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Meet the Media Players Behind These SciFi, Fantasy, and Horror Immersive Experiences

Explore the Director’s table explaining the 3D-printing process for the robot, and the tools and techniques required for its key element - the colossal animatronic hand.
Wētā Workshop is known for working on many films across a wide variety of genres, but what they are most famous for is epic fantasies. Richard Taylor, along with the Wētā Workshop crew, won four Academy Awards for the work done on trilogy, The Lord of the Rings and picked up another accolade for King Kong. (Image credit: Wētā Workshop / BrightSign)

Okay, seriously—how cool is our AV industry that a seemingly small AV component plays such a major role in creating immersive experiences that trigger visitors to feel like they are part of a SciFi, fantasy, or horror film? Right?

The full arsenal of Wētā Workshop's movie-making ability is on display in the fantasy section at Unleashed, having dreamed up and physically built a completely imaginary world, cast of characters and ecosystem for our original fantasy film Age of the Ever-Clan.

The full arsenal of Wētā Workshop's movie-making ability is on display in the fantasy section at Unleashed, having dreamed up and physically built a completely imaginary world, cast of characters and ecosystem for our original fantasy film Age of the Ever-Clan. (Image credit: Wētā Workshop / BrightSign)

Wētā Workshop Unleashed (opens in new tab) is an exciting new ‘part film set, part creative workshop’ attraction housed in the Sky City Hotel of Auckland City, New Zealand. Integrated by Toulouse Group, a New-Zealand-based audio-visual consultant, the visitor attraction showcases the innovations of Wētā Workshop, the industry-renowned makers of props and visual effects for an impressive array of films that includes Lord of the Rings (opens in new tab), Avatar (opens in new tab), and Bladerunner (opens in new tab).

The resulting experience is an explosion of creativity, mayhem and color that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy through smooth content management from the BrightSign players. Following a ‘red carpet’ entrance, visitors are directed through nine distinct zones, each matching a genre of the films being created within a fictional studio. All the BrightSign (opens in new tab) players are locally networked. The push of a single button by a staff member issues commands to multiple players that send either the video or audio and lighting elements to multiple projectors, a surround sound loudspeaker system, and a theatrical intelligent lighting system.

Walk onto a film set of the science fiction adventure movie Origins. Projected light plays across the stage and a stunning light display with an epic sci-fi soundtrack begins. A gigantic robot and epic spaceship immerse you in an atmospheric sci-fi wonder.

Walk onto a film set of the science fiction adventure movie Origins. Projected light plays across the stage and a stunning light display with an epic sci-fi soundtrack begins. A gigantic robot and epic spaceship immerse you in an atmospheric sci-fi wonder. (Image credit: Wētā Workshop / BrightSign)
BrightSign Players Deliver a Customizable Media Experience

BrightSign HD224 and LS424

(Image credit: BrightSign)

Five BrightSign HD224 and 65 BrightSign LS424 players power the experience, each with a different role in the installation. A further 35 BrightSign LS424 players are used for audio-only throughout the site.

Commenting on the project, Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign, said “We’re delighted that BrightSign players are powering such a fantastic visitor experience. It’s always exciting to see how installers apply the players to their installations, and Toulouse Group is no exception. For example, using the GPIO inputs on the BrightSign players can trigger the media via a mixture of buttons, levers and other mechanical devices. Using the GPIO inputs in this way is very unusual in digital signage installations, but Toulouse uses the players in this way in close to half its installations, including Weta Workshop.”

Marc Simpson, managing director of Toulouse, said “We use BrightSign players for the majority of our visitor experience installations due to their inherently reliable nature. The client brief for Wētā Workshop was fluid, and we needed a responsive system that allowed us to work swiftly to meet the creative vision in situ. BrightSign players provided a robust platform that supports swiftly changing programming. Firewalls keep the network secure and allow staff at Head office to update content off-site. With almost guaranteed uptime, remote monitoring is a formality and maintenance is very seldom required.”

Enter the Artists’ Shed, a peaceful haven that shows the process of fantasy world-building through the imaginations of concept artists, who dream up a world designed for the epic movie Age of the Ever-Clan.

Enter Wētā Workshop's Artists’ Shed, a peaceful haven that shows the process of fantasy world-building through the imaginations of concept artists, who dream up a world designed for the epic movie Age of the Ever-Clan. (Image credit: Weta Workshop Unleashed / BrightSign)

Wētā Workshop co-founder and creative lead, Richard Taylor said, “The experience wowed audiences from the moment it opened. Each person’s visit is unique depending on what they choose to interact with: which button they push, which lever they pull or which sensor they trigger. BrightSign allows this fully customizable media experience to be delivered in a repeated, reliable way, until the final credits roll.”

The animatronics and prosthetics department are working on the horror film Fauna. Walk through the workshop and see this 1980’s style horror movie in the making, filled with details on how our ideas are being developed for the film.

The Wētā Workshop animatronics and prosthetics department are working on the horror film Fauna. Visitors walk through the workshop and see this 1980’s style horror movie in the making, filled with details on how ideas are being developed for the film. (Image credit: Wētā Workshop / BrightSign)

The AVNetwork staff are storytellers focused on the professional audiovisual and technology industry. Their mission is to keep readers up-to-date on the latest AV/IT industry and product news, emerging trends, and inspiring installations.