ABOVE: The Legend of Pangu show takes place in a custom-built theater that is visually intriguing and appealing. All photos courtesy of ECA2
On the banks of the Yellow River, about an hour northwest of Lanzhou in China’s landlocked Gansu Province, an iconic structure, unlike any ever built, rises from the dusty desert soil. Picture an egg, sliced in half, with a heart-shaped opening splitting the rooftop in two. A second hole resembling a huge eye is centered along one side, providing a view of the steep mountainside behind.
The gray-blue tiles on its exterior are reminiscent of the roofs of nearby village homes that have survived hundreds of years since the Ming and Qing dynasties, yet they also resemble a bird’s feathers and its folded wings.
Christened on a chilly evening in late autumn, the building is a testament to yin-yang duality. It is simultaneously an outdoor amphitheater and indoor cinema; the steel, concrete and aluminium shell is both the site and screen for a new multimedia spectacular.
Thirty months in the making, ‘The Legend of Pangu’ is the latest venture of French showmaker ECA2, which has teamed up with a state-owned development company called Gansu Xirong Cultural Tourism to produce a 26-minute sensory extravaganza that recounts a traditional Chinese tale about the creation of the universe.
The venture is, without question, ECA2’s biggest project, at least in physical terms. Thirty Christie projectors broadcast animated video onto a 2,800 square meter projection screen curved in two dimensions. A 960-sqm cascade screen – touted as the “world’s largest projection surface on a permanent and single waterscreen” – is more than twice the size of the inaugural version introduced at The Big O seven years ago in Yeosu Korea as centerpiece of the world expo.
“It was a great challenge. In terms of planning and coordination, it was a huge work to achieve,” says ECA2 chairman JeanChristophe Canizares. “This is certainly our most complex project. We put our heart and our energy in it, and seeing it now makes us very, very proud.”
Throughout the tale, ECA2 seamlessly weaves two- and three-dimensional projection with light, laser, smoke and water effects.
When the god Pangu’s animated axe hits the water in the theater’s main pool, for example, robotic focus jets and pressurized geysers create the impression that the axe has split the water in two.
The scope of the project and shape of the building presented ECA2 with several unique challenges. Top of the list was how to deploy a classic ECA2 device, the waterscreen, in a structure with no flat surfaces.
Challenge: How to project high-definition video onto a flat, 40-meter-high waterscreen, when every part of the building is curved. “The water should fall vertically, but the equipment is on a double-curved line,” explains the show’s chief architect and stage designer Chengcheng Chi.
Solution: The waterscreen has 11 segments, each with a unique joint. “The angle is never the same,” Chi explains. “If there’s even minor construction error, the water cascade will not work. Every plate to fix the waterscreen must be in exactly the right place in 3-D space.”
Challenge: Ensure that the sound quality is ‘as good as concert hall’ without any sound reflection, in a curved theater. Curves famously produce echoes, though; just ask a visitor to the US Capitol Rotunda or Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. Plus, every surface in the ECA2 theater would need to be fireproofed and weatherproofed to withstand the show’s pyrotechnics and water effects.
Solution: A multi-layered inner ceiling with perforated metallic panels, which are made for sound to pass through. Working with the acoustic engineers at Holland’s Peutz Group, ECA2 also identified a thin, tough, patented fabric called Soundmesh G8 that absorbs sound by “breaking the soundwave down to smaller components. It then traps and dissipates the soundwave within the spacer behind it.”
“We had to discover, with the acoustic engineers at Holland’s Peutz Group a way to avoid any sound reflection anywhere,” explains the show’s technical director Clément Rabréaud. “For a venue with such a shape, the sound is really, really incredible. It’s super creative.”
Challenge: The roof has a large oval opening that represents the sun and moon, and also provides a view of the mountainside behind the theater. As the show was being developed, artistic director Olivier Ferracci asked the design team if they could “close the hole” at key points during the storytelling. “How to close the hole?” Chi replied. “I told him we need some magic to do it.”
Solution: A “robotic magic screen.” Chi’s solution was to hang a 30-meter waterscreen from the roof. An attached motor enables the screen to rotate 55 degrees. “The waterscreen closes the form of the eye perfectly,” Chi explains. When video is projected on it, the hole disappears, becoming part of the projection screen.
Challenge: Ensure the show is never down and video projection over 3,760 square meters is crystal-clear, while minimizing the time required to calibrate 20 30k Christie Boxer projectors.
Solution: An automatic calibration device, deployed for the first time. The device, developed for the Lanzhou show in collaboration with Modulo Pi, maps one projector on top of another and tests the sequence. “This is totally revolutionary technology,” says Rabréaud. It takes just 13 minutes to run, which means that if a projector ever needs to be replaced, the whole system is back in focus quickly.
Most ECA2 productions are in outdoor theaters. The presence of a roof at the Lanzhou show encouraged the company to develop and deploy new effects, such as the “jet fog” that is created by 54 low pressure nozzles. “It’s a very thin water element that falls from the roof,” explains ECA2’s Julien Causeret. “You can’t even see it. It enables us to create atmospheric 3D effects with a laser, which is quite useful for the depth of the effects.”
For the first time, ECA2 is also deploying high-end color laser projectors and blue laser diodes, the latter of which are situated around the main pool. Laser projection technology has recently become more affordable. While they are still more expensive than a standard projector, they consume about 30% less power and can generate savings over the lifespan of a project. The laser projectors “bring a sharpness in the image and more brightness,” says Canizares, who adds that their quality is assured for at least 10 years, possibly longer.
All of ECA2’s special effects are developed in-house and tested practically at scale. Many of the innovations, such as the new 3D robotic fountain jets, are produced in collaboration with ECA2 sister company, Crystal Fountain.
The Legend of Pangu cost 14 million euros to produce, not counting construction of the 1500-seat theater or related infrastructure, and is part of a 60 million euro cultural tourism project that sits on Chinese president Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road initiative. The theater is located next to the recently renovated town of Hekou, which welcomes thousands of domestic tourists to taste its wood-fired spicy hot pots and tour the ancient residences. Hotels and a theme park are in the works as well.
The storyline features an old man telling his grandson about the Chinese god Pangu, who created the sky and separated it from the Earth, over tens of thousands of years. He also tells the boy about the origins of the Silk Road, which passes through Lanzhou. Every detail, from the shape of his pipe to the design of palaces along the ancient trade routes, was researched to reflect local traditions.
The Legend of Pangu’s inaugural run, which debuted just in time for the People’s Republic of China’s 70th anniversary celebrations, was less than one month. The show is closed for the winter months and is expected to reopen in March. • • •
Michael Switow (email@example.com) is the co-author of Taming the Mouse , which explores how Ocean Park Hong Kong fought for survival – and thrived – in the face of competition from Hong Kong Disneyland. A Singapore-based writer and broadcaster, Michael has been shaping top business stories across Asia-Pacific for more than 20 years. He is also the founder of WOW Asia (wow-asia.com), which provides insights about the Asian attractions industry and conversations with the leaders that drive them.
Comments Off on Screens to scenes: the multi-faceted elements of Christie’s visual technology
Comments Off on Legacy Entertainment ocean life projects designed for Chimelong and Vinpearl to open in 2020
Comments Off on “Worlds Beyond Earth” fulldome show premieres at American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium Jan 2020
Comments Off on From Aichi in 2005 to Dubai in 2020, Christie technology helps spur innovation for over a decade of World Expos
Jan 27, 2020 Comments Off on China’s attraction industry feels impact of viral outbreak
Jan 27, 2020 Comments Off on Celebrations of life planned in New York and Orlando for Adirondack Studios’ Louis C. Allen
Jan 23, 2020 Comments Off on M&Ms experiential stores to open in Berlin, Mall of America, and Disney Springs
Jan 22, 2020 Comments Off on Breaking the ice with SeaWorld Orlando’s newest coaster
Nov 16, 2019 Comments Off on #80 – IAAPA 2019
Nov 16, 2019 Comments Off on EDITORIAL: Looking back from 2019: 15 years of InPark
Nov 16, 2019 Comments Off on Editorial: Cross platforming and cross pollination
Nov 16, 2019 Comments Off on Christie: Museum makeovers
Nov 16, 2019 Comments Off on Movers and shakers
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Meet Amanda Thompson
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Grupo Xcaret: Xavage Gardens
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on IAAPA Expo Europe 2019
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on The Hettema Group: Elevator Pitch
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Garner Holt Productions: Growing the legend
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on JRA: “The One with the Pop-Up”
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Raven Sun Creative: Unwrapping the new Hersheypark
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on TEA 2020
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on ECA2: Showtime in Lanzhou
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Lesson plan
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Technifex: FauxFire® and real people
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Super 78: Geppetto Grows
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Smart Monkeys: Visualization vectors
Dec 25, 2019 Comments Off on California’s Great America WinterFest: Transforming a theme park into a holiday wonderland.With millions of lights and thousands of decorations, the...
Nov 16, 2019 Comments Off on #80 – IAAPA 2019Table of contents
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on Meet Amanda ThompsonIAAPA’s incoming chair has deep roots in the attractions...
Nov 15, 2019 Comments Off on TEA 2020A chat with Michael Blau - incoming TEA International Board...
Nov 14, 2019 Comments Off on IAAPA 2019 Chair David Rosenberg: The aqua-manRosenberg serves as the 2019 Chair of the IAAPA Board of...
Nov 14, 2019 Comments Off on CircusTrix CEO Fernando Eiroa: Leaps and boundsInPark spoke with Eiroa about the unique business of...
Nov 09, 2019 Comments Off on InPark exclusive: Interviews with Jeremy Railton and Scott Ault on the launch of their new company, Railton Entertainment Design (RED)Themed entertainment design veterans Jeremy Railton and...
Oct 22, 2019 Comments Off on ISE 2020The annual Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) trade show for...
Oct 21, 2019 Comments Off on IAAPA: “Wear comfortable shoes!”"If this is your first Expo, attend the First Time...
Sep 11, 2019 Comments Off on Netflix and thrill: Greg Lombardo joins the content streaming powerhouse as Head of ExperiencesLombardo brings with him more than a decade experience in...
Sep 10, 2019 Comments Off on Transitions: Leaps and boundsIndustry professionals are making moves and creating waves
Sep 09, 2019 Comments Off on Exploring IAAPA EuropeMeet recent additions to IAAPA’s European team
Aug 08, 2019 Comments Off on IPM Interview: Jennifer Lee Hackett, Sinking Ship EntertainmentGiant screen veteran Jennifer Lee Hackett has joined...
Jun 28, 2019 Comments Off on John Miceli and the new DE-ŹYN StudiosThroughout his career, John Miceli has worked in feature...
Jun 26, 2019 Comments Off on Meet Lionsgate Entertainment World’s new general manager: Selena MagillMeet the new GM of Lionsgate Entertainment World, scheduled...
May 08, 2019 Comments Off on ECA2: All eyes on LanzhouECA2's latest spectacle, a permanent installation in a...
May 06, 2019 Comments Off on IAAPA Expo Asia"Establishing a presence in both Hong Kong and Shanghai...
Apr 29, 2019 Comments Off on Vekoma: Coasting around AsiaInPark spoke to Jason Pan, Vekoma’s regional director of...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on Lisa Passamonte GreenThe Thea Awards Nominating Committee annually reviews and...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on Infinite Kingdoms: Planet playologyWe recently connected with founder Denise Chapman Weston...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on The French connection: Meet Michel Linet-Frion"Since I typically rely on contracted expertise and talent...
Mar 21, 2019 Comments Off on Andrew O’Rourke: Google THISIn late 2018, Andrew became an employee of Adecco working...
Dec 18, 2018 Comments Off on Mad Systems: The future is nowInPark reported on the launch and revisited with Ensing for...
Dec 18, 2018 Comments Off on Time for a changeInPark checks in with industry leaders who are heading back...
Nov 05, 2018 Comments Off on Michael Mercadante: Giving backMichael Mercadante, President of Main Street Design, Inc....