For those of us TEA members who have focused our careers on the theme park market, we may sometimes forget about some of the adjacent industries where talented entrepreneurs are excited to discover who we are and what we do. Among those talents is Traylor Woodall, the ever-enthusiastic Founder and CEO of Fivestone Studios, an immersive multimedia studio serving the marketing (and now themed entertainment) industries from its home base in Nashville, Tennessee.
According to Traylor, the brand experience market is fertile ground for themed entertainment. “Our famous saying is that we live in that intersection between technology and storytelling, so joining the TEA made perfect sense for us.”
Traylor began his career as an on-air graphic designer for broadcast television, and later made the decision to hang his own shingle and start Fivestone Studios. “We have been pumping out great multimedia projects for over 15 years, and one day one of our Clients asked us to create an immersive guest experience to tell their brand story in their lobby. Suddenly, we were in the guest experience market!” Traylor explains that his foray into themed entertainment and immersive guest experience was a natural fit, and similar to so many entrepreneurs, began with inspiration from Uncle Walt. “Walt Disney was my role model. I have a little yellow notebook I carry around with that written in it from when I was sixteen years old. I have always felt that the way the themed entertainment industry treats the customer experience is phenomenal. Because I love to learn, and my team loves creativity, we feel that the themed entertainment market can help us grow in new and exciting ways to not only deliver projects in themed entertainment, but also learn new skills to serve our clients in the marketing industry as well!”
After making the decision to join the TEA, Traylor immediately began to find ways to invest his time and his company’s marketing dollars for TEA sponsorship. He encourages others to do the same and experience the same success. “I would definitely recommend to anyone who is considering membership, DO IT, and get involved,” he says. “There are a lot of intimate events like TEA mixers and behind-the-scenes tours to peek behind the curtain and start to understand the ways various companies work and meet people — maybe even find a themed entertainment mentor! Be eager and jump in with both feet, because virtually all TEA members are willing to help guide you in this amazing association.”
Written by Matt Kent
Attraction design has always thrived on collaboration; different teams will join a project at different stages. However, the dynamics of when, what, and how each team contributes are changing rapidly.
Creators, tech partners, and integrators are now interdependent. The internet has made communication seamless, allowing complex tasks to be accomplished off-site. Stakeholders can now collaborate closely wherever they are, leveraging a diverse knowledge pool to find innovative solutions.
Recently, I discussed this trend with three experiential design-firm executives I’ve worked with as part of Panasonic Connect’s technology partnership, and it shed light on the evolving landscape of collaboration in the themed entertainment industry.
“Our process is always one of collaboration with our own teams and external stakeholders,” he says. “Sometimes a company will ask us to turn their IP into a live experience. Sometimes, we come up with the genesis of an idea and approach a particular IP for a branded partnership. There is no set formula. Collaboration with new and exciting companies also allows us to push the boundaries of what people can expect from modern entertainment.”
While complete creative freedom is always nice, he says, the reality is that most projects are tightly controlled.
“Most of the time, the client has a high-level vision in mind. Visualization is always necessary to communicate the vision to ensure alignment, direction, and approval. The freedom to go through an ideation process will always deliver the best results. But we are aware of the invisible hand of running the business. Timeline and financials usually guide the team to the final idea.”
Involving problem-solvers is key
Not all creative individuals fit the mold of artists or designers. Welcoming professionals with diverse backgrounds fosters lateral thinking, leading to innovative solutions. For example, a product engineer with a clear understanding of the attraction designer’s vision can shape new products to meet a specific need, while designers learn how to shape a product’s design by showing the engineer exactly what they need it to do.
As a growing trend, design studios are actively engaging tech partners from the beginning of the ideation process to tackle challenges at an early stage.
Lionetti-Maguire observes, “It’s interesting for technology partners to see how companies will use their products, sometimes in ways they may never have imagined. What this does is create new problems to solve. Technology has to be reliable over long periods and many iterations. When faced with the public, technology has to be at its most robust. These challenges will always create new areas of interest and perhaps even new products for both sides.”
Newman also acknowledges the value of on-site cooperation in tackling challenges, stating, “Since Moongate Design Studio focuses on LBE projects, we face many challenges due to specific conditions of different locations. As a team, we always try to clarify the possible issues in early development with partners.”
Reconciling the “what” and the “how”
However, finding the right balance between visionary concepts and practical considerations can be tough.
Lionetti-Maguire agrees. “The first concept development meeting has to be totally free. We have a mantra of ‘there’s no such thing as a bad idea’ in these meetings. That allows people to be free in their thinking and means we can push the possibilities.
“It’s then in the second phase that we begin to consider the ‘how.’ This is when we introduce technologies and attempt to see if our earlier ideas were possible. We often have to rethink certain elements or make compromises, as is inevitable in any project. However, we have garnered such experience in live entertainment that we often think several steps ahead and will have a very good idea of delivering a certain element.”
The co-creation laboratory
To realize this balance, Panasonic Connect’s creative engineer initiative fosters deeper communication between tech partners and clients. Engineers gain a better understanding of on-site requirements to propose effective solutions.
It’s the impetus of our XR Lab concept. R&D teams are brought together with LBE designers and tasked with creating next-generation experiences. For creative studios, this strong emphasis on collaboration differentiates “technology partner” from “equipment supplier.”
“An equipment supplier will often do the bare minimum, dropping off an installing kit and walking away without any further care for the project, which is shortsighted,” says Lionetti-Maguire. “A great technology partner, like Panasonic Connect, will invest time and care into their partner’s project, knowing that this will be a mutually beneficial endeavor in the long run.”
A glimpse ahead
Looking ahead, emerging technologies promise a new kind of immersive experience. “The technology we are developing with Panasonic Connect for Chaos Karts has enormous possibilities in all those fields,” says Lionetti-Maguire. “The idea of fully digital 360-degree worlds in which customers can play in real-time without the use of VR, which is limiting and inherently anti-social in the real world, is one that I find extremely exciting.”
Song looks forward to more immersive experiences driven by advanced technologies. “More advanced technologies allowing us to share the experience virtually and worldwide will only create more hybrid types of new immersive genres where the traditional theme park and new digital age experience collide and coexist.
“What excites us is not so much about the upcoming technologies; it’s about how we can forge all the tools to create a stronger and more immersive guest experience.”
If you’re interested in learning how a technology partner can enrich and sustain your next attraction, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
Chad Kunimoto is the Global Business Development Manager for Themed Entertainment and Immersive Experiences at Panasonic Connect.
Immersive tourist attractions have received much attention in recent years and are fast becoming a popular, futuristic mainstream entertainment trend. Special effects films play an integral part in crafting such extraordinary experiences by cultivating a highly immersive environment and creating a strong sense of audience participation.
Fantawild Holdings Inc. operates upwards of 10 distinct Fantawild theme park brands, amounting to over 30 parks in total with hundreds of exciting themed attractions, both in China and overseas. A leading player in the domestic theme park industry and ranking fifth in global theme park attendance figures for four consecutive years, Fantawild has been honored with many awards including TEA’s Thea Awards for Outstanding Achievement, the IAAPA Brass Ring Awards, and the Lotus Award. These outstanding market achievements and industry recognitions are testaments to the efforts of Fantawild Film Inc. and its focus on providing one-stop solutions for theme park attractions, from content design and production, to visual effect guidance, to filming, post-production and media production.
Fantawild Film Inc., a subsidiary of Fantawild Holdings, has contributed to the film industry for over 20 years. Currently, it operates the largest special effects film research institute in China. With strong technological prowess, Fantawild boasts a complete and integrated industrial chain for special effects film production. This covers content planning, design, production, recording, equipment debugging and installation. The organization is proud to be leading the trend of special effects films by independently developing upwards of 10 distinct types of special effects film encompassing all previously established special effects film categories.
Thanks to advanced technology and production capabilities, Fantawild has produced more than 100 world-class special effects film programs. The company presents the charm of special films from a new perspective, providing tourists with the ultimate feast for the senses and providing commercial customers with personalized special effects film programs. Fantawild’s special effects film production system has not only been utilized for its own theme parks but has also been introduced to global markets. Fantawild has successfully sold over 70 sets of special effects film systems to more than 40 countries and territories, including the United States, Canada, Italy, etc. This enables tourists at home and abroad to enjoy a spectacular viewing experience.
Special effects films with distinctive features
Fantawild Film Inc. has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge technology and continuously innovates to apply such technology to its special effects films. The company has developed over 10 kinds of special effects films. These includes dynamic track rides, suspended spherical screen movies, 360° circular-screen movies, giant screen movies, water screen movies, and holographic AR movies.
Fantawild is highly capable at each stage of the special effects film production process with experience in designing customized programs to suit different themes and storylines. Seeking to create an immersive sensory experience and present a splendid artistic effects, Fantawild utilizes various screen types and technologies such as visual tracking, image splicing and restoration. Perfect synchronization between specialized equipment, including dynamic vehicles, boats, and stages, combines with intricately designed programs to ultimately achieve these goals.
To best present exciting, action-packed scenes, which are favored by youngsters, Fantawild Film Inc. has designed and developed numerous 4D dark rides, such as The Wizard Academy and The Legend of Nüwa.
Dino-Rampage, a large-scale 4D dark ride program at Fantawild Dino Kingdom in Zigong, features Mesozoic era and scientific elements. This attraction allows visitors to take on the role of a superhero who saves a city rampant with dinosaurs. The theater adopts hyper-realistic technology as well as dynamic image tracking technology. The delicate integration of stereo virtual images and real props is accomplished by synchronizing various screen types, dynamic track vehicles with multiple degrees of freedom, simulation settings, and lighting special effects with other special effects such as raging dinosaurs, collapsing buildings, storms, avalanches, and fire. Together, these elements present the chaos brought by the unruly dinosaurs. The attraction also includes sections of film in which the police swear to defend the city even if it’s the last thing they do. Visitors can partake in a fantastic sensory experience in this highly immersive and adventurous program which is simply great fun.
In order to present dreamlike and aesthetic stories, Fantawild has innovatively developed the world’s first 360-degree holographic AR theater. Holographic AR film Eternal Love integrates augmented reality technology with live performance. The 360-degree imagery provides audience members with a fantastic view from any location within the theater, creating a visual masterpiece from every angle. Various special effects are employed throughout this production, including the mysterious disappearance and sudden reappearance of performers, props and scenes; the rapid growth of the vines on the wall; and the cracking, collapse, then vanishing of structures. Simultaneously, simulated weather changes such as wind, snow, thunder, and lightning offer audiences an enhanced viewing experience. At the end of the performance, the story’s protagonists dance together and fly into flowers after becoming butterflies. The whole performance is ethereal and picturesque.
Qu Yuan, another holographic AR film, centers on the tumultuous life of China’s first poet. The film innovatively adopts an ink painting style, utilizing dynamic special effects animation. Perfect cooperation between a high-tech stage and live performance using holographic AR technology and stereo wall projections creates visually poetic scenes. This attraction won Fantawild TEA’s Thea Awards for Outstanding Achievement in 2019.
Fantawild excels in presenting themes and artistic effects required for each attraction through a variety of stylized film content such as cartoons, hyperrealism, traditional origami, ink painting, scroll painting, and digital restoration. The organization has developed hundreds of colorful special effects programs with distinctive cultural significances and technological traits. Among them are Bridge to Love, shown in a panoramic dome theater; Battle of Red Cliffs, a Three Kingdom-themed traditional origami experience; Marvels of Chinese Culture, a giant screen film; and Chinese Opera Express which is a trackless ride. Fantawild’s work is therefore recognized as a model for integrating technology with modern tourism. Special effects films are the core of all these attractions. Synchronizing specialized equipment and special effects combine the virtual and real worlds to present diverse themes and content in an innovative way.
Dive into the culture and explore the art of inheritance and innovation
A strong theme and cultural representation are the heart of Fantawild’s productions. Fantawild often takes inspiration from traditional stories then combines this with creativity and technology to provide tailored recreational attractions. Each production is carefully crafted and requires a lot of work. This includes research, sourcing material, brainstorming, discussing, and evaluating relevant technology. With a focus on innovative development and conversion of cultural content, as well as developing new technology and producing special effects films, Fantawild strives to achieve authentic artistic restoration through special effects. This grants cultural elements a new lease of life, and provides tourists with unique experiences.
Fantawild was the first organization in China to build a park featuring with cultures of the 10 ASEAN member states: Fantawild Asian Legend. Over 50 members of the Fantawild film creation and production team spent several months traveling Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos and so on studying the cultures and customs of these territories while collecting relevant material and resources.
Fantawild successfully showcases the individuality of each nation, featuring the most symbolic cultural elements. Each represented territory features characteristics such as folklore, legends, and natural landscapes vividly presented on huge screens, 360-degree circular screens, or spherical screens. 4D dark ride technology, holographic imagery technology, and water-screen film technology are employed to complete the special effects production as required by Fantawild Asian Legend park.
For these parks, Fantawild has developed over 10 special effects films, including Dancing Islands, Manila Manila, and Finding Merlion. These attractions vividly represent the colorful and diverse nature and history, as well as the perhaps unfamiliar cultures of these ASEAN nations. Nanning Fantawild Asian Legend provides visitors with a fantastic opportunity to learn more about other places and cultures without having to travel. The park has also hosted important political figures from these ASEAN nations and has received positive feedback.
The production of the giant screen film Amazing Angkor is visually impressive. To authentically recreate architectural characteristics, social customs, and the geographic landscape of Angkor Wat and its history of more than 1,000 years, Fantawild engineers visited the site in person to collect material and carry out extensive research. They then developed Amazing Angkor, a unique huge-screen film which utilizes hyper-realistic digital assets software and methods of normal mapping. Hundreds of photographs taken from a multitude of angles guarantee detailed accuracy in Fantawild’s digital models. 3D digital remastering technology was used to perfectly recreate the splendid stone structures and wall paintings of Angkor Wat.
Let’s Fly is a popular themed attraction at Nanning Fantawild Asian Legend. In this suspended dome theater, visitors can take in some of the most recognizable and distinctive scenery from several different countries. This flight simulation utilizes a spherical screen with a unique elevation angle and suspended seats which mimic on-screen movements. Various technologies were used during the film’s production, including super-realistic CG production, image drawing, and texture mapping. Fantawild collected huge amounts of research material and studied it in detail, aiming to present authentic replications using texture mapping.
This immersive attraction is truly a feast for the eyes. Visitors can fully appreciate the magnificent scenery and landmarks of ASEAN nations, such as Mount Popa, Borobudur Temple, the splendid Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, and the famous Shwedagon Pagoda.
This attraction represents tradition while making innovative use of technology. Fantawild enables people to see the infinite potential of combining traditional culture with modern technology. Participants will appreciate the beauty of these creative arts in this immersive attraction.
Strong technical prowess ensures quality
Rapid technical advancements encourage continuous modifications to recreational activities and a constant need for innovation to fulfill such demands. The realization of great ideas is indispensable from the advancement of technology.
Fantawild has always upheld the value of self-innovation and self-owned intellectual property rights. To date, the organization has obtained over 500 patents worldwide. Fantawild actively explores contemporary ways to integrate and apply cutting-edge technology, culture, film and other forms of media with the tourism industry. The company is experienced in and capable of all stages of the film production process, including concept design, visual effect creation, special-effects and television production, on-site visual effect guidance and shooting, audio and video post-production, motion capture, high-precision asset production, commercial advertising, 3D animation production, and virtual digital person in the field of digital content. It is undoubtedly an exemplary company within the special effects film sector.
Fantawild Film Inc. boasts strong creative and R&D capabilities, having self-developed a series of professional facilities, including a hyper-realistic 360-degree photogrammetry system and various intelligent shooting systems. Additionally, the organization has fully grasped a whole set of film and television production capabilities, such as simulation technology, extra sensory experience, and the post-production special effects of film and television productions. Thanks to all of this, much of Fantawild’s technology is considered to be some of the best in the world.
Fantawild was the first organization in China to develop a giant screen stereo projection system with 8K resolution and 48 frames per second (fps) as well as a spherical screen projection system with 4K resolution and 60 fps. Paying close attention to 3D digital remastering technology, hyper-realistic asset technology, the integration of live shots with 3D graphics, and stylized picture effects research were all indispensable when crafting super authentic replicas of actual scenes to ultimately creating a realistic virtual world.
Fantawild never stops modernizing performance styles and updating the content of themed attraction. They are able do so by independently developing virtual interactive entertainment equipment and intelligent control systems such as special tracks, vehicles, boats, stages, simulation robots, and special effects devices. This has facilitated upgraded presentation formats, including suspended dome theaters, 4D dark rides, holographic AR theaters, dynamic dome theaters and so on.
It is noteworthy that Fantawild Film Inc. was also the first creative team in the world to impressively bring ancient paintings to life using digital 3D remastering technology. By independently developing techniques to create a 3D reconstruction of an ancient painting, Fantawild successfully developed Flying with Cranes, a spherical screen flight simulation which showcases this classic artwork in a way unlike any before.
It takes a lot of time and effort to digitally remaster a painting on a giant spherical screen with 4K resolution at 48 fps. Fantawild engineers have constructed 3D model of this piece of art by employing the outlining and techniques of traditional Chinese painting and 3D digital technology. Close attention was paid to also preserve the carving strokes and intricate details of the original painting. The coloring process and manner in which the colors overlap were studied in order to make a perfect replica of the original piece.
Creatively taking inspiration from the mineral jade, Fantawild vividly represents the texture and gloss of water seen in the original painting. Fantawild also developed away for guests to appreciate the painting while inflight as visitors sit in suspended chairs enveloped by a huge spherical screen to give the impression of flying in line with cranes. Guest have close contact with the ancient painting from the Northern Song dynasty and can fully appreciate the beauty and magnificence conveyed in this landscape painting.
Fantawild has crafted magical spaces where visitors can travel through time and experience various magnificent and exciting adventures. A combination of culture, technology, and imagination has created wonderful lands of innovation, offering visitors wonderfully immersive and dreamlike experiences.
Chad Kunimoto explains how laser projection can transform your business into a sustainable powerhouse with these 10 strategies.
Blog post by Chad Kunimoto for TEA
The attractions industry is moving to address the environmental impact of creating magical experiences. PortAventura World in Spain recently became the world’s first carbon-neutral resort. Disney is progressing towards its 100% carbon neutrality goal by 2030. Universal Studios Orlando switched to LED lighting, saving about 2.4 million kilowatt hours of energy annually. Others are investing in water recycling, food waste programs, and renewable energy sources.
With so many companies relying on media-powered attractions, investing in laser projection can go a long way to minimizing your environmental impact while promoting sustainable business. Here are 10 ways that laser projectors—the heart of media-based experiences—can make your operation more sustainable.
1. Reduce waste and enhance reliability
It used to be necessary to keep an inventory of spare lamps and filters and maintain projectors regularly, which led to waste, cost, and downtime. Today, the best DLP laser projectors feature sealed optical blocks that prevent dust ingress without the need for filters, while the light source lasts for the life of the product, reducing downtime, waste, cost, and effort for operators.
2. Transition to energy-efficient equipment
Laser projectors offer excellent Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) benefits. One study found that if all European cinemas switched from lamp to laser projectors, the energy savings could amount to 150 GWh of energy annually, equivalent to the monthly production of a small nuclear power plant. Some 20,000-lumen-class projectors such as this use about 33% less energy than equivalent lamp projectors. Laser projectors maintain consistent brightness for long periods, reducing the need for calibration.
3. Reduce transport emissions
Laser projectors are much smaller and lighter than lamp projectors, with some models 40% smaller than their predecessors, for more efficient transport. Rental companies can fit more units on one truck at a time, directly reducing carbon emissions. The smaller form factor saves time, energy, and costs associated with installation, opening new possibilities for projection in areas with limited space.
4. Use fewer projectors
Some laser projectors offer a high level of brightness relative to their size, allowing you to achieve impressive image quality using fewer projectors. Lamp projectors often required stacking to achieve sufficient brightness, but now a single laser projector can accomplish the same task. Additionally, evolved fisheye lenses can provide full-dome coverage from a single projector, boosting operating efficiency.
5. Refresh the experience, not the hardware
To ensure long-term sustainability, selecting a flexible projector that can adapt to different applications is important. Laser light sources last for 20,000 hours, so you can keep using the same projectors through multiple iterations of an attraction. Compatibility with optional lenses and function boards adapt to changing needs.
6. Save time during setup
The best projectors provide a user experience that will save time, money, and resources for improved sustainability. For example, automated edge-blending and remote monitoring capabilities can streamline setup and operation and reduce resource consumption. Additionally, the use of NFC (Near Field Communication) can save time by enabling device interactions even in the absence of AC power on-site.
7. Extend projector service life
Laser projectors include Eco modes that extend service life beyond 20,000 hours. Furthermore, sensors can detect changes in the images and make adjustments to maintain color and brightness uniformity, reducing callouts. Some lenses can detect changes in content brightness or temperature and correct focus drift automatically.
8. Simulate real environments
Laser projection allows you to simulate the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems, allowing guests to experience the wonder without causing harm. From exotic flora and fauna to marine or forest ecologies, projection offers a sustainable way to share it.
9. Avoid toxic materials
Choose a projector that does not contain specified toxic substances such as mercury, lead, or halogenic flame retardants. Unlike conventional projectors that require special disposal of expired lamps due to their mercury content, laser projectors offer a more hassle-free and environmentally conscious choice.
10. Secure a technology partner
When selecting a technology partner, prioritize those with a strong environmental track record, a trusted reputation, and a forward-thinking vision for sustainability. Your values and vision should align so that you can work together to ensure that your investments contribute to environmental sustainability.
Since projectors work continuously for long periods, seeking expert advice is vital for maximizing their sustainability. When it comes time to create or renew your next attraction, engage a technology partner who understands your site and can guide you through every aspect of spatial design, from the blue-sky phase to opening day. If you’re interested in learning how you can make your media-based attraction more sustainable, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chad Kunimoto is the Global Business Development Manager for Themed Entertainment and Immersive Experiences at Panasonic Connect.
The TEA Masters of Their Craft program recognizes the achievements of individuals — the artists, writers, producers, engineers and craftspeople with distinguished careers who’ve made significant and enduring contributions to the industry through their expertise, innovation, leadership, and mentorship.
The TEA Masters program recognizes a small number of individuals each year, whose skills epitomize the highest standards within their disciplines and who have used those skills to advance their field and the themed entertainment industry. Each TEA Master has built a body of work over decades that demonstrates consistent quality and execution. Often unknown except among their peers and collaborators, TEA Masters help create visceral stories, rides, attractions, events, and places that thrill, delight, and educate guests worldwide.
Although the TEA Masters, by definition, are well along in their careers and some have even retired, many Masters are actively creating new marvels around the world. Others are pursuing personal creative and education projects. And all of the Masters remain passionate about sharing their well-honed skills and career lessons with those interested in entering the industry or wanting to learn more about its various aspects.
We want to tell those stories.
This column contains news of the ongoing activities, achievements and adventures of the TEA Masters around the world. These are the stories of real people who, like all of us, have personal stories to tell: an honor outside of their specialty, an art gallery or technology showcase, enjoying new places and experiences with family and friends or taking a well-deserved retirement trip.
This is Keeping up with the Masters!
KEEPING UP WITH TEA MASTER FRANK WEIGAND
KEEPING UP WITH TEA MASTER