Go Behind the Scenes With the Thea Awards Digital Case Studies

October 8, 2020, 4:14 PM · Today's Thea Awards Digital Case Studies offered a deep dive into the inner workings of themed entertainment industry that fans rarely get to see.

Presented by the Themed Entertainment Association, today's digital cases studies started with the technical side of the industry before refocusing on the human talent that makes the industry work.

First up: the Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Innovation. That went to the Christie Eclipse 4K RGB Pure Laser Projector, which has been used in a variety of attractions from theme park dark rides to world-class planetarium shows.

Larry Paul of Christie Digital kicked off the session with an overview that defined what color is and how our perception of it affects the believability of various forms of projection. It's a great overview for anyone who wants to understand why certain filmed media looks better than others.

"Lately everyone's been living our virtual lives working at home and living on computer screens, but you can tell the difference when someone's actually in front of you versus a display screen," he said. "When you have a product like the Eclipse, it really just enables those extra details — those extra clues, like the specular highlights on the eyes, the higher frame rates, and all those little details that suddenly make you feel like you're actually talking to someone, face to face, as opposed to something else where you're looking at a projection system or display system."

"A few years ago we talked about being able to create projection that made it look like you were looking through a window," Bryan Boehme of Christie Digital said. "And what I really think Eclipse does today is take that glass out of the window and allows that three-dimensional feeling and experience of immersion. That is really quite different, because black is now truly black. So when we're looking at attractions where we fly you out into space, you could imagine what you could be able to do with that type of technology."

Next up, moderator Monty Lunde of Technifex interviewed Wendy Heimann-Nunes, this year's winner of the TEA's Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award. An attorney representing people and businesses in the themed entertainment industry, Heimann-Nunes is being honored for her service to the industry and the association.

"When I was in law school I brought a voice to bear that was uniquely mine, that turned out to be appreciated. So for the younger people out there who are afraid of being true to themselves, I would say don't be afraid — who you are is your greatest strength. It's what you bring to the world. Lean into it, because it's what is going to make you successful," she said. "That's what I learned at the University of Chicago, being the whack job that I was. It actually helped me be successful as opposed to holding me back."

She spoke of her experience learning about immersive entertainment, getting into the industry, and about the miscarriage that ultimately led her to realize that she wanted to be her own boss and start her own legal firm — and to become the drummer for a punk-rock band. (Hey, a hobby really helps you deal with the work and life stress.)

"My message to folks out there who are struggling during this pandemic is, if you find yourself really brought down and challenged — when you're brought down to the studs — you have an opportunity to think about the house you want to rebuild," she said. "I would really encourage you to rebuild your house in a way that is consistent with who you are, and what you want, and what brings you joy, and stay to that. Don't listen to outside influences. Don't think about what society thinks you should do or wants you to do. You have one life, and make that choice to rebuild your house in a way that's consistent with everything you are and you want."

The Thea Awards Digital Case Studies continue October 22 with Attractions winners, including Wonderbox at South Korea's Paradise City, Popcorn Revenge at Walibi Belgium, and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. The series concludes November 5 with sessions on Thea Award winners Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Tickets are available at the TEA website and include on-demand access to all previous 2020 Digital Case Study sessions, including today's.

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