Monday, May 10, 2021

From Aichi in 2005 to Dubai in 2020, Christie technology helps spur innovation for over a decade of World Expos

By Joe Kleiman

ABOVE: Conceptual illustration of Christie projection technology on display at Al Wasl Plaza. Courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai

In summer 2019, Christie announced its status as official projection and display partner for Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region. Taking place between October 20, 2020-April 10, 2021 and billed as the World’s Greatest Show, Expo 2020 has projected attendance of 25 million visits. Its theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” endeavors to provide a platform for global innovation and collaboration.

Since 2005, Christie technology has been implemented in more than 650 installations at World Expos and for Expo 2020, Christie technology will be used throughout Expo 2020’s 438-hectare site. The vast, domed structure of the show’s centerpiece, Al Wasl Plaza, will use over 250 of Christie’s D4K40-RGB projectors to illuminate the dome with content that can be seen from the sky (more details below).

Expo overview

A World Expo is a large-scale, themed international event held every five years, showcasing human innovation and national achievements. Nations of the world participate by creating exhibitions and pavilions, usually government funded, with the host city putting on an extensive display, often building new, permanent structures especially for the event. Corporations and NGOs also participate.

Cities bidding for the opportunity to host a World Expo compete for available slots scheduled by the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) – the Paris-based organization that regulates these events – and are selected through a vote of the BIE member states.

World Expos are vehicles of international goodwill that stimulate trade, development and tourism and for attractions industry professionals, they represent an important vertical. Everything about a World Expo– plazas, structures, landscapes, pathways, exhibitions, wayfinding systems, operations, performance spaces, corporate meeting rooms, retail, dining and more – offers rich opportunities as participants are driven to seek differentiation and innovation for their displays and guest experiences.

Creative achievement at an expo is witnessed (and tested) by a global audience, making a World Expo an ideal place to do something groundbreaking. Not surprisingly, showcasing innovations in technology has played a key role in World Expo displays – starting with some of the early stereographic photos shown at the first Expo, the 1851 Great Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace, London, to the telephone at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 or NBC’s launch of broadcast television at the 1939-40 “World of Tomorrow” World Expo in New York City.

In NBC’s first television broadcast on April 30, 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt opens the 1939 – 1940 World of Tomorrow Expo. Courtesy MZTV Museum of Television & Archive

Fast forward to the present day and the world has seen more than a century’s worth of technology innovation employed at World Expos as a storytelling tool to connect with visitors. These technologies have tended to show up later in the consumer sector in cinemas, museums, and attractions. This has been the case from the silent age through color, widescreen and giant screen – and, within the past few decades, the various forms of digital projection including projection mapping and dome displays.

Christie’s partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai is just the latest instance of the company collaborating with its partners to bring memorable and vivid stories and concepts to life in a World Expo. The company has a substantial history powering expo displays with innovative technology, the most recent examples being Yeosu [Korea] in 2012, Astana [Kazakhstan] in 2017 and Shanghai in 2010.

These are important opportunities for Christie, not just revenue-wise. Like many of the other partners, Christie welcomes the innovative and creative challenge. As stated by Bryan Boehme, Executive Director, Entertainment Global Sales and Enterprise Americas, “We’re thinking about all the different creative canvases: staging and events, live shows, projection mapping, digital signage and more. It’s healthy to push technological boundaries. It’s how you expand your comfort zone; how you grow and get better. It’s how we are inspired and exhilarated. We listen to customers and figure out how best to serve them.”

Aichi 2005

Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan was the first Expo in which Christie participated. One of the most spectacular visual extravaganzas was “In the Evening at Koi Pond,” which transformed the Koi Pond located next to the Expo’s theme pavilion – Global House – into a major attraction as the setting for an experimental theater. Here the video elements had to come alive on a 35m high by 90 m wide (115ft by 295ft) water screen in the large audience venue, all powered by Christie Roadie 25K projectors.

In the Evening at Koi Pond Aichi World Expo, Nagoya, 2005 © photo by Cheryl Fan (photo courtesy of Change Performing Arts)

Christie’s successful participation in 2005’s expo ensured that the company jumped at the opportunity to provide technology for what would become the largest expo or world’s fair to date, Expo 2010, Shanghai.

Shanghai 2010: “Better City, Better Life”

A record 73 million visits made Expo 2010 Shanghai the largest world’s fair in terms of attendance on what was also the largest site, 528-hectares that skirted both sides of the Huangpu River. Christie’s participation began in 2009, as Christie played a pivotal role at the Beijing preview exhibition “The Path to World Expo – Introduction to World Expo Shanghai 2010 China and the Retrospection of the World Expo History,” where visitors previewed the pavilions of Expo 2010 Shanghai on a 23m x 3.5m, 180 degree curved screen that used three Christie projectors to produce a single seamless image on what was then the largest dome screen in China.

The opening ceremony was the biggest audio-visual show after the 2008 Beijing Summer Games opening ceremony for which Christie was also the projection provider. Christie partner Wincomn used sixteen Christie projectors at the Expo 2010 ceremonies, four of which were the brightest in the world at the time, the Roadster HD+35K. To more easily move the projectors, Wincomn installed a yoke system, important especially for the blooming of the “Flower of Friendship” where five large petals slowing blossomed to the lights and music, rotating and folding, while astonishing the audience.  

Within the Expo 2010 Shanghai grounds proper, more than 600 Christie solutions were utilized, including within 29 pavilions. The Information and Communications Pavilion, presented by China Telecom and China Mobile was billed as the first “Multi-Dimensional Interactive Pavilion,” which combined digital media, wireless connectivity, and 4D effects. The main show in the pavilion, “The Dream Big Multi-Dimensional Interactive Network Theater” utilized four sets of stacked Christie 3DLP projectors to project an image on the central 22m x 11m screen while an additional four sets of stacked Christie projectors illuminated 32 wraparound immersion screens, creating a complete 260-degree surround effect in the theater. Pavilion designer BRC Imagination Arts employed five sets of stacked Christie M Series 6,000 lumen 3DLP projectors, one of the smallest projectors of its kind then on the market, for the “Living Dream Mural” on a 26m long curved screen, and throughout the Pavilion, visitors were immersed in dynamic media environments while engaging one-on-one with the shows and exhibits. Christian Lachel of BRC called it, “mass customization applied to experience design.”

Australia pavilion, Expo 2010 Shanghai. Courtesy Christie

Australia’s pavilion at Shanghai 2010 also offered an interesting challenge for Christie and the design team members think!OTS. The main show highlighted Australian culture through six convex screens that rotated around a central theater in the round stage. The screens also lowered during parts of the presentation to unveil physical props in the center of the stage as part of the storytelling process. Throughout the continual movement of the screen, images had to be kept steady and in synch. This was done with Christie media servers and nine Christie 3DLP projectors.

Yeosu 2012: “The Living Ocean and Coast”

Two years after Shanghai’s success, Christie was handpicked to help another world expo, this time as content sponsor for a three-month event in the coastal South Korean fishing village of Yeosu. With this came another new host of technical challenges and opportunities, which included projecting on the world’s largest outdoor water screen and creating the first-of-its-kind, 360-degree simulated hot air balloon ride.

The centerpiece of the Yeosu Expo was the “Big O,” on which Christie collaborated with show designer ECA2 and integrator Electrosonic. A permanent installation built to complement the surrounding sea water lagoon, “Big O” fused cutting edge technology with compelling show content. Inside the 41 meter high iconic “O” (as in Ocean) appeared a giant water screen onto which two sets of triple-stacked Christie Roadie projectors projected a short film on ocean conservation from a distance of 100m. Fountains designed by WET Design, located 20-, 25-, and 30-meters away from the structure, also acted as screens, with four sets of dual-stacked Christie 35,000 lumen projectors providing the images. The overall show was complemented with a variety of environment effects, including lighting, flames, lasers, and water effects. Projecting onto moving waters is a challenging task, yet even under strong wind conditions, the Christie projectors maintain the clarity and the exact image focal point. The “Big O” remained as a legacy of the expo and to this day is considered an attraction not to be missed. 

Lotte pavilion, Expo 2012 Yeosu. Courtesy Christie

Known for its entertainment business, Lotte’s Pavilion housed multi-sensory exhibits and attractions resembling its amusement park, Lotte World. Sixteen Christie WU12K-M WUXGA 3 DLP® projectors displayed visuals for “A World Full of Pleasures” which included a first-ever 360-degree simulated hot air balloon ride using 9 meter high and 22 meter long cylindrical screen displays where visitors “flew” over deep seas, icebergs, coral reefs and up into blue skies.

Astana 2017: “Energy of the Future”

Held in the capital of Kazakhstan, Expo 2017 Astana (known since 2019 as Nur-Sultan) was laid out in a circular formation with the central focal point being the 100m-high sphere known as the Nur Alem pavilion. Within the sphere, 200 Christie Pandoras Box systems  provided both real time processing and show control for 34 media installations.

Christie worked closely with construction firms and integrators Sembol, Astel Electronics, Adunic, Acciona Produciones y Diseño, and Simmetrico in installing the systems during the cold Kazakh winter when temperatures dropped as low as 15 degrees below zero. Throughout the building’s eight floors, the Christie Pandoras Box units controlled hundreds of different laser projectors, displays, video walls, PCs and digital devices used to run video mappings, immersive projections, interactive installations and a wide range of additional audiovisual elements.

Expo 2020 Dubai: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”
Al Wasl Plaza under construction, Sept. 2019. Courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai

As Expo 2020 nears its opening date, Christie is preparing to implement various solutions including projection and displays – across the entire Expo site. A focal point of Christie technology at Expo 2020 Dubai will be Al Wasl Plaza. Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordan Gill Architects of Chicago, Al Wasl Plaza acts as the central hub and regional showcase of Expo 2020 Dubai. Its name is Arabic for “connection,” a play on both its role in connecting the three themed districts, Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability as well as the larger theme. Topping the plaza is a 65-meter high domed trellis inspired by the Expo 2020 Dubai logo. More than 250 Christie D4K40-RGB pure laser projectors will transform the dome into a 130-meter wide projection surface, which, due to its transparency, will have images visible from both the inside and the exterior. Al Wasl Plaza however, is just one facet of what Christie has in store for Expo 2020 Dubai.

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