The Lantern of Life is a light to help tell a story that utilizes innovative storytelling technology, which creates the illusion of people living inside of it so that one can experience it when standing in a queue for a themed attraction. This original story is about the Johnson family that has lived inside of the lantern deep in the forest for decades. When guests encounter the Lantern of Life for the first time, they may notice different activities going on inside of it!
Below one will find a summarized design process. A deeper dive into the process with more pictures can be found by
With 6 weeks left until the final deadline and 5 projects to complete at a high-quality level, project management and organization come into play at the beginning of the design process. After reading through every design requirement, deadline, and schedule, Matthew wrote all of these elements onto calenders. All known deadlines were pushed up a week in advance purposely, in case of any problems coming about in the process (which there ended up being). This allowed time to fix these problems. By failing faster at the beginning, organizing one’s time, and leaving time to execute the small details, The Lantern of Life ended up being completed a couple of days prior to the deadline, allowing for the extra time for the details.
Research and Guest-Centered Based Blue Sky Development
Through utilizing a strategic, research, and guest-centered design process, the Lantern of Life’s development began with exploring over 50+ purposes of how light could be used in the world around us. These purposes included light to help as a tool, with theory, be used in a fridge, to even being used in space! Through feedback from over 30+ peers and researching over 100+ facts and statistics about lighting, these purposes were narrowed down to using light to help tell a story. Mind-mapping was then used to visually explore how light could be used to tell a story, where this could occur, and any other thoughts associated with it.
Here are 2 of the multiple statistics looked at:
Check out the process book to see more images of ideas, mind mapping, and statistics by clicking here!
Letting the research and peer/guest feedback guide the design process, insightful lighting facts showcased different forms of lighting used in theater, shows, rides, and attractions. The research included looking at color psychology, developing emotional connections through lighting, and different forms of technology that could be used in the process (letting the story guide the technology used).
Then, one would talk with peers about what kind of stories would resonate with them. Many peers had just finished helping people that were homeless, lost their homes due to a natural disaster, or had mental health issues and felt lost. Matthew had just finished doing a project for people that lost their homes in Newnan, Georgia due to a tornado that plunged through the city last year. Matthew traveled to the city, spoke with multiple residents affected by it, and saw the destruction for himself. He learned that home is not a building for many of them, but the people around them. With this lesson, it was time to develop the story for this project.
Pictures from Newnan, Georgia:
Using this theme/lesson, multiple themes/environments including exploring death and graveyards, exploring nature and light around it, to even the time frame of the dinosaurs. After peer feedback and looking at other examples of lighting throughout the themed entertainment industry, one decided that exploring a mystical nature area would be engaging and appealing for guests, while also keeping in mind how nature was affected in Newnan, Georgia due to the tornado.
In the world of Gardine, some magical people travel throughout the world to complete the special tasks and go on adventures deep into The Great Forest. Great Forest is filled with creatures of all walks, shapes, and sizes, sizing their life and making the most out of them. Deep in the forest though, there is a special family, the Johnson family. The Johnsons have lived inside their ancient lantern for decades.
The Johnson family consists of multiple young adults with creative passions, who love to dance, or just talk with their other family members. However, they are hard to catch sometimes to talk to. While the lantern is on and glowing, every so often, one might see a faint sellout of one of the family members doing something inside the lantern.
Following many nights of rough wind, the largest storm in the history of Gardine appears out of a cloud of giant jumbo beadles and pounds the Gardine with rain the size of basketballs. The wind is blowing like a bullet train passing by, and trees are following from all directions.
The storm is so powerful that the lantern begins to crack and soon shatters into pieces, leaving the Johnson family falling to the group. What is a couple of feet for such a human seems like a football field for a Johnson family member. The story continues to explain how the Johnson go on a wild adventure looking for a new home but realize the best home, is with their family and the ones around them. The home is not a building, but it is a people.
Through the research process, Matthew contacted multiple industry professionals in the themed entertainment industry and at Georgia Tech to learn more about how to use light to help tell a story. These individuals did not contribute or work on any part of The Lantern of Life, but did give some advice and insight along the way. These people did this outside of their work. Thanks to Christopher Stapleton, Casey Roach, Jake Frizzelle, Philip Lupo, Alyx Jacobs, Andrew Mulkey, Beth Aswell, Abby D. Light, and Catherine Manci.
Guest Experience Narrative/Journey Map
Prior to the project being named The Lantern of Life, the project was called The Living Lantern, but the name was changed after an experience already existed with the same name.
Multiple mood boards were developed and printed to develop a visual language for the Lantern, where it would be located, how the technology would be integrated, and what the silhouettes could look like.
Multiple concepts were explored as well in the ideation process, while also drawing other designs and ideas that came to mind in the process.
The Lantern form was then continuously developed and conceptualized. Here are some forms that were taken into account:
Story scenes for people living inside the lantern were written, developed, acted out, produced, filmed, and edited. This set utilized 8 actors, 2 green screens, 2 Canon 5D Mark4, EF 24-105 mm lens, and a camera lighting kit.
Through using Adobe After Effects, the videos of people acting and moving around were edited into silhouettes. Check out before and after editing here:
Multiple iterations of animation testing were done with different lantern forms to find the best placement, height, angle, and distance of the projector to the lantern.
Prototype Development and Material Testing
A low-fidelity cardboard model was developed to check the form size and shape. The connecting pieces to each side had to be adjusted so that the alignment would be more flush on the edges. In addition, multiple mixtures of glue, dye, and mod-podge were tested on the clear and white acrylic to test how the projection would show up on it. The original mixture idea was suggested by Jake Frizzelle, but after 10-15 different mixtures and changing the amounts, the final “special mixture” of mod-podge, glue, and white paint was developed.
Fabrication and Manufacturing
The structure of the lantern was cut and developed utilizing a laser cutter. A laser-cut file was created in Adobe Illustrator and cut 1/16 inch chipboard into the lantern layout. After texturing each side of the layout with beige and dark brown paint with a rough brush to create a wood-like effect, the chipboard was sanded down to help look ancient and weathered down. The clear acrylic panels were also cut by a laser. The special mixture that was developed in the material exploration section was applied to the acrylic with a sponge and glued onto the inside panels of the layout. This mixture created a semi-clear faux panel that the projection would “live” on.
The lantern was installed between two connecting boards with a branch going through the lantern windows, which hold it up. Outdoor/pre-cut down branches were recycled and used to help theme the lantern environment. The projector was placed high up and hidden so that guests could not see it. The technology “disappeared” and created “magic.”
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. -Arthur C Clarke
Click below to see how guests reacted when they visited The Lantern of Life!
Due to The Lantern of Life ideally being located in a queue, not as much wear and tear will take place on the lantern. This was because the lantern would ideally be out of reach of guests above or to the side of them. Plus, the animations could be edited, changed, and altered over the year so that every time a guest passes it, they see something different each time! In addition, the real live plants used in the scenes above could be fabricated to look like branches and leaves so that the scene lasts longer through recycled plastic.