Jun 05, 2018

Great expectations: reaching audiences in the age of awesome

Stijn Henderickx in Venues and attractions

3 min read

If you think creating impact is just part of the job, one of our trainees has a message for you.

At the end of the day, everything is about impact. It’s why people keep theme parks in business. It’s the secret wish of every event organizer, political rally and corporate event. So creating impact on an ever-larger scale is the challenge all professionals are facing.

Back in 1817, the British poet and philosopher Samuel Coleridge introduced a term that movie-makers would later love, the “willing suspension of disbelief”. He was talking about a reader’s willingness to accept implausibility.

That was then.

Enhancing reality

We’re now living in the age of “awesome”. Just think about what your friends or kids talk about: stunning shows by Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake; Olympic opening shows; dark rides and immersive exhibitions.

Now guess what? They are queuing for a show you are putting on next week. The kids that saw “Rampage” last weekend? They’ll turn up at an exhibition or museum you are working on pretty soon.

Do you seriously think they will sit quietly through less-than-crisp images, muddy contrast or inputs that don’t scale? Take a lesson from the “Rampage” strapline because now: “Big meets bigger”.

In fact, nowadays “Big means bigger”. Much bigger. Much brighter. Much sharper.

And the audience expectations are headed the same direction. That’s the way things are. And here is where it becomes interesting.

Impact can be painful

So how do we reach them? The first – and most enigmatic – part of the experience is the content. The expectations are:

•       A bold and engaging story

•       The twin delights of immersion and surprise

•       Interaction and customization.

That’s hard enough.

The second – more practical – aspect is the delivery. For that we’re talking about pixel resolution, lumens, latency (ie: no, thanks) and contrast.

The physical effect of super-destinations in large venues is in direct relation to the quality of the projection, the sharpness of the images and depth of contrast.

Want to pull an audience out of their almost trance-like concentration on a great show or exhibit? Just freeze a frame for even a tenth of a second or cause a drop and see what happens. The spell will be broken, perhaps forever, instantly.

Getting everything right. Yes, everything

So where does the pain come in? It comes from getting everything right. Not once. Every time. Every day. Even when it’s raining. Or the room is full of schoolchildren. Or an international association of chatty property surveyors.

Then there is the issue of venues becoming destinations. Several experiences are being combined: a show, dining, different entertainment options, etc. How do you ensure timing and consistency?

The need for total reliability is what drove us to develop Event Master and the ImagePro series, for example. To simplify the use of brighter applications, we recently introduced the XDL projector series with up 75K lumens from one machine. 

"Ok sucks"

Talking about a project, a trainee recently said to me, “OK sucks.” What did she mean? That mediocrity is dead.

Even worse: every glitch, scenery or wardrobe malfunction will now be instantly broadcast to your future audiences worldwide. To completely kill “suckiness” on the delivery side you must guarantee quality, precision and operational excellence.

Are there shortcuts? Possibly, but there are also weaker coffees, thinner steaks and patchy Wi-Fi. Try selling those to my trainee.

At the end of the day, we are all in the business of packaging impact and selling it consistently to large numbers of people. Barco’s part of the deal is to provide the community with ways to meet the growing expectations simply and consistently across different media. You can see what this now means at the upcoming InfoComm.

Image credit: Adobe Summit EMEA 2017 by Taylor Bennett Partners and Hawthorn.

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