3D and 4D
A new dimension


3D and 4D is constantly being evolved to keep us intrigued and entertained. Kathleen Whyman asks the suppliers behind the technology what they’re working on and what’s the secret of a successful show


David Willrich, DJ Willrich, UK

What’s the latest in 3D and 4D?
Typically, we think of theatres using 3D imagery plus additional effects. One of the reasons 3D theatres are becoming more common is that 3D CGI has become a lot cheaper to produce. This has also opened up much greater scope for creating 2D shows using 3D CGI.

How does this differ to what’s been available before?
Significantly. For a more modest budget, it’s possible to deliver movie-quality CGI to create better effects and explanations. We now have the computing power to create film-quality media. Electronic projection and electronically-created media are taking over what was traditionally the marketplace for various large film formats. High-quality experiences can be created and maintained for less, in venues that would have previously been impossible to use with film projection systems.

What interactive elements does it involve?
This depends on the space. You can do all the standard 4D tricks such as air effects, water, wind machines and butt kickers, but the visual element has to work for all-round entertainment. For the technique to work outside the theme park environment, you don’t have to use all the tricks – the content itself can provide all that it needs and the experiential approach can prove to be an effective twist on immersive story telling or interpretation of real history.

Who is the target audience?
I’m not sure we always know the answer to this, or that the target and real audience are the same. However, I believe that most museums and attractions like to think they cover a family group of three generations who all get something out of the experience.

What are the current trends?
The current trend is to jump on the 4D bandwagon, regardless of whether it’s appropriate or not. In many cases, operators hope the 4D effects make up for poor storytelling but they should choose the appropriate technology and approach for each project. Therefore, we don’t provide off-the-shelf solutions. All our projects are unique and pull on different ideas to provide a given solution.

How can the new technology be developed in the future?
It’s not necessarily a case of developing new technology – in a lot of cases, the technology is there. Years ago, technology was a real limitation, with ideas and imagination well ahead of it, but not so much any more. More often than not, the technology isn’t being stretched enough and the ideas aren’t always up to it, or there’s a lack of understanding on how best to apply it. The other limiting factor, and possibly one of the greatest limiting factors, is budget. However, both the technology for creating these experiences and playing them back has got significantly cheaper over the last five years, hence the increase in the number of 4D theatres. It’s important though that proper budgets are assigned to the media production. Projection systems continue to get better in terms of resolution and brightness, which means we’ll be able to continue using projectors in more varied ways that aren’t necessarily just limited to theatres. Walk-through experiences and large architectural spaces are already beginning to use large scale projection for a more immersive environment.

Do operators need to obtain new equipment?
This depends on the age of their current equipment. Electronic projection is rapidly taking over from fi lm, so theatres that have used fi lm projections are rapidly replacing them with electronic projection which can often provide comparable or better quality with much lower running costs. In many cases sound, lighting and effects can also be kept, but the projection system has to be replaced, which is a signifi cant cost if it’s going to be done to a comparable quality to fi lm. However, if the original system was video, then a major improvement can be achieved by using a better quality projection and, if possible, revising the show content to a higher resolution. For example, in the case of video, a move up to a high defi nition solution or even higher resolution if budget permits.

Is there still room in the attractions industry for traditional 2D shows?
Absolutely! I believe that it’s better to deliver a relevant, high quality 2D experience as opposed to a gimmicky, poor quality 3D or 4D experience. If the traditional 2D experience was outmoded, then we’d no longer be going to traditional cinemas. The fact that cinemas still exist is testimony to the quality of the fi lms that the public has access to and the fundamental fact that not all movies need 3D to make them work. A good story, told well at a consistently high quality, will win over one that’s told badly and relies on gags to pull it through. However, get all aspects right and you have a stunning experience!

Roger Houben, managing director, 3DBA, Belguim

What’s the latest in 3D and 4D?
There hasn’t been much new development on the hardware side in recent years, aside from more affordable and easy to maintain digital projectors and more customisation of theatre special effects. The major change is the availability of a much larger, high-quality library of films. We’ve also noticed a worldwide increase in the request for branded fi lms based on well-known Intellectual Properties (IP). Refl ecting this trend, 3DBA has obtained the IP rights for Casper, George of the Jungle and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One of the largest changes was 3BDA’s SFX Theater, which opened last year at Bobbejaanland, Belguim. The theatre offers high defi nition projectors guaranteeing a superb 3D image supported by 10 in-theatre special effects – rainfall, wind, strobe lights, fog, vibrations in the seats, sounds in the floor, falling curtains, falling spiders, moving lights and scent. Increasingly, customers want to customise their theatres and are looking for customised special effects in addition to, or even in place of, standard seat effects.

What is the latest in 3D and 4D offers?
Together with its partners Falcon’s Treehouse and Kraftwerk, 3DBA is currently developing several state of the art 4D attractions including CircuMotion – a 360°, 4D theatre, which opens early 2009 in China (see interview with Falcon’s Treehouse’s president Cecil Magpuri in AM Q2 08). We’re also working on a 4D Dark Ride; 5th Dimension; Flying Theatre; Interactive Theatre; and a 3D Race Simulator.

Do operators need to obtain new equipment?
In most cases, it’s advisable to upgrade the projection system to digital. This would require a new server and, in most cases, a new control system.

Is there still room for traditional 2D shows?
Most of the 2D venues are still film based and need to upgrade to digital. When they do, I expect the operators will also consider going to 3D.

What 3D / 4D projects are you working on for the future?
We’ve just opened theatres in Malaysia and Indonesia and are on the verge of opening our fi rst 4D theatres in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia during the next few months. Also, we’ve just sold our first project to a cruiseline.

Stiig-Mathias Gabriel, marketing and communications, explore 5D, Austria

What is the latest in 3D and 4D offers?
Our newest development is a 5D theatre in Vienna, Austria. Called the Miraculum, it combines 3D movies, 4D special effects and a mixture of guest involvement and local, authentic content.

How does this differ to what’s been available before?
We use special effects, 3D movies, CGI, sound and light design to create an effect whereby guests can’t distinguish between generated images or effects and reality.

What interactive elements does it involve?
The interactive elements we use are mainly based on the psychological research by the CEO of explore 5D, Dr Gerhard Frank, concerning the Erlebnisdramaturgie, or dramaturgy of experience. They evoke emotions already embedded within the guests from fairy tales, myths and legends.

How does your 3D / 4D offer differ to others?
We’ve created the theatre so that it resembles a lecture hall. The involvement is more intense as guests are expected to participate, so the outcome is different.

Is there still room in the industry for traditional 2D shows?
If the whole experience is overwhelming, a 2D show can work as well as ever. It’s a question of knowing what people are used to and fi nding an approach they don’t know how to deal with.

Philippe Chiwy, general manager and co-founder, de pinxi, Belguim

What’s the latest in 3D and 4D?
de pinxi is now entering the entertainment market with four games combining all the effects used in theatrical experience, such as surround sound with group interaction. This approach is radically different from arcade systems; it’s targeted at the whole family, the 3D element makes it totally immersive and it’s a social experience.

What interactive elements does it involve?
Any kind of sensors and actuators that are relevant to the storytelling, and are vandalproof! Visitors are given tools ranging from a basic joystick to the more adventurous cannon, ropes, paddles and bicycles.

How does your offer differ to others?
Group interaction with 3D, special effects and a simulator. Nobody else does all three together. When the simulator is part of the experience, the customers control the motion of the whole theatre.

What are the current trends?
Upgrading to 4D. We have enough content to feed this and have scenarios ensuring an attraction’s long-term life cycle.

Who are your attractions customers?
What products do they use?
Theme parks, science museums and large companies looking for innovative communication. They use our 4D interactive theatres, mobile 3D/4D theatres and tours.

Do operators need to obtain new equipment?
There is room for retrofit – more than half of our customers choose this. But, for new content delivery, especially in 3D, operators will need new content players.

Is there still room in the industry for traditional 2D shows or are they now a thing of the past?
I believe 2D shows can still be successful in special formats: domes, panoramic and cubic and in very, very high definition.

What 3D / 4D projects are you working on?
We’re currently working on a 3D mobile interactive theatre and also on the fourth generation of 3D camera, which is especially aimed at fi lming 3D content in demanding conditions such as on a plane or a train.

Mike Frueh, vice president, SimEx - Iwerks Entertainment, US

What is the latest in 3D and 4D?
Our latest 4D attractions feature highresolution 2K HD projection with larger, brighter and more immersive screens. We’ve spent a lot of time on theatre design – sightlines, seating patterns, better seating for disabled patrons, improved special effects and better performing projection systems and screens. We’ve perfected our scent delivery systems and introduced new lighting effects. We’ve also fi nalised the design of a new fourth generation 4D seat that will be introduced in a new major theme park in 2009. Also, a new proprietary show control system will be introduced in early 2009 that will accommodate the far more complex programming demands of tomorrows 4D attractions. Our film library is refreshed each year with new releases and continues to be one of the best in the business. Recent fi lms such as The Polar Express 4D Experience, Planet Earth 4D and Monster Trucks 4D are delivering record box office numbers for our clients and partners.

What interactive elements do you offer?
Stay tuned. In 2009, guests at our attractions will be immersively interacting with the visual experience.

What’s the appeal?
Visit any of the 150 facilities we support and you’ll see that our 4D Attractions deliver a compelling family experience that stimulates a strong, positive, excited response. The appeal to our partners is the relatively low capital cost per guest and the compact footprint; they also like the fact our film library allows for frequent refreshment of their attraction.

What are the current trends?
There is a trend towards environmental and ‘green’ topics.

Who are your attractions customers?
What products do they use?
We’re working with the leaders in the worldwide entertainment industry who appreciate our ability to deliver costeffective turnkey attractions and effective long-term support on a worldwide basis.

What 3D / 4D projects are you working on for the future?
We have high profi le 4D attractions opening in New York City, US, and Orlando, Florida, US, this summer. We’ve also developed a mobile 40-seat attraction and have several projects in China and the Middle East that will keep us busy too.

Renate Zoller, managing director, Kinoton GmbH, Germany

What’s the latest in 3D and 4D?
The change from film to digital projection recently taking place throughout the theatrical industry offers tremendous new chances for 3D projection. Our D-Cinema projectors featuring the DLP Cinema® technology from Texas Instruments, such as Kinoton’s DCP D-Cinema projector series, can easily be upgraded for stereoscopic projection to allow audiences to watch 3D with only one single projector.

How does this differ to what’s been available before?
This new technology enables ‘normal’ cinemas to add 3D shows to their common 2D program with only minimum effort. Reacting to these prospects, the industry is bound to launch a wider variety of digital 3D movies, especially in the range of animation movies, in order to meet the rising demand for 2K stereoscopic screen adventures.

What’s the future for 3D and 4D?
Besides digital projection technology, film will stay an important medium for 3D and 4D projection in terms of special venue and large format shows. Kinoton also offers complete projection systems for 3D fi lm projection with optionally one or two electronically controlled projectors for 4/35, 8/35, 5/70, 8/70 and 10/70 fi lm formats for screens up to 500sq m (5,380sq ft) and more. Featuring the enhanced Premiere electronic drive system, these film projectors guarantee unrivalled picture steadiness, contrast and brightness. Silver screens, frame systems, sound systems and complete show control are available as well.

Terry Monkton, managing director, Simworx Limited, UK

What’s the latest in 3D and 4D?
Simworx offers a number of 3D/4D products. Dimensions 4D Effects Theatre is a Cinema style seat with in-built 4D effects, combined with in-theatre effects such as low smoke, snow, bubbles, aroma and special effects lighting. For some clients we use animatronic effects. We also have a Dimensions 4D Seat specially designed for waterparks. Our Stargazer 4D Motion Theatre is a highly dynamic theatre, incorporating the same effects as the Dimensions theatre. Another offer is customised large scale 20 and 25 seat 3D/4D Motion Platforms. We also have some fabulous fi lms, including The Curse of Skull Rock, a 4D fi lm produced by Red Star Studio, which won the Best Animated Children’s film at the Stuttgart Film Festival in May.

How does this differ to what’s been available before?
Admittedly, 3D has been around for a while, but 4D is still relatively new to the industry. Utilising the most dynamic motion theatres with 3D and 4D effects and having a diverse product offering ensures we can offer the latest technology and deliver the ultimate wow factor.

What interactive elements does it involve?
The sensory 4D effects are effectively what make the audience interact with the film. People genuinely reach out for the 3D and try and pop bubbles and grab snow during 4D shows. In conjunction with de pinxi, the first 4D interactive simulator was produced last year for Champalimaud Foundation. Utilising a Mobile Morphis 20 Movieride Theatre with 3D and 4D effects, de pinxi designed and fi tted a truly interactive experience where each rider in the theatre has their own joystick and buttons to influence the happenings on screen.

What’s the appeal?
3D and 4D is not mainstream, in that you can’t experience it at home. Instead it’s available at visitor attractions to give that wow factor that people can’t experience in their every day lives.

How can the new technology be developed in the future?
We have a few developments in the pipeline which will take the 3D and 4D elements from a motion theatre and combine them with a dark ride. We’ll also continue to develop the interactive elements.

Tim Dear, creative director, Amazing Interactives, UK

What is the latest in 3D and 4D offers?
The combination of real time special effects software and rear-projected 3D allows new levels of interaction between the special effects, audience and actors.

How does this differ to what’s been available before?
Traditionally, stage shows use pre-made or ‘canned’ footage when projecting onto a rear or front screen. This technique allows actors to blend their stage performances with 3D elements of the show. When using ‘real-time’ technology for the projected screen display, actors can invite the audience to trigger sequences, consequences and events randomly.

What interactive elements does it involve ?
There are several, including flying, vanishing, dissolving, moving and controllable special effects within the show.

How does your 3D / 4D offer differ to others?
Our special effects are entirely softwarebased and operate in real time during the shows. This means the 3D-Stereoscopic effects are triggered at the exact moment they are required by the cast and the audience, allowing time for variation in the delivery of lines and ad-libbing by the cast.

Is there still room in the industry for traditional 2D?
2D effects will remain an enormously important part of the tool set available for creating and adding to ambience, story line and visual illusion. ●

 


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Spa Business
2009 issue 4

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