-editor Judith Rubin IPM asked several theatrical lighting designers active in themed entertainment to share professional experiences that demonstrate the creative versatility and technical understanding of the LD, and why a background in theatrical lighting design is an excellent foundation for playing a role in storytelling design. Koert Vermeulen, ACT Lighting Design, Belgium Le défi de César is a themed walkthrough attraction at Parc Asterix, Paris. (Jules César {Julius Caesar} appears in numerous Asterix and Obelix stories.) ACT Lighting Design was responsible for design and integration of lighting and video. We were brought in very early, right after artistic director Alain Sachs, and allowed to contribute big ideas. They didn’t want to limit our imaginations - at first, we only knew that it would be about Caesar, and that it should be something hot and new in terms of video and lighting to support the narrative. We didn’t hear a story synopsis until our first presentation at the first of 3 workshops. That led to more brainstorming and more ideas; we’d meet, share, then separate to brainstorm some more. Story and effects evolved together. Each of 5 halls has its own unique environment. In the first hall, guests are recruited to be Roman soldiers. Pictures of their faces are captured and incorporated into a projection that appears in the second hall, and guests see themselves

among the Roman troops. In the third, templelike hall, an animatronic of Caesar that addresses the audience is integrated into a rich setting that blends lighting, Pepper’s Ghost effects, 3D projection and physical sets. In the fourth hall, the audience arrives at a hot spring where they experience a big storm, essentially a water-and-light spectacular. Much of what we did here was inspired by what we learned lighting the original Le Reve for the Wynn in Las Vegas. In the fifth hall, a mesmerizing, underwater journey is simulated by combining a custom motion vehicle with content on 20 plasma screens. The vehicle operates like a giant front loading washing machine, with a basket inside a cylinder that rocks from side to side. The screens are windows onto a fantasy aquatic world, and their projected imagery is synchronized with the motion programming. A laser to ascertain the horizon and scope of movement, plus a motion sensor, were essential tools in the programming and in creating the synchronized, animated content. Several of the technological effects incorporated within the finished experience can be traced

Le défi de César at Park Asterix, Paris. Courtesy ACT Lighting Design

back to the original brainstorming sessions, when the team worked together to imagine new and exciting ways to tell a story.

Katherine C. Abernathy LC, IALD Abernathy Lighting Design, Inc., USA Being trained in theatre we are trained to think, to be vulnerable and to collaborate. Lighting design is an important part of storytelling, and the concept phase is the perfect phase for the lighting designer to be contracted. On the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia our collaboration with the exhibit designer, Design and Production Inc., and with the fabricator included several meetings with the client. During these meetings we were able to discuss from the abstract down to the small details of integrating light into the exhibits. Samples were obtained for all to see and feel. Samples are always a good idea and usually easy to obtain. This is an opportunity to get the client’s ultimate desire realized.

The Jimmy Carter LIbrary. Courtesy Abernathy Lighting Design


to play out the space with the proper story. In the case of the Jimmy Carter Museum, artifacts were lit to proper light levels while diorama areas were lit more dramatically, with color and shadows of light, giving the feel of the era and reinforcing each story. A practical reason to hire a lighting designer early is cost. It will, in the long Dragons Treasure at CIty of Dreams. Courtesy Lightswitch run, cost less because if the We told President Carter’s story beginning with building, exhibits or scenery are designed first his childhood, reflected on his environmental without consideration of integrating lighting, work, his days in Washington, and the charitable then a later redesign will likely be needed. work that he still does today. The lighting designer’s work helps keep the story going in a Early collaboration with the lighting designer is visually exciting manner. key to realizing the true potential of every project, large or small. Quality lighting incorporates Lighting designers can take their research for human needs, architectural/scenery or other all projects and interpret them into light. This is site issues, economics, energy efficiency and the accomplished through choices of source, angle, environment. Collaboration is key to success! color, intensity and distribution of light. All of these tools and attributes allow the designers


Norm Schwab, Lightswitch, USA For Dragons Treasure (a Melco Entertainment project with Falcon’s Treehouse as Creative Producer) at City of Dreams, Macau, we were brought in very early in order to help with lighting design and with creative concepts for the entire production. I had a prior working relationship with all the team members, which helped us all feel comfortable brainstorming in each other’s areas without ruffling feathers. Theatrical lighting designers (in general) come to the table with a well-rounded background in storytelling and the ability to help guide the entire experience, since one of our primary jobs is to reveal and lead the audience through a journey, and help establish a sense of place and emotion. The evolution of media and entertainment design has blurred the boundaries between Lighting, Scenic, Media and Architecture… and one’ s ability to feel comfortable and embrace the fuzzy edges has a lot to do with helping to

presentations, where lighting design can help expand things beyond the screens into a unified larger experience. The latest example was the USA Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. BRC Imagination Arts was the show producer. The show was on five vertically formatted The USA Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. quadrilateral screens, mounted Courtesy Yeager Lighting Design on a curve in the elliptically determine everything from the shape and size shaped auditorium. I worked with Chuck Roberts, of a venue to which technology gets used to the show designer, on providing a background create and realize the conceptual vision. Close behind the screens to light. LED cove fixtures collaboration between the team members from were mounted to the rear of the screen day one will help make the visuals seamless. frames, focused upstage into a gray cyclorama that would go black when not intentionally On Dragons Treasure, our early involvement illuminated. LED fixtures overhead were used allowed successful integration of LEDs and to backlight the audience at key moments, and projection to create a new way of combining I added VL3000 fixtures to create movement media content systems. The media projected over the audience and project images onto the onto the digital dome was interlaced with lower- sidewalls. This allowed us to provide imagery to res LED dots, spread out on 18” centers. When 200º of the viewing angle. combined the LEDs would add hyper-bright and saturated flourishes of light that could synch The 8-minute show, “The Garden,” tells of a little bubbles, sparkles, fire and explosions on the hi- girl who imagines turning a junkyard corner into res media. a community garden. It is a story about following your dreams, enlisting others to help, and how Our ability to get the LEDs integrated into the teamwork can accomplish seemingly impossible perforated dome screen could only have come goals. Tony Mitchell, the show’s Creative Director, at the earliest of stages. Our involvement in came up with the idea that the lighting around mockups was also key in proving the feasibility the screens should react to the girl and her idea. of the concept. These early mockups were Initially, the lighting only appears on the screen used to experiment AND sell the ideas to where she is. As others come to work with her, management once we all agreed they worked. lighting surrounds them as well. As the show If we had been brought in too late this could not progressed, more of the screens were lit more have happened…or would have been much of the time, with the color changes becoming more expensive. deeper in saturation and brighter in intensity. As the girl brings others into the project, we start Mark Andrew, Yeager lighting the audience in the color of the screen Lighting Design, USA surrounds, as if to include them. We ended up with a lighting cue for each edit in I have been able to forge the video across the five screens, so there were creative alliances with a lot over 600 cues, almost all of them zero count, of the designers I work with, all frame accurate to the video. BRC founder who treat me as part of the Bob Rogers pressed for more lighting and creative team, so they are not afraid to call and cues, further enlivening the show. None of this pick my brain on things before I am contracted would have been possible had we not laid the on a project. This is one of the high points of the groundwork with those early calls and lunches, work, as we are in the Blue Sky phase, working constantly asking “what if”? • • • out the puzzle of what it can look like. We have Mark Andrew ( has been spent many a lunch asking “what if?” a lighting designer with Yeager Design for 19 years. His work includes permanent installations in theme A lot of my work in the past few years has been parks, museums, visitor centers, and theaters on shows that are primarily multi screen video around the world.


disney printerncess recent design school grad and new Disney intern Arielle Rassel tells her story by Arielle Rassel


hen I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be a Disney Princess—Belle, specifically. Never mind the fact that she was a cartoon character; kids will have their dreams. As I grew up, princess dresses were set aside for paintbrushes, musical instruments, needle and thread. It wasn’t until high school, when I went backstage at Disney to march in a parade, that it dawned on me that I could still be a part of the magic. Never mind wearing the princess dresses (I’m too tall to play Belle, anyway)—I wanted to create them. I’ve been lucky to have creative parents who have always supported my artistic dreams, in whatever capacity. I became a Fashion major at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Every day I hoped I was getting a little closer to my dream of designing costumes for Disney, but I still didn’t know quite how to get there - how, as a student, to get a foot in the door at this big company. Two years and a change of major later, I started to figure things out. SCAD has a unique program that allows a group of fifteen students (selected based on application) to spend their spring break with the Disney Imagineers in Orlando, exploring the parks in the wee morning hours before opening, and spending the days in the offices learning. I heard about the program just before its first year, and I knew I had to do it. The only problem? I was a junior who’d just changed majors (from fashion to interior design) and had hardly any portfolio of my new work to speak of. I didn’t get in. Now, I’m the stubborn type. The program was planned again for a second year, and I had to find a way in. Peter Weishar, the dean of the School of Film and Digital Media, leads the program. I approached him and asked what I could do. He recommended I learn about the industry by getting involved with the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). With a brandnew student membership and last-minute hotel reservations in hand, I headed for Florida to attend TEA’s annual SATE conference.

The conference was eye-opening. I’d been focused on Disney, and Disney is the gold standard—but here were all these people representing dozens, hundreds even, of companies in the field, in disciplines ranging from engineering to fabrication to animatronics. I filled pages upon pages with notes and ideas from the sessions. I was probably the youngest person at SATE, and I felt very green, to say the least. But people were friendly enough. There were maybe half a dozen students there, almost all grad students from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) program—I’m pretty sure I was the only undergraduate in attendance. I’m still friends with some of them today, and I imagine we’ll stay friends for life as we continue in the industry together (everyone keeps telling me this is a relationship-based business, and it certainly seems to be true). I’ll always be grateful for the way people reached out to me at that first conference. Some of the professionals I spoke to wanted to know how I’d found my way there. TEA was still formulating its student membership initiatives, and SCAD was just beginning to get involved. I was invited to dinner with folks from Themeworks, and I met designer Suzanne Sessions there as well. To be a student breaking bread with these people with such amazing experiences under their belts was both intimidating and exhilarating. I left SATE feeling extremely encouraged, with a pocket full of business cards to boot. People wanted to stay in touch, to see how students in the industry are faring. TEA past president Steve Thorburn is one person I owe tremendous thanks to - it turned out that his company Thorburn Associates’ North Carolina office is just down the street from my mom’s, and he invited me in for a day to see how things worked. It was a great experience, and yet another moment that showed me just how welcoming the industry is to young talent. When applications rolled around again for SCAD’s off campus program with Walt Disney


Imagineering, I sent in my materials, and this time I made it. To say the least, it was the best week of my life. These parks that have been a second home to me my entire young existence—the places I escaped to in good times and bad—were laid out and explained in whole new ways, and I was confirmed in my determination to become a part of the professional community. I had my portfolio reviewed by multiple Imagineers—an opportunity few students are lucky enough to have. I got to go inside the Cinderella Suite in the castle and meet the designers behind it, which was literally a dream come true. Gary Landrum, our gracious and inspiring Imagineer-guide for the week, joked that he thought I might cry out of pure joy. I don’t think he was too far off. That trip and my experiences connected to SATE prepared me for the daunting task of searching for internships, which I began shortly after returning to Savannah. TEA Directory in hand, I sent emails to at least 40 companies, hoping and praying that someone had a place for me. It was time to add real-world experience to what I’d been learning in classes. Many companies never replied. Others said, “Sorry, stay in touch.” A select few didn’t have room for me, but wanted to help anyway, pointing me to their friends and contacts they thought might be helpful. Late in the game I had a breakthrough, with The Portico Group in Seattle, Washington. They’d never had an interior design student intern before, but they thought I might fit in well with their exhibit or interpretive design groups. I’d start in the fall. Working at Portico was incredible. Everyone there was so welcoming and encouraging, and each day was an education. Getting to work on real-world projects and knowing I had an impact was exhilarating. I got to work on zoos, aquariums, even a visitor’s center for a rodeo town. I faced challenges I’d never encountered before, or even thought of, such as being tasked with finding gorilla-proof hammocks. (Solution: woven fire hoses. Who knew?)

A rendering from Arielle’s “Nautilus” senior project. Courtesy Arielle Rassel Coming back to SCAD post-internship, I felt that much more prepared to take on my senior capstone project. I’m just finishing that up now: designing a 21st-century Interactive Aquarium for children and their families, called Nautilus: Key to the Seas.

program, and by starting a program in themed entertainment design, headed up by George Head and Mike Devine. Both are industry veterans with experience at WDI, among many other companies. I’m finishing up one of the classes now, and it’s been a great experience.

In March, I attended the 2012 TEA Summit and Thea Awards. It had been almost two years since my last TEA event, and there were noticeable differences in the scope of student outreach. Instead of being one of six or seven students, I was one of at least 20, and this time it was a solid mix of undergraduate and graduate study students, ranging from first-years to those about to graduate. There were over seven schools represented there, and I was one of four SCAD students - three of us had also done the WDI trip together. Where, at SATE, people had seemed mostly curious about students in attendance, here they were warm and welcoming. I got to meet some of the designers in the field whom I really admire, and network with people who had helped create some of my favorite attractions. Everyone was full of words of advice and encouragement, and I couldn’t believe how much some people went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

TEA continues to work hard to establish programs for students, including a mentoring initiative. I’m grateful that the organization provided me a student scholarship towards my attendance to the Summit and Thea Awards: I’m not sure I could have attended the events otherwise. There are so many people there who’ve been in the industry for decades and have worked on projects that have changed the face of entertainment design. They have a wealth of knowledge to offer and are clearly interested in sharing it via TEA’s expanding NextGen programs and Academic Memberships. On the flip side, there are many of us, young and eager, who can’t wait to break into the field but just aren’t sure where to get started.

The day after I got home from the events, I got a phone call from Disney. The internship I’d applied for came through! I’ll be starting in June, working in the Facility Asset Management department. It’s a dream come true, and I’m literally counting the days. There’s no way I could have made it there without the myriad of experiences I’ve had with the TEA and programs at SCAD, and I hope it becomes easier for students to find their way into the field.

As for me, I can’t wait to dive in. I’ve spent all this time learning, working, planning, and dreaming. It may seem easy reading about it now, but none of the things I’ve mentioned here was easy. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in all this can be boiled down to one word: persistence. I hope that my story as described here can help and encourage other students and young professionals to do the same - to persist; to keep striving. As the man who started it all, Walt Disney, said, “if you can dream it, you can do it.” I dreamed it. It’s time to start doing. • • •

SCAD is making big steps in introducing students to the field, like the WDI off campus


can you DIGSS it? giant screen looks for standards in digital projection by Joe Kleiman


en Stassen, founder of film production company nWave Pictures, has long been a pioneer in film-based attractions and giant screen cinema. He was one of the first to embrace film-based motion simulator attractions, with involvement in early breakthrough content such as “Devil’s Mine Ride” and the subsequent conversion of the simulation film library to digital and 3D formats. Always pushing the frontiers of distribution and production, Stassen entered the world of giant screen cinema, and his first 3D film in the format,1999’s “3D Mania,” was recognized by critics for its entertainment value and as proof of concept (Jim Bartoo of the Los Angeles Times: “a monumental breakthrough in 3D features that could easily have filmmakers pondering the idea of making the genre a part of filmmaking in the 21st century...” The nWave breakthroughs continued with the 2001 “Haunted Castle,” the first 40-minute giant screen 3D movie designed from the ground up solely as entertainment (and the first IMAX movie to receive a PG rating) and

the 2008 “Fly Me To the Moon,” the first featurelength film conceived and designed for digital 3D from the very start. “We’ve always been dedicated to the digital format,” affirmed Janine Baker, senior VP of distribution and development for nWave. We were at the annual conference of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA), which took place in September in Sacramento and San Jose. Baker was introducing nWave’s newest giant screen title there - Sammy’s Adventures: Escape from Paradise (also to be showcased at the IAAPA Attractions Expo this November in Orlando, in an abridged attraction version) as well as nWave’s upcoming documentary Last of the Great Apes. But while nWave and other leading special venue producers have advocated digital projection for years, many giant screen exhibitors have stayed on the fence. Image quality is one issue: Current

digital projection systems on the market do not match the high resolution or light output of traditional giant screen film systems. But changes in the business, such as the decline in the number of film prints struck each year, the desire to implement alternative and Hollywood content, and rising costs are prompting many to reconsider. Now, there’s an urgency to convert. I spoke with the director of one of New England’s most successful IMAX theaters, who summed it up, “Right now, ‘digital’ is the word on everyone’s mind. We’re here [at GSCA] because we know we need to do it and soon. But we need to figure out how we’re going to do it.” As a giant screen projectionist, theater manager, and journalist covering the industry for the past 15 years, I too wanted to know the answer. The hit-and-miss digital revolution in giant screen exhibition started as early as 1999 when IMAX purchased Digital Projection International (DPI)

as a wholly owned subsidiary. IMAX/DPI went on to sign a partnership with DLP Cinema. After the development of a number of digital products, including the sale of DIGIMAX projectors, designed to project a 3-chip DLP image at 1080 resolution on a 50-foot wide conventional cinema screen, IMAX sold DPI in 2001. IMAX would not introduce a giant screen projector to the digital market for another seven years, but some theaters chose not to wait. In 2006, as 2K digital projectors began rolling out to conventional cinemas, theaters such as Cinecitta in Nuremberg, Germany, began converting from IMAX film systems to digital projection using dual Christie 2K DLP projectors. Cinecitta’s sister company, Fantasia Film, began distributing digital 3D product, starting with “Haunted Castle,” to cinemas throughout Germany. By 2007, its customers included former IMAX theaters in Wuerzburg, Frankfurt (both operated by Fantasia Film), and Munich, all using the same dual Christie approach. The digital projection system launched by IMAX in 2008 uses similar equipment at its base combined with proprietary technology that enhances image and brightness. At GSCA conference, I sought to learn whether any issues had come up for exhibitors that had made the kind of film-to-digital transition described above, which would involve trading a 1.33:1 image at resolutions higher than 10K for a 1.9:1 image (the standard aspect ratio of digital cinema) at a resolution just slightly higher than 2K. To find out, I sat down with Tim Hazlehurst, VP of operations for the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina USA. (As an aside, I consider Hazlehurst and his Chief Projectionist Tim Rectanus not only as colleagues, but selfless heroes of the industry. In former days as Director of Attractions at the

National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia USA, I received a call in 2009 that my IMAX print of “Star Trek” would not be available for a Friday opening at my theater due to a lack of shipping cases, I pulled together three of our own cases, rented a cargo van and made the 9-hour drive to Raleigh. Hazlehurst and Rectanus worked overnight unspooling the film from its platter and preparing it for shipment. To give you an idea of the work involved, a single second of IMAX film is about 5 1/2 feet long. And Star Trek is a 2-hour movie. “We wouldn’t have that problem anymore,” Hazlehurst noted, “Everything’s stored on hard drives now.”) The Wells Fargo IMAX Theater at Marbles was an early institutional convert to IMAX digital projection, which Hazlehurst estimates cost the museum $560,000. “Our screen’s the same size 52 ft high and 70 ft wide and only about 10 feet of the screen is not used with the digital image.” The IMAX digital projector uses a proprietary engine to bump up light output to 22 foot lamberts, 8 fL higher than the standard for digital cinema. And although the light output drops to 5.5 fL for 3D, mainly due to polarization, this is still twice as bright as the industry standard for digital. Marbles has had no complaints from patrons regarding the new digital format, and finds one of the advantages of going digital is the ability to show a wider range of content. “We can show non-IMAX content on our system, but when we do we only use one of the two projectors.” That content has included National Geographic titles such as “Forces of Nature” and “Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West.” “As a children’s museum, we’ve done very well with our kids program that we get from distributor Big & Digital,” Hazelhurst told me. “Right now we’re showing “The Gruffalo.”

IMAX digital projector. Photo courtesy of IMAX


I asked Hazlehurst why IMAX was chosen over other options. “We decided on IMAX because of the brand. The brand has been very good to us.” The marketing power of the IMAX brand was also a governing factor for the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, where the Eames IMAX Theater was recently retrofitted with both digital and film-based IMAX systems interchangeable on rails. Other theaters, selecting different hardware, have dropped the IMAX brand and adopted the term “Giant Screen,” with a number prominently featuring their GSCA certification. COSI in Columbus, Ohio USA, converted its SimEx-Iwerks Extreme Screen Theater to a digital system designed and installed by Claco, a digital integrator for conventional cinema based in Salt Lake City, for $300,000. COSI then struck a licensing deal with SimEx-Iwerks for extended use of the Extreme Screen name. COSI marketing director Chris Hurtubise estimates the institution has saved 90% on maintenance costs with the new digital system. The Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa USA went through two re-brandings. When first it replaced its IMAX system with twin Barco 4K DLP projectors from integrator D3D for $475,000, its theater became the “Putnam Giant Screen Theater.” That was eventually re-branded as the “National Geographic Giant Screen Theater,” joining National Geographic’s Museum Partnership Program, which was announced at the American Alliance of Museums conference in late 2011. I met with Mark Katz, president of distribution for National Geographic Cinema Ventures. “We launched the program in response to museums telling us they wanted a brand,” he told me. “For us the most important part is that they partner with us on content.” The program currently has nine partners. National Geographic plans to distribute a minimum of 2 new digital 3D films per year and partner museums receive exclusivity on these films for their immediate market. Under the program, qualifying theaters may run Nat Geo content on any of their existing systems. “Museums not only gain access to the film library,” said Katz, “but they also gain unique access to the entire National Geographic organization, including our television, print, and exhibition divisions, and, most importantly, our members.” Another company stepping up to meet the digital conversion needs of institutional cinemas is Giant Screen Films, which has been a key player in the giant screen industry since entering it in 2000 with a documentary on

basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Formation of its digital cinema arm, D3D, was “a classic case of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’,” said company president Don Kempf. “Several years ago, we worked out an arrangement with the exhibits company AEI whereby our large-format film “Mummies” became the official companion film of the King Tut exhibit. “Mummies” was an off-the-charts success at every Tut giant screen venue. With the exhibit scheduled to go to several museums that did not have giant screen venues, we worked with AEI to install digital 3D venues at these museums in time for their Tut runs. While not traditional giant screens, the attendance at these digital 3D theaters was incredibly strong.” D3D has since installed a number of digital systems in giant screen theaters worldwide, including the Putnam, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Millennium Point in Birmingham, UK. In 2011 and 2012, D3D co-hosted the Moody Gardens Digital Symposium in Galveston, TX (in 2013, this event will be combined with GSCA’s spring cinema expo). Kempf told me, “We’re proud to have helped pioneer these symposia and facilitate many industry ‘firsts,’ including: first 4K giant screen demonstration, first 4K 3D giant screen film presentation, first back-to-back 3D technology showcase, first giant screen 1570 vs 4K shootouts (16:9 and 4:3), first high frame rate demonstration on a giant screen, first 3D audio demonstration in a giant screen theater, and first giant screen laser light engine demonstration.” , Another option is Global Immersion introduced its GSX system for flat giant screen theaters, placed into service on October 20, 2012 with the opening of the Peoria Riverfront Museum in Peoria, Illinois USA. According to Global Immersion’s CEO Martin Howe, “We use a twoprojector system that easily switches between aspect ratio - 16:9, 1.85:1, 1.89:1, 2:39:1, and what we call True 4:3. The system is capable of projecting in 3K x 4K resolution for a total of 1.2 million pixels.” In 3D (using technology from REALD), the GSX system can output 6-foot lamberts of light, a brighter 3D image than the Christie 2K-based IMAX digital projector (IMAX is expected to introduce a new digital projector using dual Barco 4K projectors at its core shortly). Global Immersion calls its GSX the “world’s highest performance and most versatile” digital giant screen projection system and believes the Peoria theater to be “the highest resolution digital Giant Screen theater in the world.” The theater is fully DCI (Hollywood studio’s digital cinema standards) and DIGSS compliant.


Within the industry, laser light is widely considered the holy grail of digital giant screen projection. IMAX, through its partial ownership of Laser Light Engines, LLP, licensing of Kodak laser projection patents, and partnership with Barco is forecasting a digital IMAX laser projector to be on the market possibly as early as 2013, promising richer color saturation, darker blacks, and the ability to brightly illuminate and fill a screen up to 120 feet wide. Other manufacturers, such as digital camera manufacturer RED, are entering the laser projection market. In addition to Barco’s continuing demonstrations of its laser projection technology, Christie showcased the Martin Scorsese 3D film “Hugo” to a packed house at a conference in Amsterdam this past August, using its prototype 4K DLP laser projector. D3D is also positioning itself to compete on laser projector turf. According to Casey Stack, co-managing director of the Laser Illuminated Projector Association, the major hurdle in bringing laser projection systems to cinemas is government regulation. In the US, lasers are regulated by the FDA, with a number of states having additional local regulations. One of the big advantages to laser projection is the overall cost savings to the exhibitor. Whereas a xenon bulb usually has a life expectancy of 500 hours, lasers can operate up to five years at reduced operating and maintenance costs. While the giant screen industry continues to pursue a number of options for digital projection, it also is working hard to establish standards. GSCA led in 2009 with the development of a giant screen specification and certification program (details can be found at www.giantscreencinema. com). Museum consultant John Jacobsen and his White Oak Institute (www.whiteoakinstitute. org) followed up with the Digital Immersive Giant Screen Specifications, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. DIGSS, now administered by GSCA, addresses giant screen domes as well as flat screens. In 2005, Ben Stassen told my colleague Ray Zone (as documented in Zone’s book “3-D Filmmakers: Conversations with Creators of Stereoscopic Motion Pictures”), “. . . I am absolutely convinced that the Large Format industry will not survive unless it converts to digital projection technology within three to five years.” It’s no longer a question of when – it’s an issue of how. • • • Joe Kleiman ( is a journalist, PR and marketing professional with a background in museums and special venue cinema.

projection killed the video star Busch Gardens Tampa’s ice show ushers in a new era of projection technology by Martin Palicki Reprinted from Sound & Communications Magazine with permission of Testa Communications. For more information, visit “Even the baby elephant ice skates,” said Robbi Lepre, Entertainment Director at Busch Gardens Tampa. And the elephant’s not alone. At the new Iceploration Show in the park’s Moroccan Palace theater, ice skating, multimedia, puppetry and aerial acrobatics come together to tell the story of a teenager and his grandfather as they set out on a journey around the globe. The duo visits the African Serengeti, the Great Barrier Reef, the Arctic and the Amazon Rainforest.

Cleverly Designed Of course, Lepre isn’t talking about a real elephant. A cleverly designed costume allows a human skater to zoom around the four tons of ice on the stage as playfully as one would expect the creature to do. The elephant isn’t the main character, but one of dozens of animals brought to life within the stage’s small footprint. The real star of the show, however, isn’t even on the stage. The technological centerpieces live in the control booth and balcony in the form of two Christie 30k projectors. One covers the entire

front of the stage, the proscenium, the legs and backdrop. The other is focused directly on the ice. According to Lepre, the show designers wanted to create a more transformative experience, and projection allowed them that opportunity. Additionally, projection helped solve a key problem for the theater: a lack of space. The backstage wings are packed tightly with props. The stage floor lifts are covered by a quite solid sheet of ice, so the crew of seven technicians uses elaborate winch systems to

Even elephants skate during Iceploration at Busch Gardens Tampa. Photo courtesy Busch Gardens Tampa.


Aquafantasy, Selcuk, Izmir - TURKEY

Six Flags Great Adventure, NJ - USA

The main projector in the control booth covers the entire front of the stage. Photo by Martin Palicki move props up and out of the way when they are not being used. As Lepre said, “There’s just as much choreography going on backstage as there is out on the ice.”

advantage of the narrative power the projection provides to help move the story along, carrying the characters between various regions of the world.

Although the show is by no means light on scenic design and props, the projection systems help fill in the gaps, providing images and textures on virtually every surface in the show, reducing the need for additional props.

The second projector, located in an old follow spot operator booth, is trained directly on the ice and provides more of a textural benefit. Sometimes actual imagery projected onto the ice extends the set pieces, such as in the Savannah scene when projected grass and watering holes appear. At other times, the imagery reflects action on the main set pieces, such as the reflection of the Aurora Borealis on the frozen Arctic tundra.

Projection Design Media producer Mousetrappe developed the projection design and media content for the show. Company President Daren Ulmer has been a leader in the art of projection mapping that, as its name implies, targets images to specific areas of a surface, often requiring warping and blending to account for changes in depth and movement. “The one projector covers a wide range of surfaces,” explained Ulmer. “In place of a traditional curtain is a giant projection screen, flanked by additional projection surfaces on the sides and above the stage (covering the proscenium arch). This turns an otherwise static stage into a dynamic canvas that has the ability to change visually in an instant.” Once the main curtain rises, the projector also covers the legs and backdrop, as well as highlights certain props that are brought out during the show. The main curtain lowers between scenes, allowing set pieces to be changed out, and takes

Odissea 2000, Rossano - ITALY Aquaworld, Budapest - HUNGARY

Media Server An Extron JMP 9600HD media server controls both projectors. The system locks onto the timecode from the audio, and the show essentially runs itself. Steve Farkas, Executive Producer at Vistamax, designed and programmed the systems. Orlando-based Blackwater, and Clearwater-based Command Corporation were the integrators. “A video tech watches the show for any aberrations,” explained Farkas. “If the timecode connection fails, the tech can manually trigger a digital still for each of the scenes, allowing the show to continue.” Farkas himself was an employee at Busch Gardens in the ’90s, and is no stranger to ice skating shows. “The park’s World Rhythms on

29 Aquasplash Marineland - FRANCE

Ice show also used older Christie projectors and videowalls,” said Farkas, “but those systems were used solely for content and during scene changes with no mapping technology.” “This show as it exists today wouldn’t have been able to exist five years ago,” said Ulmer. “Advances in mapping and warping technologies were really just starting to happen then, and the projector brightness wasn’t at a sufficient level.” In order to use projection in a production, the theatrical lighting had to be pulled way back, or else the projection would be washed out. Although that can still be a concern, projector

brightness has improved significantly in the last few years.

and mapping software, along with projector brightness, the art form is becoming more available to different markets.

Projection Mapping

“In Europe, projection mapping is still used primarily for artistic purposes,” explained Ulmer. “In the US, it is more closely tied to marketing and revenue streams.” That means, it is used here for everything from fashion shows to movie premieres. And, of course, it is becoming popular with theme parks. Universal Studios in Orlando used projections of crumbling buildings to accent a scare zone at its most recent Halloween Horror Nights. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland have been using projection mapping (media produced by Mousetrappe) on its Cinderella Castle and It’s a Small World attraction for more than a year, updating the media content seasonally.

Projection mapping itself is not a new phenomenon, but its full potential is just starting to be tapped. The concept started years ago by projecting still slides onto building facades. Slides were painted by hand to alter their look. It became popular in Europe, often used on historic landmarks and in city squares for artistic events and festivals. With advances in warping

Although Ulmer said there are similarities between projecting on a castle and projecting inside the Moroccan Palace theater, it isn’t quite the same. Both take advantage of Mousetrappe’s proprietary workflow to create the media files, utilizing a toolset adapted from the visual effects world originally designed for turning films into stereoscopic 3D movies. “At Disney, the Castle is the lead character in the show and everything we’re doing with the projection is enhancing this character. In the theater, we are using a scenic layout as a canvas to paint on, and support the action on the stage,” said Ulmer.

Drawbacks But are there drawbacks? The projectors require extreme precision in positioning, and one small movement at the projector can make a difference of several feet on the stage. Also, a reliance on technology isn’t foolproof. Lepre, a veteran in theater, doesn’t think the projectors should replace old technology, but are rather “another tool in their theatrical toolbox.” “A scenic prop or backdrop isn’t going anywhere,” said Lepre, “but if the projector dies, and that’s all you rely on, all you have is a grey wall.” That’s why parks such as Disney use two projectors for its castle show, and Busch Gardens uses props and painted backdrops to accent the projection. Even with its shortcomings, projection mapping, inside and outside the theater, is here to stay. And experts like Ulmer and Farkas only expect the technology to improve and become more accessible to different markets. “Projector capabilities improve every few years, and allow for greater brightness, detail and saturation,” said Farkas. “Really, with this technology, the sky’s the limit.” • • •

Acrobatic performers jump in front of a painted backdrop, which is accentuated by projected images of water flowing. Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa



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