Don MacBain on New Tech in Themed Entertainment
We asked veteran ride-film producer Don MacBain about the role technology has played in the development of unique guest experiences. The astonishing technological advancements he’s seen over the course of his career have positively impacted the story-teller’s ability to immerse the theme park guest ever more completely into the attraction environment. This is what he shared with us.
Of course, my point-of-view is from that of the media creator. Not all advancements would necessarily be obvious to the rider. Tools that allow improved movement of the camera capturing the imagery (or the manipulation or creation of the scene with added and ever more sophisticated computer generated imagery) give the media or media portions of a ride an increased ability to captivate the audience.
The 2017 opening of “Flying Dreams – Around The World With Ferrari” at Ferrari Land / Port Aventura, Spain, utilized the first one-to-one frame-rate with photographic to projection lens matching, so that the imagery seen was unadulterated first generation, from the camera to the dome screen. This used the then state-of-the-state ability of large heavy lifting drones (optocopters and hexacopters) to fly down to deck level and along with and just above the Ferrari’s featured in the ride. Coupled with the seat-movement and other 4D elements, this use of the newest drone technology with the latest available high frame rate and ‘film’ quality digital cameras add to the presence of being in the imagery as one ‘flies’ through the story.
Any new tool that helps tell the story and immerse the audience, whether ‘behind the camera’ or in the venue itself, is what keeps me interested in the field of theme parks. It is the place where the leading edge of possibility first comes in contact with the general public. Prior to Captain EO, not many were familiar with quality 3D and now its current use has expanded into excellence worth experiencing and available in your local Cineplex (if you want to spend the few extra dollars).
Rumor has it that the new Star Wars lands (at Disney Parks) will make good use of Augmented Reality, allowing visitors to use devices (like looking through your phone’s screen) to see who are other members of the Rebel Alliance, or your ‘opponents’ (having registered your alliances when entering the land). Whereas VR has yet to really land solidly within theme parks, as both Universal and Disney want to assure the social component of park attendance. But it is sure that development of this will continue in the themed entertainment environment, until it reaches a standard of quality that expands throughout the entertainment sphere.
The technology that interests me the most (first experienced at IAAPA 2017) is the field of haptics (soundwave generation outside of the audible experience, that can make you feel as if you have been physically touched, or like something has moved or shifted). If you have a newer smartphone, your ‘home’ button no longer actually clicks down, the sense of its movement or reaction to your touch is a form of haptics. As in other technologies, seeing this used more fully (as it evolves into larger possibilities) will likely first happen in themed entertainment environments. Like the ‘ghosts’ that travel with you when you pass the mirrors in Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, what if an apparition were to reach out to you, and you actually feel as if you have been physically touched?
The ‘playground’ of theme parks, location based entertainment, and museums, all offer places to use these new technologies, and it is exciting to be involved in this field as we all get to see what develops into a standard that eventually finds its way into the mainstream.
Learn more about Don MacBain visit DonMacBain.com.