Between the lines

Entertainment meets branding at the Gazprom Experience in Europa-Park, Germany. The energy giant created a varied diversion to entertain visitors as they queue for the Blue Fire Megacoaster. Anna Mitchell reports on the technology that brings the ‘Adventure of Energy’ to life.

The Gazprom Experience at the Europa leisure park in Rust, Germany is part entertainment venue and part corporate branding exercise. While visitors queue for the Blue Fire Megacoaster they are treated to an exhibition about gas courtesy of the world’s largest natural gas company. The subject matter might sound tedious but the effects and the technology employed are anything but.

The event and information hall, situated by the massive rollercoaster, opened at the end of March 2010. It incorporates three large rotundas, which serve as light-proof spaces for 360° projections and subdivide the queuing area. The open hall can also be used to house events. The whole concept and design, including media and graphic design, was created by Triad Berlin Projektgesellschaft. Triad, led by technical manager, Henning Foest was also responsible for project and technical management.

A graphic ribbon runs across the hall, linking the rotundas. The massive graphics dominate the space while the units also screen the hospitality area from the rollercoaster launch pad and the queuing area. In each dome six Panasonic projectors, mounted on a special floor-standing steel construction, provide the panoramic films while Kling & Freitag speakers generate a surround sound experience.

Videos within the domes depict to visitors how gas is produced. The projections tell stories of finding, producing, transporting and using fossil natural gas. In the first dome, the experience becomes multi-sensory as a bass shaker is used to shake the visitors’ gangway during parts of the video that depict drilling for natural gas. The structure-borne sound converter is often used in 4D cinema installations and makes the sound tactile.

The 360° films are projected onto 2.5m high screens. Each screen is 18m in length and images are entirely created with Computer Generated Images (CGI). The dynamic surround sound and special effects like wind and spray are designed to immerse visitors in the experience.

Pandoras Box Manager LTE software, from German based coolux, was used to control the projections. Furthermore, 18 of the 22 rack PCs used in the set-up were running Pandoras Box Media Player STD. The Pandoras Box Manager sends TCP commands to a Medialon media control unit, which controls, amongst other things, the shaker plate and water effects. Franziskus Scharpff, of Ground Zero Systemintegration, combined and installed the different system components for the set-up, while Sven Gayer and Julia Rieckmann, from coolux programmed the Pandoras Box Manager Lite. The Medialon media control was programmed by Andreas Schmidmeister.

Six Kling & Freitag CA 106 speakers and one Kling & Freitag subwoofer generate surround sound in each dome. The audio signals are managed and distributed by three 8x8 Soundweb London BLU processors. Yamaha kit provides amplification throughout the hall via a mixture of PC2001N, PC3301N and XH200 100 V models.

Within eyeshot of the hospitality area, there are various interactive installations that visually take up the circular form of a pipeline section. The set-up is designed so parents who are seated in the hospitality area can keep an eye on their playing children.

Visitors can travel high-speed from Siberia to Rust via the virtual pipeline race. Two interactive exhibits allow visitors to engage in the virtual race, steering their vehicle with the aid of a pivoting stool called the “Swopper”. In specifically marked areas, they can speed up and overtake their competitors. During the race, players glimpse views of Moscow or the fauna of the Baltic Sea through transparent sections of the pipeline.

A photo station utilises laser-based motion control, allowing visitors to have their picture taken in Siberia, Moscow or other surroundings and then send their images as eCard greetings to their friends. Those that don’t dare to ride the Blue Fire Megacoaster can have their picture taken against a backdrop and pretend they did. Finally, visitors can collect their eCards in a virtual visitors’ book and rate other cards.

The station uses an industrial camera, laser and two screens. Triad chose a USB UI-2250ME camera from iDS (Imaging Development Systems). The mehrwert laser provides an action motion tracking system that allows users to operate the system via gesture. An NEC Multisync 4620 panel provides a display where visitors can choose background images and save pictures via a 19” industrial touchscreen from IQ Automation.

Finally, the ‘Gazprom Game’ allows visitors to build a pipeline from Russia to Germany. In order to do this they have to answer numerous questions about natural gas as quickly as possible. There’s also a trip to Russia up for grabs for the triumphant game player. Lesser points do warrant prizes of lesser stature. Visitors can play the game by uploading it to their mobile phone via Bluetooth or SMS. Alternatively they can use the ELO 1739L touchscreen on site.

It’s hard to create a positive brand impact amongst the general public when you’re a huge energy corporation and a peddler of fossil fuels. It’s even harder if you’ve attracted the kind of negative press Gazprom has in the past. Furthermore, how do you make the story of drilling, collecting and distributing gas interesting? Certainly not, may I suggest, by calling your exhibit “The Adventure of Energy”.

But, the exhibit elicits a string of superlatives from those that have seen and experienced it. “Outstanding” and “extraordinary” are two that come to mind immediately from the conversations I’ve had with people who’ve explored the Gazprom Experience. Triad says the exhibit “opens new roads in brand communications” and Mr Mack, the owner described it as a “best practice example to combine fun park attraction and sponsoring”.

And let’s face it, if all else fails – it’s got to be better than a queue.


Kling & Freitag CA-106 speakers and subwoofer
Soundweb BLU 88
Yamaha PC2001N, PC33001N and XH200 100V amplifiers

ELO 1739L touchscreen
IDS industrial camera
IQ Automation 19” industrial touchscreen
Medialon media control unit
Mehrwert action tracking system
NEC Multisync 4620
Panasonic PTD-6000 and ET-DLE150Z projectors
Pandoras Box LTE software, media player STD and Box manager

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