As we prepare to launch our exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the new Blackpool Tower Eye 4D attraction, we spoke to Craig Sciba, Project Designer from the creators of the project – Merlin Studios, to ask what's next for the 4D attractions industry.
3D Focus: What 4D attractions does Merlin Studios currently hold in its portfolio?
Craig Sciba: We currently have 4 x 4D films in our Merlin portfolio – London Eye, Marvel Super Hereos 4D at Madame Tussauds London, Blackpool Tower Eye and Sydney Tower Eye. London Eye was our first serious look into 3D/4D launching before Avatar was released so it was a positive buzz for everyone at the time. The Marvel 4D attraction is already attached to great IP plus its a full animation film so it works extremely well in 3D. We learned a lot by the time we got to the Blackpool Tower Eye project. Cameras and technology had really improved since the London projects so we could really push the boundaries in terms of depth of field and clarity. As for the Sydney Tower, the scenery really speaks for itself. You just need to turn the camera on and shoot.
3D Focus: 3D Focus will soon be launching our Blackpool Tower Eye 4D attraction feature but just give us a flavour of what 4D effects visitors can experience.
Craig Sciba: Fog, rain, wind, snow, bubbles, air bum blast cannon, LED effect rails & overhead arch, vibrating floor, strobe & motion gobo lighting, and scent (3 different smells, Donkey Fart, Sweet Apple Cotton Candy and Rocket Fuel).
3D Focus: Why did Merlin Studios partner with the company Kraftwerk for the 4D installation?
Craig Sciba: Kraftwerk seemed to have a good understanding of what we wanted to achieve with our 4D projects. We used them for the Marvel Project at Madame Tussauds, London and were extremely pleased with their reliability and core product.
3D Focus: In an upcoming interview with 3D Focus, you said “In the next coming months we will also be starting work on our next generation of 4D (moving into the 5D) experiences” – Can you elaborate on any of this?
Craig Sciba: Merlin Studios are just starting to branch out into the Observation Attraction market. We now have 4 global observation based landmarks under our belt and will continue to build and develop more in the near future. The 4D experience has become part of the brand so our intention is to keep developing new and exciting 4D/5D films for every new site that is linked to the "Eye" brand.
Without giving away too much about the 5D aspect let's just say we are working on a platform where the visitor's behaviour will influence and ultimately determine what is seen and felt on screen and in the theatre. The idea is to create a different experience every time the guests enter the cinema. Ultimately they become part of the film itself.
3D Focus: Do Merlin Studios expect to move into motion based rides combined with all those above elements?
Craig Sciba: We started researching motion based rides years ago starting with Spiderman at Universal Studios Florida, in addition the recent King Kong ride is also extremely impressive. I can certainly envision a 3D/4D motion based ride at one of our themeparks in the future. I think the key is acquire a strong IP as the experience is always more intense when can add a bit of familiarity to it.
3D Focus: What have you done for the Sydney Tower Eye?
Craig Sciba: The Sydney Tower project was ideal as all we needed to do was turn the camera on and shoot. Everything about the landscape is beautiful. No matter where you shoot you know some great footage is going to end up in the can. Most of the Sydney Tower Eye film consists of aerials so we did not need to use as many 4D effects. Just those that were necessary and added to the experience.
The Blackpool 3D film was a real challenge as we had to combine real footage and detailed animation throughout most of the film as most of the seafront and Tower was covered in scaffolding as part of the £250m rejuvenation project. Looking at a building site certainly wouldn't appeal to anyone so we had to remove all of the scaffolding and basically build the entire Blackpool Tower in CGI. I'm not sure which was more difficult, building the Tower for real in 1894 or building it again in 2011 for a 3D film.
3D Focus: How much testing with real people did you do for the Blackpool 4D Tower experience?
Craig Sciba: We have regular brainstorms and feedback sessions at Merlin Studios (our creative hub of the company) We ask of visitors for feedback and film their reactions to the 4D experiences. We take that information and try to build on it for each new attraction.
3D Focus: Has Merlin Studios been experimenting with Super Hi-Vision, 22.2 multichannel sound, holographics etc?
Craig Sciba: We are constantly researching new technology and hardware as part of our brainstorm forums. We will continue to try and deliver something that is new and exciting to the market. We looked at holographics when we first started the London Eye Project but the technology just wasn't there yet. This is something that I would like to explore more now that things have progressed a bit more. You may have noticed a dark hollow room located in one of the legs in the Blackpool Tower Eye experience. This essentially has been designed for a holographic interactive so we are already thinking ahead.
The Blackpool Tower eye 3D film was produced by Sharp Cookies. Expect a full feature with interviews and behind the scenes video very soon.
The Blackpool Tower 4D attraction was officially opened on September 1st as part of a £20 million 10 month renovation programme to restore the Blackpool Tower to its former glory and to re-position Blackpool as a quality holiday destination. Tickets for both the tower and 4D attraction are available online from £5 plus VAT here.
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