Saturday, June 15, 2024

Moment Factory: The expanding immersive space

How Moment Factory redefines the magic of thematic multimedia experiences

interview by Martin Palicki

From modest beginnings in Montreal, Moment Factory has evolved into one of the world’s leading immersive experience design companies. With an exceptional roster of clients that includes Disney, Madonna, Universal Studios, Billie Eilish, Changi Airport, Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, Microsoft, Sony and more, Moment Factory has developed experiences and environments that have reached people around the globe.

Stéphane Raymond

The company has expanded in ways it never anticipated. Moment Factory’s Lumina Night Walk series, for example, started as a single project in Québec just over ten years ago, and today boasts over 20 installations across multiple continents.

Honored by Fast Company as one of the world’s “Most Innovative Companies,” Moment Factory has flourished precisely because it has continued to explore new technologies and creative techniques to enhance and redefine immersive visitor experiences. InPark spoke with Moment Factory’s Stéphane Raymond, Executive Director – Production & Custom Experiences to learn more about the company’s recent projects and plans for future innovation.

What sorts of new spaces are you bringing immersive environments into?

As we continue to push the boundaries of immersive design and technology, the potential for themed entertainment and immersive environments to captivate, educate, and inspire is boundless. Whether in corporate settings or bustling transportation hubs, these experiences possess the ability to transform ordinary spaces into captivating destinations, creating a sense of wonder for all who encounter them.

For example, drawing upon Moment Factory’s expertise in themed attractions and adapting immersive design practices across diverse industries, we undertook the transformation of the Hall of The Grand Magic Hotel in France in 2022. Employing interior design, digital content, lighting, and sound design, we crafted multimedia environments that transport guests into an immersive storyworld. Fantastical architectural effects and illusions unveil surprises for guests to discover, providing a glimpse into the show- stopping moments to come.

The digital sky installation at Singapore Changi Airport

As another recent example, Terminal 2 at Singapore Changi Airport stands as an innovative collaboration aimed at pushing boundaries for multimedia installations in airports. As a gateway to Singapore—renowned worldwide as the Garden City—the terminal blurs the boundary between nature and architecture, connecting travelers to the urban greenery that defines the city. In collaboration with Changi Airport Group and design studio Boiffils, Moment Factory created two signature installations to bring the magic of nature into the passenger experience: In the Departure Hall, a four-story digital waterfall offers outbound travelers a moment of wonder. On the airside, transit passengers can relax in an immersive garden beneath a limitless digital sky, emulating daylight and meteorological conditions in real time.

What are some of the most unusual venues you’ve worked on?

We specialize in mega canvases, enabling us to execute our projects on a variety of large, unconventional surfaces, ranging from historic landmarks and cathedrals to cutting-edge technological marvels like The Sphere in Las Vegas.

One notable endeavor is the “Ode à la vie”: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Marking the inaugural video mapping projection on Antoni Gaudí’s revered facade, this undertaking was truly monumental. The intricacies of the monument, characterized by highly-detailed designs, flowing curves, and irregular surfaces, presented formidable challenges in accurately mapping video content onto its exterior. It demanded innovative approaches as we ventured into unexplored territories to ensure a flawlessly immersive experience for our audience.

AURA at the Dome Les Invalides (revealed in 2023) was also an unusual and challenging venue to work with. Spanning a vast 3,500-square-meter projection area, this project merged state-of-the-art multimedia technology with the architectural and historical significance of the site, preserving its integrity while captivating the public with an unforgettable experience.

What types of stories make the most sense for creating engaging experiences?

To create engaging experiences, it’s crucial to focus on clear and concise narrative, avoiding excessive complexity that could lose the audience. Prioritizing emotional storytelling, focusing on the heart rather than the intellect, helps forge authentic and lasting connections with the audience.

A good example of this principle lies within one of our recent projects, Kaleidoscope Kavern Lazy River, which is part of the 40,000-square-foot expansion of the Wild WaterDome indoor waterpark in Tennessee. This immersive multimedia tunnel offers guests an enchanting journey through visions and soundscapes inspired by the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, featuring fireflies, starlit skies, and Tennessee’s four seasons. The straightforward storyline of this project not only significantly enhanced its impact but also facilitated multigenerational comprehension and resonated universally.

How do you keep pushing the envelope as people expect more?

Our commitment to innovation drives us to constantly hack technology. We are relentless in our pursuit of pushing the limits, seeking to uncover new creative avenues and redefine what is possible. We invest significantly in innovation. By staying at the forefront of technological advancements and fostering a culture of creativity, we ensure that our projects remain ahead of the curve.

AURA at the Dome Les Invalides

We strive to understand our audience better and always keep the public in mind, as our motto states, “We do it in public.” Through analysis of behaviors and preferences, as well as the tools people engage with, we tailor our innovations to resonate profoundly with the human desire to connect with one another.

We recognize the power of collaboration and cross-pollination. By bringing together diverse talents and perspectives, we ignite a spark of innovation that propels us towards even greater heights. We actively cultivate communities of practice, encouraging collaboration and the sharing of ideas. By nurturing a culture of openness and learning, we continuously enrich our creative ecosystem.

In an ever-evolving landscape where demands escalate incessantly, we embrace the challenge with fervor. It is through our unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries that we continually strive to surpass expectations and set new benchmarks for excellence.

Let’s talk about the Lumina Night Walks. How do you keep those fresh and innovative?

We engage closely with the communities and cultures of each site, tailoring our stories to their unique ecosystems and drawing inspiration directly from the surrounding forests or locations. Additionally, leveraging a decade’s worth of audience data, we incorporate valuable insights into our new experiences, ensuring they align with the evolving preferences of visitors.

In our ongoing Lumina Night Walk series, we’ve introduced Astra Lumina, which features a narrative inspired by the universal story of the stars presented in multiple locations. This allows for easier deployment and broader accessibility to a wider spectrum of audiences. Additionally, the Astra Lumina installations can be mobile and adaptable to accommodate the seasonal needs of different sites.

Furthermore, we convene annual innovation workshops for brainstorming and creating new ideas and approaches.

Last year you also unveiled your second AURA experience in France. How did you build on/change/grow from the original installation in Montreal?

AURA Invalides, launched in September 2023, is the culmination of an ambitious technological endeavor that involved extensive 3D scanning, the development of a “digital twin” and ultimately, the seamless integration and concealing of all on-site equipment.

Moreover, considering that the first AURA at the Notre-Dame Basilica took place seven years ago, we had access to seven years worth of data, evolution, and growth, both in terms of technology and our team’s creative skills. This enabled us to enhance our tools and techniques, resulting in a refined and impactful experience within a wider and more complex architectural setting.

What about working with brands directly? How do you craft experiences for brands?

Working directly with brands has been an integral part of our journey, reflecting a dynamic shift in how brands seek to engage with their audiences and forge deeper connections.

Take, for instance, our collaboration with UNICEF USA for Heart Strings – an interactive walkthrough featuring dynamic multimedia installations that engage visitors, promote learning, and inspire support for the UNICEF cause. In this case, we have adapted the humanitarian organization’s values, mission, and initiatives into an original, multi-dimensional experience to shine a light on the world’s children, transcending borders, cultures, and languages to create a deeply moving and engaging journey for all ages.

Similarly, the upcoming launch of The Messi Experience (produced, created and designed by Primo Entertainment and Moment Factory) uses this ethos. Set to debut in Miami, this multimedia and immersive experience employs interactive elements, captivating lighting design, an original score, augmented games and projection mapping to create an unforgettable encounter with Lionel Messi, pioneering new and engaging experiences for fans worldwide.

In essence, our approach involves not just crafting experiences, but curating immersive narratives that enhance a brand’s identity and mission. Through innovation and creativity, we create storyworlds that leave lasting impressions and bring people together, fostering meaningful connections. •

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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