The world's first ever soccer-themed visitor attraction, Soccer Circus, has selected Medialon Manager show control for its winning new enterprise. Housed within a multi-activity visitor center at Xscape in Glasgow, Scotland, it is a unique concept providing an interactive experience based around soccer. The developers have invested in excess of six years and £5 million in R&D for the new attraction.

Soccer Circus was developed by former football manager and international footballer Kevin Keegan, Scottish entrepreneur Peter Barr, project director Clive Mockford, and principal engineers David Birchall and Alistair Harrison. “The project has been very thoroughly researched, and we believe we have a soccer-based attraction that is second only to the thrill of taking part in a professional match,” says Keegan.

Soccer Circus is centered on football skill games intended to allow everyone to play. Visitors are guided through a series of interactive and fully automated “matches” that use real footballs. The Soccer Circus experience begins when a team of up to four visitors is registered on a central database system and issued a non-contact game access card used by the team captain to identify the team as they travel through the attraction and play the games.

Visitors enter the “Training Academy” where three games develop and test basic football skills ranging from dribbling the ball to tight control and pinpoint passing. A projected scoreboard shows dynamically changing game data such as the score, time remaining, and the player and team names combined with video footage. Custom game music is mixed with an interactive audio commentary reflecting each player’s performance. A light show runs synchronous to the game to create a totally immersive player experience.

Once all of the team members have played the game then the individual and team scores are recorded in the central database. One of the Training Academy games, “Pass and Receive,” includes an automated video capture system. Each player’s performance is recorded to a Windows Media video file and referenced to the central database. After completing all three Training Academy games, the team is shown a projected video presentation of each member playing the games with an assessment of the player’s performance from the coach.

The second half of the attraction is a team game, “Powerplay.” The team moves forward through an atmospheric tunnel where an audio and lighting show simulates the experience of walking up the players’ tunnel and out onto the pitch of a professional football stadium. Housed in a totally immersive, theatre-like arena, the team is presented with a number of life-sized player targets that retract below ground when struck. A full lighting show synchronized to the game music adds to the atmosphere of the event.

After completing Powerplay a projected video presentation replays the game action recorded by two cameras in an automated video-capture system with commentary from the coach.

Finally, each member of the team is given a souvenir scorecard. The team’s position in the Soccer Circus leagues can be viewed on one of a number of TFT screens located in the café bar area. Players can retrieve their video clips and scores through the Soccer Circus web site.

Six Medialon Manager PRO licenses control four Ektacom StreamCoders, 12 ArtNet DownLynx DMX units, 17 Barco IQG500 projectors, two Barco RLM R6+ projectors, 17 Barco LC42 TFT screens, and three TVOne C2-7100 Universal Video Scalers. Medialon also exchanges data with 20 Beckhoff TwinCAT Modbus TCP PLC Windows CE controllers. All data is related directly to the central Soccer Circus SQL Database.

In addition, 45 multi-instance Medialon Display Player boxes (MDPX) provide video and audio replay either as part of the interactive games or as dynamic signage. Five more Medialon Manager panel licenses are used as remote user interfaces to the show-control systems from various locations around the attraction.

Medialon Manager connects to all of the devices across an attraction-wide Ethernet network. As a result, no hardware expansion cards are required within the PCs running Medialon Manager. This distributed control strategy was developed during the early stages of the project to ensure that the systems would be future-proof and not rely on manufacturer-specific hardware

A further six PCs preloaded with the Manager project are available on standby as backup systems. The whole procedure of switching to a backup machine takes less than three minutes and can be implemented by a non-technical operator.

Medialon Manager was primarily selected for its networking, database compliance, and easy GUI creation. Manager networking embeds native network connection and data sharing, allowing the creation of powerful client/server applications without the burden of complex programming. In addition, no other control software offers such easy integration with standard databases: programming video-server control using clip names retrieved from an external database filled in by users gives incredible power and facilitates the programming process. Also, the embedded Graphical User Interface (GUI) programming tool has been designed for fast and easy programming of the control panel and touch screen.

“Soccer Circus has been one of the most challenging and interesting projects involving Medialon show control,” notes Medialon project manager Benjamin Saint Girons. “Because of the high level of technical performance of our products the Soccer Circus project team has been able to develop a system that achieves unique levels of control, integration and creativity.”

Other Medialon Manager features also come into play for Soccer Circus: timeline synchronization with the ability to make quick, easy, and accurate changes; position tracking on the timeline; embedded linear and logical programming; the ability to use a variable as a parameter in a command cue for incredible power in show-control programming; no need to compile programs before they run; adaptation to any communications protocol; native IP control support which permits control of a wide array of software; use of pre-designed or custom user interfaces; free user-interface design software to easily deploy multiple control interfaces, such as touch screens, over a network.

Design engineering manager David Birchall led the control-system development work. “We have been working with Medialon Manager since 2001,” he reports. “The product has enabled us to produce a truly flexible and elegant control solution. With an entirely IP-based system, we can connect to and control every device within the attraction from any of the Manager licenses.”

The entire attraction system was designed, prototyped, manufactured, and delivered in-house by the Soccer Circus engineering team led by director of Research and Development, Clive Mockford. “Working in close collaboration with Medialon throughout the project, from concept through to delivery, has been a key part of our success,” comments Clive. “The Medialon team in Paris has been excellent, providing high-quality technical advice and development work to tune the Medialon products to meet our needs. We believe the project has taken the concept of integrated systems engineering in this market to a new level.”