DENVER ZOO - SANTA’S WORKSHOP
A spectacular Santa and Mrs. Claus Workshop Show includes a chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Mrs. Claus takes the spotlight as she spins a captivating magical tale that brings the holiday season to life, while you get cozy with s’mores and hot cocoa. The story is an entertaining and gentle reminder to remember to be grateful and giving to nature in the holiday season.
Lighting & Audio
Lighting was one of the dynamic pieces moving the story along, serving as wayfinding during pre-show, highlighting key objects, setting the “temperature” with the warm glow of the fireplace and the blustery cold winds underscored by cool blue dynamic lighting, and even evoking a forest with the clever use of a green pattern at a key point in the show. As the stage stayed the same, Mrs. Claus was highlighted from start to finish.
With the cold weather, talking crowds of people in the switchbacks, an important design consideration was maintaining the audience’s attention through the performance. This involved keeping the volume level up above ambient crowd noise, but also using theatrical design techniques to keep everyone’s attention on the show. We were able to reuse much of the sound equipment Denver Zoo had invested in for Woodland Hollows. We cleverly hid speakers inside a clock, behind windows, and in the fireplace. Since Mrs. Claus needed to be amplified to project over the underscore, the wireless microphone was connected to the processor for automatic mixing, feedback suppression, and dynamics/equalization processing. Everything in Santa and Mrs. Claus’s workshop is filled with magic! During the story, the whole workshop comes alive with magic. The piano that underscores the majority of the story plays itself by magic (but behind the scenes, the lighting software sent commands to the sound software, and the sound playback software sent MIDI information to the player piano.) Wind moves around the space in harmony with the story. The lights and audio are perfectly timed and coordinated to work in tandem to carry the story along while keeping Mrs. Claus the center of attention.
Behind the scenes, careful planning in the design stage was needed to accommodate the project’s strict power limitations without sacrificing overall design intent and functionality. All lighting, Audio / Video, controls, space heaters and overall design elements had to fit on two 20-Amp circuits. With this limited power “budget”, the lighting design had to accommodate multiple scenes and moods with just a handful of energy-efficient lighting fixtures.
The result? The highest rated event at Zoo Lights in 2019.
Client: Denver Zoo
Lighting Design, Audio / Video Design, Theatrical & Performance, Electrical Engineering Design
DENVER ZOO - GRIZZLY BEAR EXHIBIT UPGRADES
The existing grizzly bear exhibit, Bear Mountain (which is on the historical registry), just celebrated its 100-year-old birthday, and needed an major update to accommodate modern zoo-keeping practices. The new exhibit, Harmony Hill, is all about how bears and humans coexist in their natural setting, and in our spaces. The Denver Zoo, like all AZA accredited zoos, rescues their animals, and bears often come to the Zoo by way of the conflict between with humans. Harmony Hill is an innovative exhibit that aims to help educate visitors about living in harmony with bears.
The natural setting has a re-activated river, and a lot of greenery. Two viewing areas allow visitors to see the resident animals in a recreated national park setting. Lanterns and other themed lighting reinforce the camping and nature theme, as well as location-specific bird and insect sounds to immerse visitors in the environment. A selfie station in this part of the exhibit shows how to take an animal-safe photograph.
The suburban neighborhood setting features a demonstration wall, with French doors that open to a working wall screen. Keepers can interact with bears on camera, and the video and audio is reinforced on video screens and speakers in the living room. The living room has seating for visitors, and a view of the “backyard,” with plenty of enrichment for bears, such as trash cans, grills, and bird feeders. These enrichment items allow for the Zoo to help educate visitors about the ways to keep bears and humans safe in the Rocky Mountain region.
Audio / Video Technology and Implementation
We used a clever software solution for selfies, that displays photos on a TV at the exhibit whenever someone tags their Instagram shot with #HarmonyWithBears. The new Q-Sys sound processing system gives Zoo workers the ability to make paging announcements at the attraction, or any other attraction on the system. For audio flexibility, we custom programmed speakers hidden throughout the exhibit. Typically, the speakers produce time-of-day and location-specific insect and bird sounds, but workers have the ability to override the system with local audio inputs such as during presentations on the bear exhibit, or park-wide audio streams such as for Zoo Lights or corporate events. All of the equipment is outdoor safe and weatherproof, including the cameras, TV’s, speakers – to ensure reliability, but maintaining the aesthetic of an indoor living room.
Client: Denver Zoo
Audio / Video Design, Sound Commissioning
DENVER ZOO - WOODLAND HOLLOW
Denver Zoo completely re-imagined their fall events and created three distinct experiences that set them apart from other local fall experiences like haunted houses and corn mazes. The creative team spent months crafting and brainstorming to perfectly capture the details and spirit of fall and Halloween. Our design goal was to explore the creepiness of nature, blending the Zoo’s mission of conservation and the themes of fall – changing of the seasons, Jack-o-Lanterns, and everything that is spooky.
Since Enchanted Hollows was a new event for Denver Zoo, they had no existing equipment to pull from. We specified a new audio rack, and collection of loudspeakers that could be hidden in trees. In general, we could not screw anything into live trees based on Denver Zoo’s horticulture canopy management plan. This required careful planning with the Horticulture team to ensure that speakers were hidden, and had adequate coverage and gain. We also had to be conscious of nearby animals, which limited the amount of time we could spend setting up and commissioning the installation. In the end, the system needed to be simple to operate night after night, with minimal operator feedback.
Building on techniques from dark rides and other theme park attractions, the sound design in this attraction supports, and at times carries, the narrative. Our ability to think about the whole story, integrating music, sound effects, video content, lighting and other special effects into one seamless system to tell a cohesive narrative is one of our strongest assets. Our work connects all the technical aspects of an experience to create a spectacular experience for the guests. For the sound system, we created documentation for the Horticulture team to mount the speakers to trees with ratchet straps, or within show set pieces. The Horticulture team wired each of the speakers back to the sound rack, which we built in our office and wired on site after Zoo park hours. With utility power a large concern, our rack location was dictated by proximity to power, while keeping the electronics hidden. We ensured that the rack could run on one 20A circuit, leaving the majority of the available power free for lighting and other effects. We created the nature-inspired sound effects content (will o the wisps, creepy crawlies, and scary animal sounds), pulled and edited the needle-drop sound music, and programmed the audio playback. We set it up so that the startup and shutdown sequence of the entire system was automatic. With one push of a button, the system powers up, and starts the playback sound for each of twelve individual sound zones in seven scenes.
Client: Denver Zoo
Audio / Video Design, Sound System Design, Programming, Content Creation