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Making nighttime spectacular with blooloopLIVE

Imagine being able to tell a captivating story that changes every day, combining landscape and architecture with technology and people to tell stories that engage and inspire. That was the topic of conversation at ‘blooloopLIVE at ISE: Creating Nighttime Spectaculars’, a new conference that debuted at ISE 2018 on Friday 9 February. Heather McLean and Ian McMurray report.

The keynote presented by Philippe Bergeron (pictured), CEO at PaintScaping, looked at ‘The art of the nighttime spectacular’. Bergeron discovered 3D projection mapping in 2009 when he illuminated a rock by accident while working in The Forest of Mirrors, a garden he designed in California; this opened a world of visual possibilities, which matured to today’s art of generating 3D models, merging the real and virtual worlds.

Referring to the art of storytelling as a key component of the realisation of these nighttime spectaculars, Bergeron noted that creating a narrative is the way to create a compelling AV experience, although simply mapping “cool stuff” onto ski slopes, in one of the case studies he presented, was also a great way to entertain a crowd.

One standout case study completed by PaintScaping was a spectacular evening in 2017. The company worked on the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, combining 3D projection mapping with live actors to highlight outstanding historical events in the building’s, and the US’s, history. These included the construction of the Rotunda in 1822 by slaves, a devastating fire in the building that almost destroyed it completely in 1895, and Martin Luther’s famous speech in 1963; it was an epic presentation.

For Jean-Christophe Canizares, CEO of ECA2, creating great experiences is achieved by combing great storytelling with great technology. For him, there are several special ingredients that his company looks to combine to deliver not only a spectacle, but to stir the emotions of those watching: water, lighting, video, laser, fire and sound. He described those ingredients as actors in the show. Each, he said, has a role to play, depending on the story, and each can be used in different ways to manipulate the emotions of viewers.

“Putting on a compelling show can truly be said to be multi-disciplinary,” he said. Canizares also explained the importance of automated control for events that will run repeatedly, ensuring accuracy each time. He also pointed out that these shows are a “must have” for many visitor attractions, destinations and businesses.

Picking up on the “must have” theme, Peter Cliff, creative director at Holovis, explored why attractions are investing. “It’s all about ROI,” he said. “What visitor attractions want more than anything is to keep guests on site as long as possible: it has been demonstrated that, if you can do this, spend per head increases around 40%. There’s also an increase in secondary and tertiary spend.”

If guests are to extend their stay, though: what are they looking for? According to Cliff, it’s a combination of emotional connection; something spectacular and unique; and value for money. “Most important, though,” he continued, “is that an attraction makes memories. That’s what brings guests back.”

For Cliff, interactivity will be the key for the future – and he also sees real-time rendering increasingly replacing pre-rendered content to enable visitors to create their own experiences.

The final session came from two presenters: Rob Paul (left of picture), design director at LCI Productions, and Bob Montgomery, CEO at Longleat Enterprises. Montgomery spoke about how he took the failing Longleat Safari Park in 2013 to its success today, with attendance up 40% over the last three years, earnings nine times higher than the park’s 2013 results, and world-class guest scores. Much of that success has been down to innovation in the use of AV to create nighttime events that draw in the crowds, make them stay longer, and bring them back for more year after year, without breaking the Longleat piggybank.

The Festival of Light, held every Christmas period at Longleat since 2014, brings in the crowds. From the theme of a Chinese Festival of Light, in 2016 the park celebrated its 50th and author Beatrix Potter’s 150th anniversary, with thousands of elaborate, light-filled lanterns in the shape of Potter’s characters and park wildlife.

Part of that Festival of Light is the Longleat Christmas tree, which had a revamp by LCI as part of the anniversary festivities. This is a 20m high pixel-mapped galvanised steel tree, with the building in the square in which it stands video mapped to tell a Christmas story. Uplighting around the square adds atmosphere, and the story can be changed each year.

So, from fire and water to lasers and projectors, 3D projection mapping, motion capture, actors and storytelling, the possibilities and future of nighttime entertainment are wide open. The future, it seems, will be to incorporate more technology and more stories into the mix, with gaming engines and interactivity set to intensify the experience.