Terracotta Warriors Of The First Emperor
Creating the Exhibit – Series 1 of 3

November 20, 2017

The Theatrical Introductory Experience Challenges and Solutions

We were tasked with interpreting a site with over 8,000 life-size statues, 120 chariots, and 520 horses made by 700,000 workers. From the beginning, it was clear that this project deserved a grand introduction. Very quickly, two distinct challenges presented themselves during planning of the entryway experience:

How do we set the stage for such an expansive story?

The material included in this exhibit spans thousands of years and many subjects. How do we educate the audience on the history and magnitude of this project? Moreover, how do we create a compelling experience that informs and excites visitors to discover what’s next?

How do we manage the flow of visitors through the exhibit?

Large crowds were expected at both venues and the institutions wanted a way to pulse people through the exhibit – staggering groups so exhibit spaces didn’t become overcrowded. What can we provide to visitors during their wait time that will engage and intrigue them?

Our Solutions:

We knew that the Intro experience needed to do several things:

1. Provide guests with the backstory on the Terracotta Army, its archaeological discovery in the 1970s, and the continuing work being done today without revealing too much detail on the Terracotta figures themselves or their creator.

2. Set a tone of mystery and inquiry to be continued throughout the rest of the exhibition.

3. Provide a staging area for visitors to be “pulsed” into the exhibit to manage the flow and to prevent the exhibit from becoming over crowded.

The exhibit team came together to collaborate on an immersive multimedia experience- one that tells a compelling story about the figures, and sets the stage for a grand reveal of the first warrior on view. The intro experience combines dimensional trees as a backdrop for the dual projected video experience. Real objects from ancient China help support the story further. The dramatic narration and lyrical animation start the the story in 1974 in X’ian, China, where farmers digging for a well in an orchard have discovered the first of the warriors. The animated story comes to a dramatic conclusion when the lights change, and doors part to reveal the breathtaking first look at a Terracotta Warrior. Armed with the backstory of these amazing objects, visitors are now primed to explore and experience the rest of Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor.

Introductory Theater Experience Overview

  • Physical design includes 2 groupings of 3-dimensional trees as the screens for the projection-mapped video. This sets the stage for the farmer’s discovery in the orchard. As visitors enter the room, projections of trees and rustling leaves transition to storytelling mode when the show begins. Visitors are both surprised and captivated by the beautifully animated and narrated story.
  • Two artifacts are incorporated into the stage and are folded into the story. Lighting cues are triggered at a key point and the highlight the importance of objects and storytelling.
  • Synchronized movement on the doors create a dramatic reveal of the first warrior.
  • Designed an integrated show control system that allows one staff person to activate a 6-minute cycle: loading guests into the space, push a button that plays the video, incorporates lighting effects and opens the door to reveal the first warrior and pushes people through the exhibit into the next space.
  • The Intro area is a multi-screen projection with automated show control of two Christie projectors, audio, DMX light fixtures, and exhibit curtains. All run by a centralized Coolux Pandora media server.

Special thanks to Klip Collective and USA for collaborating with us to design, develop and produce this unique experience.

Read Series 2 of Creating the Exhibit: Protecting the Emperor’s Guard>

Watch the full video with audio below:

Terracotta Warriors exhibit introduction from Klip Collective on Vimeo.

Ideation and documentation

Exhibit  Ideation and Documentation

Using objects to tell stories

Using objects to tell stories

Prototyping and testing

Exhibit in the making in Philadelphia

Franklin Institute exhibit in the making  Prototyping and testing

Projection mapping the experience

Projection Mapping Design Agency in Philadelphia

Dramatic reveal of the first warrior

For more information on the event please visit: https://www.fi.edu/exhibit/terracotta-warriors

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