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BBC Worldwide Dr Who Experience Opens in UK – design/AV company Sarner shares guest experience and technical details

Photo: doctorwhotv.co.uk
Prior related story: Sarner wins bid to create the Dr Who Experience 

The new Dr Who Experience opened to the public in London Sunday, Feb 20.  
Here is a detailed announcement from Sarner, the creative design/AV company contracted to BBC Worldwide for the project:

The first ever immersive Doctor Who attraction opened its doors to the public Sunday 20th February 2011, inviting mere mortals to step through a crack in time and become part of their very own Doctor Who adventure. The Doctor Who Experience, a ground-breaking BBC Worldwide visitor attraction at London’s Olympia, was conceived and constructed by leading international creative design and AV installation company, Sarner, and features powerful production sequences and spectacular set design, combined with the latest AV technology and special effects. 
Matt Smith being filmed for Dr Who Experience. Photo: Liam Daniels
The attraction comprises two elements – an immersive timed dark walk show and a freeflow exhibition.  The immersive show puts the visitor at the heart of the action in their very own Doctor Who episode where they encounter some of the best-loved and scariest monsters from the BBC TV series, with a spectacular 3D sequence finale.  The show design by the Sarner creative team was devised with input from Steven Moffat, the TV show’s head writer and executive producer.  Following the show, visitors enter a freeflow exhibition which will feature interactive areas, static displays and some never seen before memorabilia from the TV show including two iconic TARDIS sets from the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison).
Philip Murphy, Managing Director, BBC Worldwide Live Events, comments on what fans should expect from the Doctor Who Experience, “Our research with fans told us the thing they wanted most of all was the chance to step inside the TARDIS and experience the thrill of the TV show for themselves.  Sarner took all of the fans’ comments on board and promised us an amazing visitor attraction.  The final build has far exceeded our expectations”.  Murphy adds, “If the fans think they’re coming to see a traditional exhibition they’re in for a surprise.  We believe that this will be the journey of a lifetime for children of all ages who have always dreamt of being a part of the Doctor Who adventure”.
Dr Who Experience TARDIS. Photo: Liam Daniels

Visitors are batched in groups up to a maximum of 55 and travel through five spectacular sets, including Starship UK, a full scale TARDIS, Dalek spaceship and forest of Weeping Angels, where they become fully immersed in the story.  Each individual element of the visitor attraction is synchronised and, for this, the Doctor Who Experience has its own brain – a sophisticated multiprocessor computer that takes cares of everything to microsecond accuracy – ensuring a seamless and reliable show every time.

Commenting on the technology, Ross Magri, Sarner’s Managing Director says, “Time travel may be as simple as stepping into the TARDIS for the Doctor but, sadly, it’s still beyond Sarner’s engineering capability…for now!  However, that didn’t stop us from using some of the very latest technology to bring the Doctor Who series to life and allow visitors, for just half an hour*, to travel through space and time as the Doctor’s companions.”  From high definition video and 3D rear projection technology to computer controlled hydraulic motion floor and realistic CGI animation, the Doctor Who Experience has got the full package to make it an out of this world experience for visitors.  Magri adds, “The biggest challenge for us is applying the technical requirements required yet still delivering on the creative vision and hiding the technology from the visitor so we create a flawless show and a truly immersive experience.”
Dalek spaceship, Dr Who Experience. Photo: Liam Daniels

Sarner’s Creative Director Michael Bennett, has always been a fan of Doctor Who and has fond memories of watching it with his family when he was a child.  This became his inspiration and he strove to capture and recreate the magic and mystery of the TV series for fans of all ages to engage with and experience for themselves.  The idea of visitors stepping through the crack in time came from the movies where characters are often seen walking in to a magical story and, although film makers and authors have done it time and time again, it hasn’t been done before in a live attraction.   Bennett comments, “There are so many magical moments in the show element of the attraction that have never been seen, or experienced, at any of the Doctor Who exhibitions in the past – from actually walking through the doors of the infamous blue police box, experiencing a TARDIS take off complete with special effects, witnessing a Dalek battle in space, walking through the dank, dark forest of the Weeping Angels and seeing the best loved monsters of Doctor Who past and present in 3D – that Doctor Who fans will remember this experience for years to come”.  He adds, “This has been one of the most exciting projects I’ve been privileged to work on and it’s so rewarding to see my drawings and ideas come to life to entertain others and capture the imaginations of Doctor Who fans, young and old”.

Highlights of the attraction include the opening crack sequence; magical appearance of the full scale TARDIS police box, which appears behind a transition gauze; the flight of the TARDIS; live radar scanning of visitors with a Dalek eye; a projected 7 metre CGI rebel Dalek battle scene on a 24 metre painted backdrop, and, the culmination of the ‘show’, a breathtaking 3D finale alongside brand new filmed footage of Matt Smith which is exclusive to the Doctor Who Experience.  
Pandorica, Dr Who Experience. Photo: Liam Daniels

But the excitement doesn’t end there.  Following their adventure, visitors enter the exhibition element of the Doctor Who Experience which charts the success of the show from the first series in 1963 to the most recent episodes starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.  On display will be items never seen before including original costumes of the Doctor and his companions, the Tom Baker TARDIS police box and two authentic TARDIS sets, one from the era of David Tennant and another used by Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in their tenures in the role of the Doctor. The public will also be able to get up close and personal with sets and props from the recent series, including the Pandorica Box and Chair, and confront numerous monsters including several generations of the Daleks and Cybermen as well as Silurians, an Ice Warrior and a Zygon.  Younger fans will enjoy the interactive areas that include ‘Walk like a Monster’, a choreography video guide on how to move like some of the scary Doctor Who monsters, and ‘The Sounds of Doctor Who’, an interactive sound effects studio featuring the iconic sounds of the TV series and an opportunity to hear their own voice transformed in to a Dalek or Cyberman.

Facts about the new Dr Who Experience

  • The floor of the TARDIS weighs 7 tons and had to be craned in to the exhibition 

    The whole install from arriving on site to completion was done in just 3 months

  • The Doctor Who Experience visitor attraction will be the longest ever continuous tenancy at Olympia

  • Each piece of the set had to be no bigger than 2m x 5m to fit in the largest lift available at Olympia

  • The system is capable of playing a total of 116 audio channels

  • The combined amplifier power totals over 16,000 watts

  • 22km of cables was used to connect all the equipment together – equivalent to the length of over 2000 London buses  

AV, control and lighting gear list – Dr Who Experience

Photo: Liam Daniels

Audio and Amplification
31 x Peavey CS1400 Amplifiers
52 x Community IO8 speakers (From CUK Audio)
4 x Veris Sub Bass units (From CUK Audio)

Video System
14 x Panasonic PT-DZ6700 Projectors.
25 x AV Stumpfl SCV-HD/PR (HD video players)
4 x Projection screens supplied by Harkness Hall

Control System
7 x AVStumpfl SC-Masters (16 Channel)
2 x AVStumpfl SCN-DMX512O (DMX output units)
7 x AVStumpfl SCN-REL8O (8 Relay output unit)
14 x AVStumpfl SCN-SER4IO (4 x RS232 Output units)
1 x AVStumpfl SXM-10B (10” Touch Panel)

CCTV
40 x Axis TCP/IP CCTV Cameras and POE Hubs

Lighting
23 x Lightprocessor Paradime 6 x 10Amp Dimmers
13 x SGM Idea Spot 250
3 x SGM idea wash 250
2 x SGM idea Spot 150
9 x SGM Ribalta
6 x SGM Palco
79 x SGM idea LED Bar 100
72 x SGM idea Par LED Zoom RGB

Exhibition Lighting supplied by havells-sylvania   

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs. Judith has ties to numerous industry organizations. From 2005-2020 she ran communications, publications and social media for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA, and co-chair of the 2014 IMERSA Summit. She was publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association in the 1990s, now part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and has also contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Already making her mark as a magazine and book editor, Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. Launching as a freelancer in the mid 1990s she has contributed to dozens of publications and media outlets including Funworld, Lighting&Sound America, Sound & Communications, Urban Land, The Raconteur and The Planetarian. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. She has lived in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and now makes her home in Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts and theater community.

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