Anyone not keeping an eye on Macau, a former Portuguese colony now part of the People’s Republic of China, might be surprised to learn that Macau’s casino industry surpasses Las Vegas in terms of gaming revenue. So it stands to reason that luxury hotels and high-tech entertainment venues are part of the scene, including the massive new City of Dreams Resort, based on a lavish underwater motif.
This theme, which will be evoked in Franco Dragone’s new water extravaganza set to open in 2010, is already a hit at Dragon’s Treasure, a truly immersive multimedia production, which opened in the 360° Bubble Theatre in June. This spectacular 10-minute visual feast features the Dragon Pearl and its mysterious powers as experienced by each of the four Dragon Kings, who take audiences on underwater adventures across their magical kingdoms. The story tells how City of Dreams was built atop the ruins of the Palace of the Jade Emperor from Chinese mythology. The Bubble becomes a magical portal that allows guests to dive down to visit the Jade Palace and the dragons, whales, octopi, and other fantastic creatures in search of the Pearl of Wisdom.
“The question was how to carry out the water theme theatrically,” says Norm Schwab, a principal at Lightswitch, which took the lead on the lighting for the project, working closely with creative producer Cecil Magpuri of Falcon’s Treehouse, an attraction design firm in Orlando, FL. “The show is a free attraction to draw people into the casino.” The theatre holds 500 audience members who stand throughout the show, which runs every half hour throughout the day and evening.
Inside the theatre is a large, egg-shaped—or elliptical—dome, 20m tall x 30m wide, which has an under-ceiling, or a dome within a dome, comprised of a perforated aluminum mesh skin embedded with 10,000 LED points—on 18" centers—from Lighting Science Group in CA. “The perforations allow the sound and lighting to come from behind the mesh,” notes Schwab.
Kraftwerk Living Technologies in Austria provided the audio and video systems. “We used 15 Christie Roadie HD+30K projectors in full resolution of 2,048x1,080 pixels and 60fps, aligned to project one uniform picture of 36 megapixels on the dome,” says Thomas Gellermann, head of R&D for Kraftwerk. The projectors sit behind automated portholes in the mesh. “The portholes can open or close in keeping with the projections, and the images shoot across the space onto the elliptical surface with feather edge-blending,” adds Schwab.
Lighting instruments project through the mesh, blasting from behind the 10,000 embedded LED points. “Media content, or pixel-driven imagery, is fed to the LEDs, which are like cool dots, or point sources on a string that snap into laser holes cut into the perforated dome, creating a huge grid,” says Schwab. In all, 114 universes of DMX on two networks control the complex system as it merges DMX, LED, and video content, with an Artistic Licence distribution system for its control.
The mix of LED images and projected video create layers and layers of imagery. “Take your 2D projection on the dome, and expand it with the LEDs, then the lighting, and the strobes on the surface and blasting from behind, and it’s almost a 4D environment,” notes Schwab. There are 500 strobes from Birket Engineering plus 57 Martin Professional Atomic Strobes adding effects, while Vari-Lite VL3000s and Barco/High End Systems Showguns blast light from behind the dome onto the audience, “like filtered light from under the water,” Schwab adds.
Liquid nitrogen and steam—and even a digital water curtain—add to the special effects, with pan and tilt nozzles for the LN2 (provided by Backstage Technologies in Orlando) to come out of a hole in direct alignment with the mouth of the projected dragon. An extensive laser system, with new solid-stage RGB lasers provided by Excitement Technologies in Dallas, adds pinpoints and halos of color to accent a 6'-diameter sphere, painted in pearlescent paint to simulate a real pearl as it floats into the theatre on wires.
Cory FitzGerald served as programmer for the two Green Hippo Hippotizers that run from an MA Lighting grandMA 2 network. “I also created a lot of the content, including all of the masked elements through the show,” he says. “The lighting and video from the Hippos complement the projected video of the Dragon’s Treasure story. We use the dome dots to augment the images projected on the dome, adding auras, trails, or other effects to the existing projection surface. The lighting and strobes are used in similar ways, all augmenting the show based around the movie. Creating maps and tools to allow us to sync in a 3D space around an elliptical dome with what is essentially a 2D video surface became the big challenge.”
The LED dots in the dome are pixel-mapped by a separate Lighting Science computer running Firefly software. “We feed it a DVI image that the software then maps to the dots as best as it can,” notes FitzGerald. “For the hundreds of LEDs contained within the flying jellyfish and coral pieces, we use the Hippotizer’s pixel-mapping function to run video over them. This required us to also create custom video content that not only fit the map we created, but also gave us the desired visual FX we wanted on the set pieces. Since these set pieces are essentially completely made from LEDs and translucent plastic, this is a large part of the show’s look.”
Fisher Technical Services in Las Vegas managed the rigging, automation, and show control with its Navigator automation system, communicating to the audio, video, and lighting to make sure the show runs smoothly every time. “Everything in the building runs through the Navigator,” confirms Scott Fisher, principal of FTS. Six scenic elements, built by Cinnabar in Orlando—three jellyfish, two coral, and the pearl—spin and swirl into the interior of the dome via four holes with lids in the mesh screen that move in and out of place on an asymmetrical scissor mechanism.
“The screen looks seamless when the holes are closed,” says Fisher, who adds that there are four winches, each with 7,000lb capacity, plus one with 26,000lb capacity, for the central jellyfish. “The center hole does not have a lid; rather the bottom of the jellyfish fits flush with the screen. The challenge was trying to fit all the gear above the egg-shaped dome, which is narrowest at the top where we needed to put our machinery.” All of the FTS custom gear was built and tested in Las Vegas, shipped to Macau after four days of testing, and reassembled on site.
Jason Pritchard, who worked with Jonathan Deans on the sound design, says this space was the inverse of working in the round. “Here the ‘stage’ is on the outside, and you need enough sound in enough locations to cover the audience as well as to follow the motion of animated dragons flying around the room and other special effects that put the audience underwater, figuratively,” he says.
The loudspeakers, which are hung in rings behind the mesh and close to the perforations, comprise a rig entirely from Meyer Sound, “to provide consistent sound throughout,” notes Pritchard. Meyer 700HP and M2D subwoofers underneath the audience floor and CQ-1s at head height add to the feeling of being underwater with low-frequency energy.
“Next comes a ring of 72 M’elodies to accent things flying around the room. Anywhere you look, you can have sound coming from that exact spot,” adds Pritchard. “There are 92 buses with 38 space maps and 122 different trajectories. This 10-minute show has 200 audio cues, and all effects can be handled individually. The music is grand, like a movie score, and Deans has designed a system that is capable of delivering audio support for the immersive images the audience is seeing.” Jason Rauhoff served as programmer for the Meyer LCS FOH Cue Console mixing and processing system.
“The end result is a combination of movies, theme parks, and concerts via a new entertainment and media delivery system,” says Schwab, indicating that Dragon’s Treasure, the first multimedia show in the new Bubble Theatre, is indeed a wave of the future.
Geoff Benham Executive Producer
Falcon‘s Treehouse, Creative Producers
Cecil Magpuri, CEO and Creative Executive
JuliAnn Blam, Show Producer
Scott Miller, Director, Project Management Asia
David Schaefer Design and Technical Integration Manager
Cecil D.Magpuri, President/Chief Creative Officer
JuliAnn Blam, Executive VP of Project Management
Mario Kamberg, Media Director
Mark Lasoff, Visual Effects Supervisor
Robert Waddell, Media Producer
Taron Baysal, Lead Creature Modeler
Nick Koenig, Creature Design
Cliff Iwai, Production Illustrator
Colette Piceau, Show Writer
Norm Schwab, Principle Lighting Designer
Glenn Wade, Systems and Installation Supervisor
Bryan Barancik, Associate Lighting Designer
Sarah Jakubasz, Assistant Lighting Designer
Seth Rapaport, Lighting Programmer
Cory FitzGerald, Media Programmer
Jessica R Shaw, Assistant Systems Supervisor
Adam Rechner, CAD Manager
Jason Goldenberg, Contro System Design
Ptarmigan Consulting Ltd., Control and Systems Integration
Simon Fraser,. Project Director
Alan Chambers, Senior Project Manager
Mike Clingman, Networks Engineer
Winnie Fung, Project Administrator
Greg Pittams, Lighting Technician
Soey So, Project Co-ordinator
Chris Chew, Pixel Mapping
Jim Beagley, Virtual Aquarium and Exterior Bubble Programmer
Excitement Technologies, Laser System
Other Key Vendors
Klaus Badelt (Wunderhorn) Music Composition
Amalgamated Pixel Media Creation
Kraftwerk Living Technologies, Audio and Video Providers
Without a Paddle (Jonathan Deans) Audio System Design
Fisher Technical Services, Rigging and Show Control Design
Backstage Technologies, Special Effects Design
Maverick Sound, Sound Effects
Xnth Degree, Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineering
- THEA Awards press release
- More on the control systems
- Press release from The Briefing Room
- Ptarmigan Consulting