Author Archives: Ashley Nolan
Author Archives: Ashley Nolan
VenueMagic® Show Control Software is our flagship product. It was developed by our in-house software engineers and is wholly owned by Entertainment Sciences Group, Inc. VenueMagic is Windows-based and runs on a PC. It is sold to consumers and professionals for use in haunted houses, escape rooms, theme parks, live theater, dance clubs and in any other venue that requires precise synchronization of audio, video, lighting, props, animatronics, etc…. VenueMagic is both a designer and a live show controller. In addition, VenueMagic is capable of exporting show control information to external hardware, such as our ShowNodes™ controller, where it can run independent of a PC.
VenueMagic is also the main workhorse for our own contract work. It includes many features not available in other show controllers on the market that give us a significant edge when it comes to pricing and scheduling of contract work. VenueMagic’s broad feature set allows us to bid lower and complete projects faster than other contractors who would have to integrate expensive hardware and hire custom programmers to get comparable results. It has also been our experience that the capabilities we can offer through VenueMagic often exceed what our customers believe possible.
VenueMagic has been providing sophisticated, cost-effective show control to the Entertainment Industry since 2007. We are constantly adding new features to keep it on the leading edge of show control technology.
Notable VenueMagic customers include:
ShowNodes™ is hardware that runs VenueMagic shows without the need for a PC computer. It also provides VenueMagic with additional inputs (for switches, etc…) and outputs (for props, animatronics, etc). ShowNodes devices can also playback audio and video as programmed into the show. Multiple ShowNodes devices can be linked together over Ethernet to create a “distributed” show control systems. In this configuration they can share resources and sync together to play shows. The advantage to this is that in the event of a hardware problem, only the part of the show/attraction controlled by that node is affected. The rest of the show/attraction goes on uninterrupted. ShowNodes are easily programmed by VenueMagic and can handle many situations that normally require the development of customized hardware and low-level programming. This can significantly reduce project costs.
Our custom software development work is not just limited to show control systems. Below are a couple examples of projects we’ve done for other industries:
We were contracted by Kaltman Creations to develop software for a suite of products for RF frequency analysis that assist in the setup and placement of wireless transmitters for theater and other live performance venues. This led to the development of four separate, commercially available products:
More information on these products can be viewed at www.kaltmancreations.com.
Headquartered in El Segundo California, Glentek designs and builds high-end servo motors and drives for a wide variety of industrial uses. We were contracted by Glentek to develop software that assists users in the intricate process of setting up Glentek drives for specific motors and applications.
After selecting our VenueMagic software as the primary tool for programming all future animatronics projects, CEC Entertainment contracted us to develop custom software to convert existing shows created on their previous system into a format that could be imported into VenueMagic. Contract included onsite support and multiple VenueMagic training sessions.
We were contracted by Infinesse Corporation in Los Angeles, CA to do research and development for an animatronics character capable of performing musical numbers on an actual bagpipe. Using voice recognition, “RoboPiper” accepted verbal requests for songs from a compilation of popular Scottish bagpipe tunes and then performed them live. Project included the design and fabrication of mechanical “hands” capable of grasping the bagpipe’s chanter and covering/uncovering chanter holes as required to produce specific tones. Precisely regulated air was forced into the bagpipes blowstick. Air pressure was dynamically adjusted based on a variety of conditions to maintain proper airflow over the chanter reed. The project was successful though performances were limited to a few, small, private venues.
Anheuser-Busch InBev commissioned Magnify Entertainment to create a haunted house promoting its Argentina-based Quilmes Brewery and to celebrate its 125th anniversary. Zona Paranormal, as it was called, combined features of both haunted houses and escape rooms. Drawing upon “spooky stories” from Argentinean lore, Magnify developed a series of haunted vignettes that patrons would experience as they progressed from room to room. Patrons were formed into small groups that were guided by hired actors who played the parts of mythical characters in each room. Finely crafted sets and prop pieces were designed and fabricated. The entire attraction was built inside an old warehouse in Buenos Aires. We were hired to setup and manage all aspects of show control for the whole attraction. This included audio/lighting design and control as well prop and puzzle control. Zona Paranormal relied heavily on dynamic audio and lighting to create a unique mood and ambience for each of the nine rooms. Interactive audio, lighting and props were used to give patrons a true sense of being part of each story. Since every room was continuously occupied by different groups, timing was important to keep groups separated and flowing smoothly. Audio/visual cues helped actors to regulate traffic flow. All timing and control was handled by our VenueMagic show control system. We provided onsite technical support in Buenos Aires for the duration of setup, operation and take-down. The event brought in over 10,000 patrons during the one-month period it was open to the public.
To help spread the word about their “Let Your Great Out” initiative for kids, Kellogg’s hired the Jim Henson Creature Shop to create a new Tony the Tiger walk-around suit with a fully articulated animatronics head. We were commissioned by Henson to handle all aspects of the control system. The head needed to be controlled remotely, with no wires to encumber the performer while wearing the suit. The suit included a built-in speaker to broadcast Tony’s voice while mouth movements and facial expressions were synchronized to match. The head operated in two modes. The first mode allowed an offstage puppeteer to control the mouth and expressions live while an actor performed the voice. The voice was transmitted wirelessly to the suit speaker, with a delay added to help the puppeteer keep up. The second mode provided for the playback of pre-recorded dialog with synchronized facial movements, activated remotely from a custom screen on an iPad. All required programming and playback of audio and animatronics control was accomplished using our VenueMagic show control system. All playback equipment was consolidated into a small, portable base-station console. Our contract included working with puppeteers to record matching movements for pre-recorded dialog clips. We also provided onsite technical support for Tony’s first live performance on Fox Morning News in New York and also for the Jimmy Kimmel Show in Los Angeles.
WhiteWalls Fabrication and Production in Valencia, California was commissioned to construct a promotional piece for the motion picture The Grinch. We were contracted by WhiteWalls to provide equipment and installation services for seven video playback systems. Seven monitors were installed on the lower level of the piece situated behind covering doors. Opening a door activated the video playback of a promotional clip on the video monitor behind it. Video playback was provided by seven of our ShowNodes video devices. The display piece was setup at Times Square in New York prior to the release of the movie. Our work also included onsite support of the installation in New York.
We were contracted by the Jim Henson Creature Shop to install a show control system and provide animatronics programming services for the Deadpool’s Super Duper Dance Party exhibit at Comic Con. The attraction featured a full-sized animatronics Deadpool figure that would talk to the audience and dance to the music of Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five and Deadpool Rap from the movie soundtrack. All animatronics programming and control of the Deadpool figure was done by us using our VenueMagic show control system. We also designed and programmed the stage lighting (with VenueMagic) and provided onsite technical support throughout the show.
Chimelong Paradise in Guangzhou, China, is the largest amusement park on the Chinese mainland. Known for its elaborate haunted houses, Chimelong Paradise boasts no less than 7 haunting adventures that open during the Halloween season. We were approached by the park’s General Manager who contracted us to overhaul one of their existing haunts to make it “scarier and more interactive”. After formulating a new storyline to establish a cohesive theme, we completely redesigned all of the audio, lighting and animatronics control. Part of the show design was accomplished at our office in the US with the lion’s share being completed onsite in Guangzhou. Instead of using a centralized control system, we combined VenueMagic with our ShowNodes products to create a “distributed” show control system that was more robust and easier to program and manage. We installed most of the cabling, lighting and speakers ourselves while providing training to Chimelong technicians who helped complete the task. The final result was well received by park staff and, more importantly, enthusiastic crowds of guests.