“Imagine you are SCUBA diving at night. You are 30 meters underwater. You have turned off your flashlight and have let your eyes adjust to the dimness. As your pupils dilate you begin to see the sea creatures fluorescing. It is beautiful, mysterious and intoxicating. That is the effect we want to achieve.” This was the direction that FTSI received when commissioned to work on “Dragon’s Treasure”. Fortunately Scott Fisher is not only a brilliant automation designer, he is an avid diver who often dismays his dive partners by turning off his light on night dives to better admire the glowing creatures.
Dragon’s Treasure (also informally known as ‘The Bubble Show’) presents a mythical Chinese story in a sensory immersion experience. It is the centerpiece of a new state-of-the-art theater environment at the City of Dreams casino megaplex in Macau, China. Dragon’s Treasure is housed in hemi-ellipsoidal theater approximately 27 meters (80 feet) tall and 40 meters (120 feet) wide that surrounds the audience. The room can accommodate up to five hundred standing guests with its lean rails. Dragon’s Treasure runs every half hour for twelve hours during prime daytime visiting hours with free admission.
While Melco Crown Entertainment Limited served as the general contractor for the project, Falcon’s Treehouse of Florida researched and produced the show concept and managed all of the show systems contractors. Falcon’s has a extensive background in theme park shows and interactive rides and they recruited FTSI design and construct the rigging and mechanical automation machinery as well as to deploy the Navigator system as both the automation and safety controller and overall attraction show control system, operating all of the other contractors’ show systems, including lighting, audio, lasers, video, and special effects.
« Center Winch “Jester” Doors open.
FTSI custom designed and fabricated all the rigging automation equipment including several huge winches and drive cabinets. The largest machine for this project is the Center Jellyfish Winch, which incorporates two synchronized 95kw (125hp) motors driving four wire rope drums, along with four custom power and control cable reels for effects and lighting equipment on board a moving scenic piece. The Center Jellyfish, which descends from the center of the Bubble ceiling, incorporates a cylindrical water curtain effect system with an onboard water supply tank. This design presented an automation challenge since the effect system meters out water droplets over time, greatly varying the total weight of the piece during successive show runs, and it requires an automatic tank refill between shows.
The Center Winch can move the 11,800kg (26,000 pounds) Center Jellyfish assembly at up to 1.7 meters per second (5 fps) with positional accuracy of 4mm (± 1/8"). Various network and control systems onboard the Center Jellyfish include ArtNet for lighting, EtherCAT for the water curtain, and Ethernet for the onboard automation. The underside of the Center Jellyfish is covered by automated triangular “Jester” Doors, so named for their resemblance to the hat of a historical court jester when open. When closed, the eight synchronized doors mask the hole in the bottom of the Center Jellyfish perfectly, and when opened allow passage of a two meter (six foot) diameter ‘pearl’ scenic element during the climax in the story line. Navigator software Rules handle collision control between the various moving elements, as well as permissive controls between moving light yoke positions and scenery and water curtain tank refill permissions based on scenic positions. A standard FTSI G-series winch run by an FTSI D-series drive lowers and lifts the Pearl at up to 9.3 meters per second (10 fps).
Four additional 55kw (75hp) FTSI winches raise and lower Coral and Small Jellyfish scenic elements. These intricate artistic sculptures weigh between 2,300kg and 2,700kg (5,000-6,000 pounds) each. The winches dead haul these pieces in and out of the Bubble ceiling by three to four wire ropes. The two Small Jellyfish include the fourth lifting lines, which run through intercept sheaves on servo linear actuators to simulate swimming movements by ‘puppeting’ the Jellyfish tentacles. Each scenic piece also includes multiple rotating elements at different levels to further enhance the lifelike movement. Again, custom cable reels with slip rings allow power and Ethernet data signals to reach the scenery for onboard lighting effects and automation control. All of these heavy elements are suspended above the audience, requiring the the most stringent engineering, fault tolerance, and safety regulation and standards compliance as incorporated into all FTSI automation machinery and controls.
The most mechanically complex machines designed for this show are the four “Large Eyelid” mechanisms. These multi-axis devices simultaneously move four 3 meter sections of the dome projection screen in and out of place to allow passage of the Small Jellyfish and Coral scenery through the resulting openings. The client requested that the scenic pieces be capable of flying completely out of the dome and hiding from view, with the quickest reveal possible when opening and closing the Eyelids. To complicate matters further, a series of HVAC vents blocked the Eyelids’ intended travel paths, requiring a more intricate motion path through the overhead structure. FTSI designed a traveling gantry with an under hung asymmetrical pantographic arm mechanism to move the screen sections through the proper path and orientation, providing the exact motion required as well as the sub-2mm positioning tolerances necessary to achieve a completely seamless and invisible screen closure.
The projector lenses and fogger effect nozzles behind the dome required small openings in the projection screen periodically during show. FTSI designed fast-acting pneumatically operated Small Eyelid mechanisms to open and close small doors in the screen, with similar “seamless” tolerances to those of the larger ‘eyelid’ machines. A machined plunger with a custom designed cam path for rotational and linear movement of the eyelid provides precise simultaneous two part motion with a single pneumatic actuator. The FTSI factory tested these machines for thousands of cycles before shipping to the installation site.
FTSI provided a Navigator-standard emergency stop system to cover the safety needs of the overhead machinery and the entire attraction environment. The seven ESE-1 E-Stop controllers at the Bubble are configured in a tree topography with a central master controller and six slaves. Each device has nine individual ports that can be connected to remote E-Stop stations, or function as E-Stop outputs to automation machinery and third party systems, providing unmatched configuration flexibility and diagnostic and monitoring flexibility.
The elegant design of the two Operator Control Consoles (OCCs) at the Bubble includes a large touchscreen user interface with accompanying keyswitch enable, programmable pushbuttons, and E-Stop button. Navigator’s built-in user interface configuration tools allowed programmers to set up both the function of the front panel pushbuttons and keyswitches and the operator interface displays without any custom software coding or ladder logic. Navigator includes a built-in panel building feature which made creating and refining, the custom touch screen GUI’s fast and efficient. FTSI custom programmed the touchscreens to display pertinent system and facility information to each operator (including live video surveillance feeds from IP cameras located throughout the facility) and allow manual control of any device or show subsystem. One of the OCCs is located outside the showroom, and the other is inside the guest viewing area.
« One of the two Operator Control Consoles with integrated touchscreen, mic, keyswitch, E-Stop, and other pushbuttons.
A new FTSI product making its debut on this project is the Show Control Unit (SCU-1). This product has the capability to communicate in every common show control system protocol through a single interface, and vastly simplified the usually onerous chore of integrating show systems, industrial, and building management equipment under one control umbrella. The two different major shows running back to back at the showroom presented a challenge. The “Dragon Show” is a projection-based show synchronized to the video playback system, while the “Flying Show” is an automation-based show synchronized to the automation system. This means that the overall control system must switch between timecode sources quickly according to the show. The SCU-1 has the capability to switch timecode type as well as re-stream it for different framerates via LTC or VITC connections. The SCU-1’s four serial ports maintain full duplex communication with the projection and audio systems. The two MIDI ports communicate with the lighting system and laser system. The Navigator control system also monitors the lighting system’s ArtNet output.
Using Navigator (which is designed for use in “mission critical” and life safety applications) as the show control system offers distinct benefits over traditional show controllers, as it can control widely different systems in completely integrated ways with complete reliability and safety. For example, some moving light fixtures in the show are very close to moving scenery, and the wrong pan or tilt position on a light can result in impact with those moving elements. Navigator monitors the position of these lights and prevents collisions with scenery by commanding the lighting system to move the lights out of the way as necessary. The powerful Rule writing structure in Navigator allows for simple setup and monitoring of these types of conditions.
The Bubble Show and City of Dreams opened successfully on June 3rd 2009, and continues to play to amazed crowds and proud owners.