Around the World in 80 Days: A Tale of Three Projects
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Over the pandemic, when so much of the travel and entertainment industry had gone dormant, Thinkwell Studio Montréal was working overtime.
In the span of only 18 months, and under strict pandemic protocols and border closures, Thinkwell Studio Montréal brought to life three unique projects in three different cities across North America: Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed, 1600°C Trial by Fire, and Parc Omega — all with opening dates within 80 days of one another.
While all three projects shared a heavy use of innovative technologies, each project had their own unique set of goals and parameters. But Thinkwell Studio Montréal was up for the challenge. Through pandemic lockdowns, social distancing measures, and border closures, Thinkwell Studio Montréal conceived, developed, and integrated all three projects with great success.
At the Forges-du-Saint-Maurice National Historic Site, Thinkwell designed and installed 1600°C Trial by Fire, an interactive multimedia experience which invites guests to take on the role of a blacksmith at the Forges-du-Saint-Maurice National Historic Site. Standing in front of the screen and guided by the instructions of the Master Blacksmith, guests see their avatar recreate their gestures in real time through user tracking and artificial intelligence.
Prior to opening, playtesting was required to not only test the interactive’s functionality, but also train the AI. Thinkwell set up a prototype and a mockup of the experience in-house ahead of install in order to allow the AI to learn guest movement.
Meanwhile, 800 km. away at Niagara Falls, Thinkwell was working on another interactive experience utilizing real-time guest tracking, but this time, replacing fire with water. Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed is an epic sight and sound nighttime multimedia show which follows the spectacular transformation of water to electricity. Similar to 1600°C Trial by Fire, Currents also utilized reactive technologies that track guest movement with interactive floor projections through custom autocalibration and tracking software solutions.
In order to accomplish the interactive floor projections, Thinkwell had to create a scale mockup and invite live playtesters to test the custom autocalibration software. During integration, more advanced testing had to be run in order to test under the real conditions of the century-old power station, using 100-year-old artifacts as show props.
The conditions around Parc Omega provided a different hurdle. While 1600 and Currents both took place in an indoor venue, Parc Omega was an outdoor forest experience. In order to survive a winter in Quebec, the technology would have to withstand all of nature’s elements, including rain, snow, and even animals. The boxes containing the technical hardware had to be exceptionally sturdy — yet virtually invisible — so not even rain, sleet, or snow could penetrate and affect the wiring.
While all three projects provided a different set of hurdles, the one commonality they shared was an approximate opening date. 1600°C Trial by Fire opened to the public on June 16, 2021 with Parc Omega opening a mere eight days later on June 24th. Currents opened shortly after on September 3, 2021. Despite the short timelines, overlapping dates, and a global pandemic, Thinkwell Studio Montréal pulled together to deliver each of the three experiences with the utmost care and lots of testing.
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Chuck Roberts is a Senior Art Director with Thinkwell Group...
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