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On the Circuit

Feb 13, 2012 11:34 AM, By Cynthia Wisehart


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When I was a designer in the theme park industry, there were no iPhones—or HD, or really much of an Internet. Yet it all seemed technically miraculous: EPROMs and laser discs, the Media Matrix, and 3D (yes, there has always been 3D).

As a designer, I had to know really two things: What did I want the guest to experience, and what was technically realistic (or nearly so) to make that happen? My audiences were not technical. To them, all of it was extraordinary. So in many ways we concentrated on making the technology invisible or as we liked to say, magical.”

Today’s audiences are different, of course. IMAX is no longer an isolated experience—they expect picture and sound to be high res and beautiful wherever they look. They expect screens to be more than rectangles on the wall—they want them fluid and integrated into physical environments and objects. Interestingly screens, lighting, and projection no longer need to seem invisible or magical; they just need to defy the laws of gravity, operate off-axis from a moving vehicle, or transform the exterior of multi-story building, while accompanied by a aural fidelity that rivals a concert hall.

But there is actually a much more fundamental change about today’s audiences: They want to interact. More specifically, they expect to interact technically—digitally—with the experience. They don’t want to sit still, watch attentively, and applaud appreciatively. They want to be part of everything, connected, ideally, by the light saber/smart phone they hold in their hand.

Audiences can be engaged by dedicated devices that are part of the park or museum infrastructure—and I’ve seen many such wonderful experiences over the past several decades and there will be many more. But there will also be an increased opportunity through interacting with guests’ own personal devices. It will be fascinating to see where this technical and cultural change leads as themed entertainment continues to let audiences engage on their own terms.

In this issue, we acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the Themed Entertainment Association, as well as the amazing AV frontier that is location-based entertainment, as represented by the Thea Award-winning projects. It’s also my personal chance to acknowledge the creativity and ingenuity of AV professionals in the themed entertainment industry, who still seem to be making technology do miraculous things.



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