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Themed AV

Feb 9, 2012 12:29 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

How the role of pro AV in location-based entertainment is changing.

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“A challenge for everyone within this working environment [is] finding ways to integrate that very personal portable device with the big show on site,” Jeffers continues. “The most important part for integrators is to really recognize the opportunity and help clients and designers understand how what’s being projected on the big screens in the venue can also be implemented on the small screen.”

That could mean understanding compression, software, mobile apps, HTML5, and other distribution technologies that can be used to prepare content for multiple platforms and/or move it across those platforms. Jeffers also points out that increasingly guests expect to use their personal electronics to interact with the location-based experience. “We live in an age when on your phone, you can reset your home security device and tell your cable hookup to record a show—people are expecting that kind of ability when they come to a special place or experience,” he says. “If that isn’t there, it isn’t going to feel as rich as their day-to-day life—and that’s our challenge: How do we make out-of-home experiences richer.”

For Jeffers, examples readily come to mind: cities that use phone apps to guide visitors around their downtown and the ambitious attraction at the Shanghai World’s Fair that allowed guest to interact with what was happening on the screen via mobile device. “In that case, it was a dedicated device,” Jeffers says, “but before long, it will be people’s own device that they bring with them into the environment. “Disney did a test with their Kim Possible property where people used their mobile phones to track down clues throughout the whole park. So the designers were using the existing park infrastructure and then layering over a whole games scenario that people were engaged with through their phones.”

For the release of the film Tron: Legacy, he says an entire social media web started engaging people while they were still at home. They were building clues into their phones wherever they were in the world so that when they went to Comic Con where the film was screening, they could follow the rest of the trail. “Eventually,” Jeffers says, “this group of adventurers with smart phones all converged on the same place—an amazing replica of the bar scene from the movie.”

So, he says, a good integrator will be aware of what’s possible and what they need to do to make that possible, hunting out partners who are doing that kind of work and bringing them to the table.

“That’s where an opportunity exists, if the integrator becomes a resource or an access to other resources for folks who are working in that arena,” he says. “Even if you can’t bring that expertise in house, at least now how to access it quickly and accurately. And understand the equipment and software that exists to allow you to expand the reach of content to multiple screens and platforms. Understand how people are creating the content, how the guest should experience it, and how that experience will be delivered.”

Jeffers says this requires a mindset that asks, “What is being presented to the audience?” rather than what is being hung on the walls.

In the past, he says equipment was costly, and in some cases, it still is. “But increasingly what clients are buying is not the equipment; what they’re buying is the integrator’s experience and capability in putting it together properly,” he says. “It’s much more about how they can help solve the problem that the client has in terms of reaching the audience.” And as experiences become less dependent on big costly equipment, interactivity and multi-screen experiences become expected in projects across the range of budgets, including those with the lowest budgets.

“If you ignore where the industry is going and where technology can take us, you do so at your peril,” he says. “We don’t do 36-projector slideshows anymore. We could, but we don’t.

“People are expecting more in the room—better visuals, better sound—and they’re expecting more interactivity. You have to hit them with more than they can get at home, which today means making it personal and individual.”

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