21 June 2010

Building bridges between film and digital exhibition

My column for The Planetarian, published by the International Planetarium Society, and reprinted on Blooloop.com. This first appeared in June 2010.

"The rapid growth of digital dome theaters in planetariums and science centers signals an exponential and very welcome increase in the potential distribution market for creators of educational content for special venues. In addition to the relatively small and finite Imax/70mm theater network they can now have the much larger, and rapidly growing, network of digital domes in mind."

Full story here.

Oasis of the Seas - World's largest cruise ship, world's coolest AV systems

My tome on Oasis of the Seas, said to be the largest passenger cruise ship ever built, gets into detail about some of the many, very impressive audiovisual and control systems on this vessel and the companies and consultants who worked with Royal Caribbean to build it. It was published in the March edition of Sound & Communications magazine and can be viewed in the digital issue here.

Another Oasis story in IPM
'The Marine-Land Industry Crossover
FUNA president Rex Stull has a background in live audio, touring as a sound engineer with Broadway productions and concerts. He had his first taste of working on a ship in New York City, mixing for headline entertainers on cruises to Bermuda, then worked his way up to being a project manager for installations. “A core thing for making a cruise ship work is to come at it from both sides: balancing the issues of permanent installation, proper techniques and install practices vs a one-off or temporary version. We try to blend those two things so that we can get the system installed correctly to hold up to the hard conditions, and serve the needs of the group of people who will come in and run it. We try to have both creative people and tech people on the design staff – to use both sides of the brain.”

On Oasis, FUNA’s initial design team was led by Marc Goossens, who has an electrical engineering background. Goossens was assisted by Derek Warner and senior technician Andy Clement. As the project transitioned from conceptual design to supply contract, Warner headed the team for detailed engineering from FUNA’s Finland offices (the shipyard that built Oasis is in Finland as well). Stull notes that FUNA tends to put together its commissioning teams out of live theater, and hire its engineers from Europe where there are strong vocational programs (140+ employees in Europe).

Photo: Royal Caribbean
Stull sees a “huge crossover” between cruise ships and land-based projects today. “Oasis has its Royal Promenade, carousel, comedy clubs, restaurants, theaters and large themed entertainment spaces. Today’s leaders in the cruise ship industry are taking the entire concept of themed entertainment environments and applying them.” The crossover also manifests in personnel: Numerous senior FUNA employees have backgrounds in theater, at major theme parks and Las Vegas resorts.

The family market is another parallel. “What we are seeing now is demand for a more active vacation by families, and a younger crowd. Oasis has a 28,700 square foot Youth Zone with areas for four separate age groups: teen clubs, outdoor teen areas, more than 50 child counselors on the ship, plus zip lines, rock climbing, surfing machines... Entire families take these cruises.”

In terms of building culture, “The cruise ship can be the model for the new lean and mean greenbuilding age, now that they are starting to rein in space requirements in buildings and developers want to consolidate to a smaller footprint,” said Stull. “Leading with such things as the employment of LEDs and other low-power, low-heat components, ships set an example of how to build in cost savings all the way down the line.” As a model for entertainment complexes, “the ship is 24/7, multipurpose and multi-use, running 12 hours a day or more. You need things compact and reliable. You’ve got to have safety compliance.” People flow is another finely honed art on a well-run cruise ship: Oasis of the Seas can have more than 6,000 people moving among its multiple entertainment venues.

Stull feels that land-based projects would also benefit by observing the planning phases of marine-based jobs. “On land, many times the planning phases are not given enough time and emphasis.” He emphasized that “because ships are cutting steel very early in the process, architectural coordination and integration, the process of defining your scope, and planning your systems” are more thorough. “Ships are forced into that because there’s not a lot of room to miss. Apply those processes to land and people will see much greater impact for the money they spend.” He also advises taking a harder look at the long-term footprint of a project. “The final piece would be people worrying about things like usage costs. A lot of times it seems cheaper to put in an incandescent light bulb, but look at the life of the project down to its environmental impact, and the lifetime costs of the product vs the initial startup costs. That’s something cruise lines do because they know their single biggest expense is fuel.”

Isn’t that true of all projects on Cruise Ship Earth?'