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01 August 2012

Jeremy Railton on media-based attractions

In our summer issue of InPark magazine (releasing the second week of August), we invited industry experts to comment on what they thought was the next "big thing" in media-based attractions, especially in light of the rise in prominence of the Asian market. 
  
In this except from that article, Jeremy Railton, President of Entertainment Design Corporation, talks about his experience working on Asian projects and what it means for our industry going forward.
Jeremy Railton

My observations are based on a few years of working in Asia, creating projects that include a large, overhead screen in the central business district of Beijing called The Place; Crane Dance, the Lake of Dreams and Hall of Treasures at Resorts World Sentosa; and The Wishing Crystals and Fortune Diamond attractions at the Galaxy Casino Macau.

Asian clients all want media integrated into attractions. That's a given. But it's being applied in some interesting ways that I think we'll see more of in future. Think big spectacle!

Media just keeps getting more flexible and powerful, for instance with the advances that have been made in LED technology and lighting instruments. Lighting instruments are becoming more and more like  projectors and programming has become less complicated as you can channel  all the media components through single system such as Pandora’s Box, among others.

Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa
All these advances give us new powerful tools for storytelling. The tools plus the level of integration possible with Crane Dance at Resorts World in Singapore allowed us to tell a deeper, more nuanced story than we could otherwise. LED screens were integrated into the robotic sculpture. Water wing nozzles were concealed behind the screen. In order to link the nozzle sprays with the digital images we matched the real water with digital water.

Designs for Crane Dance
The client wanted flexibility, and in addition to the basic Crane Dance show, we created programs for the screens that have nothing to do with the Crane story . One  program welcomes ‘high-rollers’ to Resorts World by name and the other Celebrate Chinese New Year. The screens on the cranes are square because the client wanted the option of putting them together to watch football matches.  At the time, I thought that the dual use offered the client a kind of insurance if the Crane Dance was not so successful, but as of yet, no football has been watched!

The Fortune Diamond at Galaxy Macau
It's simply good policy to make the most of the multi-functionality afforded by LED screens and other types of media. This affords an option for advertising as well as the means to freshen up an attraction after a few years. Advertisements do not have to be red and yellow with “Shrimp 99 cents"; they can be subtly and cleverly integrated. I have become a realist and believe that if the advertising can be incorporated it can encourage more investment into attractions.

The versatility of programmable LEDs again comes into play in The Fortune Diamond attraction we created at the Galaxy Macau. In this case the LEDs are also waterproof, used under a waterfall that transforms into a lucky roulette wheel at the finale of the show, but also to deliver an ambient lighting effect in non-show mode.

The Fortune Diamond at Galaxy Macau
Downward pressure on budgets coupled with insistence on quality is something we'll continue to see, and that leads to creative international partnerships. Creating media in Mainland China costs about half as much as anywhere else, so we find it better to work hand in hand with local media artists to produce cutting edge media at a lower price point

This kind of collaboration naturally leads to communications challenges, and I came up with some new ways to address these working with local artists to produce the media for The Place in Beijing (a kind of sequel to the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, which I created with Jon Jerde almost 16 years ago). 

A giant Sky Screen in action in China
I solved the ‘communications challenge’ by creating a master story board  that contained all the tricks involved in making media on the giant Sky Screen work. I asked five companies to create a “Chinese Version” of my storyboards and worked closely with them to make sure they understood the counter-intuitive ‘visual grammar’ that pertains to creating an overhead as opposed to the more familiar proscenium viewing experience.

Now there are several new giant overhead screens in China which I did not produce, but they all follow the ‘rules’ that I introduced for the Sky Screen media in 2010.  I find it very interesting that all the local operations managers are talking to one another and exploring the possibility of sharing media.  I think there is a business opportunity for a media company to create independent shows for the big screens.

Jeremy Railton