20 Years of Scary Technology: City Tech's "Gravesend Inn"
1:53PM Jul 30, 2020
Hello everyone and welcome back for more of hope 2020 big thank you to all the attendees presenters and volunteers who've made this virtual version of our conference such a success this year, we really couldn't do it without you. This is a community, our next session is from john Huntington, a professor of entertainment technology at the New York City College technology and John's talk is going to be about 20 years of scary technology city Tech's grave sin in haunted hotel. Please remember that we have a hosted live QA session after John's talk, and you can submit your questions for that session in the matrix chat window which we'll be watching. So take it away john hi
i'm john Huntington thanks so much for watching my whole 2020 star movie talking here about the graves and in 100 Hotel attraction we've done now at City tech which is part of CUNY for over two decades just as hard to believe. I'm a professor of entertainment technology at City tech. I'm also an author I wrote this book show networks and control systems which you can buy on my website. And I actually did a presentation the whole conference several years ago about the economics of self publishing this thing if you're interested.
I've worked in
just about every area of the entertainment technology industry backstage theater concerts films theme park attraction Las Vegas, a little bit everything my local one stage him. And I'm also a photographer and he storms. Here, what's most relevant is I'm the audio video technical director meaning I oversee all the audio and video for the graves and in and I have since 1999. And I also oversee the network and I write the program that controls at all. We'll talk more about that as we go. So we're going to talk about what the reason is we're going to look at a little walkthrough video gonna talk through the technology of the attraction. And then we're gonna do a little bit on the evolution of the systems, it's kind of interesting. And then also some lessons learned along the way. So we've, like I said, we've been doing this since 1999 It started as really kind of a small project like hey let's toss some things together and plug it up for the students think that'll be fun, and now it's this just massive attraction that you know we get about 6000, people a year come through. And if you know it's the largest thing that we do and, you know, it's just we're basically working on it all the time. I'm talking here just about the technology there's been many important faculty members and staff and students along the way over these couple decades that have contributed or done major parts of the attraction, which could be a whole separate presentation but I'm talking here about the evolution of technology to control technology in particular. So let's start with a little walkthrough video by my friend at Dutch Mads he livestream this and this actually includes his reactions along the way. But I think it's a good way to kind of get an overview of the attraction it's a little dark because you go through it, we'll look at some other things.
Afterwards, and this is a slightly edited version.
welcome to grades and, yeah. Oh no, oh. Oh boy. Welcome.
Okay, we're going this way.
Most common cast evil curse.
arises, the only way out is to go forward. I will help and guide you.
They will try to steal your soul head track you here. Go. Whoa.
I'll do, I'll be the guinea pig.
Answer the phone.
Oh, don't stop for anything.
Okay. Oh wow.
take a hold
of you have you hide next to me.
Okay, well we're an upside down room all of a sudden. Well,
they need to clean the sink.
literally take our best
out in the world. Not gonna
Hello, it's the Raven, Nevermore. Oh no, you're real you're real.
Okay, so what's happening now is that at his exit to the attraction, and he's out yeah a little bit more here.
So you can see here that
something we don't advertise but spoiler alert the entire time you go through we've been watching you on infrared video cameras which is not totally surprising but what is surprising is that everybody who's already been through is sitting in the audience and watching you go through we'll talk more about that later. Over here you can see there's an instant replay happening on that screen and when we don't have an instant replay to put up, we actually put up the, the show control screen that shows how the tracks work so I'll talk more about that later on. So here you can see the station here where the student team is running the surveillance system. So they're, they're doing a few things here one they're watching the entire tracks and just to make sure everybody's safe and there's no problems but then they're also looking for things that people do that might be entertaining. And then if they do we have an instant replay capability can put up over here on the second screen. This is the show control system I'll talk more about that later on but you can see here's the user display. This is what the code looks like in the back end, and then off to the left here is the
So over here you see the student that's the attractions manager that oversees the whole thing again, watching for safety and all that so she's watching the monitors up here. She's on headset with everybody. And then she also can shut down the whole traction on this touchscreen, and do some other things as well and that system. Okay, so some here's a popsicle Kenny, she always joins in on every video I do whether I like it or not.
So some general issues about the attraction,
we just move here. There we go. So we put this in and take it out every year. It's a pretty massive project we typically start in, you know, end of August putting it in. We do other shows during the year concerts, you know, traditional theater productions, but we're entertainment technology departments so the haunted house fits right into what we do. I total it up it's actually about a mile and a half of audio video and control cables. That's quite a bit of work just getting in and managing it we'll talk more about that later on. And then the key part about the attraction is that people go through at their own pace so adults, you know, in the evening when it's slower they tend to work a little more at the detail and there's quite a bit of detail in there, kids, you know, often will sort of clump up like a rugby Scrum and kind of move through the whole thing. But then it's very flexible but that means the control system has to be able to accommodate all systems in the interaction so here's the lighting system you can see a little bit in the background some of that video. So granddam a two this is used on big concerts and events and stuff like that. So it's overkill for this project but it's one of our major training focus console so we use it here. As part of that process so if you're going to install this permanently. You wouldn't want something that's expensive sound is run on qm, I didn't actually get a picture with qm on the screen but it's just looks like a list of queues, we run it now on two computers because it's just too much work for one of these old machines to handle. And then this is a backup set of computers so that if anything happens and we've had an overheat and things like that over the years, we can swap it out so it's not instant but you know within half an hour so we can get the thing up and running again. And then the audio is distributed over the network. In fact, everything is streaming over the network out to these racks that are positioned throughout the building. So you can see here this is a Yamaha Dante box it takes Dante audio networking in, and then puts out analog audio that goes in either to these amplifiers or into self powered speakers. And there's these are just positioned strategically throughout the attraction video playback that you saw of the portrait in there. And then the the ghostly lady walking by in the woods. Those are now through these bright sign players, these are pretty amazing little devices that are a couple hundred bucks and they have a microSD card to store the media, and that's Ethernet control, and also to load the content. And then there's HDMI out here so we just get one for each monitor so this is the guy in the portrait. These are the, in the we call a conservatory. The outside monitors for that when we were when I was testing, a few years ago. And then, the surveillance system is just off the shelf surveillance system these days that's sort of evolved over the years we'll talk about. This is a POV camera so this actually connects to one of four network video recorders that are distributed around the building. And then of course we tie all that together with the network to do the playback stuff that you see here. So this is a little easier to see. So these are the playback stations. And this is a third instance of that so there's three computers here, that just does the consolidated picture and then we actually distribute this out as well. Over here is a little production switcher that we use to switch between the playback units and then also the show control screen. So you can see here this is in our theater with the seats and so on over here. That's a piece of the set over there there's one of the screens. And what happens is people go in under that stairwell and they actually cross underneath a theater here which is the dressing rooms, go down a back hallway and then go out through this. The attraction itself animatronic This is our second animatronic character over the years we've had this for two three years now, I'll have more detail on on her later but this is a permanent installation in this room when it's not in use for the house we use it as a lab to teach animatronic programming and this is the rack we put in a couple years ago that's these are the control units made by weigle course are connected on the network. There's an expansion unit. This is an interface box that we made to control it. And this is the old pirate who's still over there behind the rack here you can see in this photo, and then semi amplifiers and stuff.
The effects. We saw the lady popping up out of the bed and the boar head and some other things that didn't really show off in the video. Those are mostly pneumatic. So, air pressure comes from this system. And then these are the controllers so inside here is an industrial programmable logic controller that basically just turns on a relay that then sends 24 volts to a valve I'll show you in a second. These of course are on the network I obscured the IP address here. And there's an enable disable on there. Here's one of the setups under the way that pops up out of the bed so here you can see the pneumatic cylinder with the airline's going into either side of the piston. This is the, the valve that controls if this is a regulator for the air pressure and a valve, you can turn off need to work on it, then this black cable that comes in here goes to that. That's where the 24 volts is supplied to turn this valve on last year because the lines started getting bigger and bigger. we added the sort of daily number system into the system of DMV you know notification system. We have two of them. One is in the cafeteria area upstairs where when people come in if the line is too long, they're given a number and then they wait up here and they wait for their number to come up. That's just tied in and run from the main show control system. And this is a touchscreen monitor that runs there he's doing testing with but that's what we use for the show. So here's the attractions manager station so they have internet so they can write show reports and so on. They have a mic so they can page out in an emergency. So this actually bypasses the playback system through an old mixer that we have it does go through the network. But the this way if even if the Qf system crash which never happened to us but they're able to page. If there's an emergency or some other safety problem, or it's also good for operations, just like hey we're opening the house in five minutes kind of stuff. The tractions manager can control the whole system from here they can start up and shut down the show. This is a touchscreen there and of course they have a phone. So people call in their last or whatever, they can call in as well. house manager on the lobby same setup but they have some cameras so they can see when the people go in and what's going on. We've had a lot of issues with people going in down this first stairwell. And just stopping and kind of freaking out or whatever. So this way the manager in the lobby can see what's going on and send somebody in there to help them. And then they can actually start up and shut down the show and emergency and then right here is where they set that number and the here's these the ticket number. Tickets they give out, which you get from the real here. Sensors throughout the attraction. These are what we've evolved through over the years, our laser sensors, they can shoot about 100 feet, so you can see it just the little red dot there is the laser shooting across these have been really great operationally because the student run crews and so on it's very easy to explain how this works is like, Is there a red.on on the reflector then it's good. So when the audience breaks the passes through and breaks the beam, then that sends up voltage back up here that goes to the interface box I'll show you a minute. And I just point out here that every single audio video and control cable in the attraction has a unified labeling scheme on a p touch label here, because we've run like I said, a mile and a half of cable hundreds of cables to keep sorted out. So this is really important. It also makes it easier to construct them in the attractions, most of them are hidden pretty well but like this one is just out in the open and nobody ever sees it, because it's so dark in there but you can see it's on a mounting rail, and that's shooting across the room tour reflector. Those all connect up to one of three of these input boxes that we made. You can see power supply and some wiring and so on. And then these are based around a beckhoff unit. This takes Ethernet in here using old protocol called mod bus. And this is literally the same technology used by, you know, major theme parks and so on, because it's just, it's very very flexible here we just have one type of input, but you can expand and you can do all kinds of stuff. And they've just been absolutely reliable. Here's the unit, where we're testing them. We have three of them you can see the connectors here we use a, we use a different connector they eating out so that it's very difficult to cross plug it. So all that ties together on a network so we have four Ethernet switches in a big loop, manage loop spread throughout the attraction and then wherever the device is called plugged into the closest switch to, you know, for convenience and then it's all VLAN and routed and so on, we'll talk a little bit more about that later.
So like any modern show control system the way you build it is you just connect everything on an Ethernet network, and then everything has access to everything else. In this case, here's all the various devices, control the lighting console sound the Brightside players relay boxes. Oh, the forehead that you saw has a separate controller that interlocks the doors, so it doesn't hit the doors. The, the animatronic unit LED displays the touchscreens, and then all that ties together in one computer running a piece of software called meeting line manager, which we'll talk about more in a minute here. Okay, so this is the positive but you can hear this is what it sounds like when it's people are going through. But so this is the main show control screen you can see sort of a little map of the attraction. And then each of the green dots represents the status of one of the sensors that you saw, and then all those go into one of those three input boxes, and then the effects here running one of three output boxes, this is all status monitoring and stuff over here. This is the entrance timing is very complicated process to try to get as many people through as possible. And then over here we have the ability to enable and disable systems. And then we also have start show and stop show. So this is just running in a web browser, and the attractions manager or the house manager can then through a touchscreen can control the whole thing. This particular ones in the booth there and you can see over here is the video on software running in the background. They make a hardware version to that we run it on sort of standard PC in there, but it runs.
You can see that this thing's counting down and so on.
So here's that whole setup again there's that screen you're just looking at, there's the what the code looks like and the menial one and a very very important thing about this video on manager software is that it's, it can be edited, while it's running that you've very difficult to do and attraction this size without that feature so that makes it kind of expensive but it's, it's the really the only way to do it. You would not I mean you could if you had some compiled thing you'd have to stop and change it but it's, it's really hard as I mentioned before the audience. You know can do really unpredictable things and so you really need to be able to program it while it's running so that's a key feature. Here's the cue app stations and then there's that mixer I said that's there for the paging setup. So lessons. The audience that I just mentioned, will do kind of crazy stuff. My favorite story is the group that went all the way through the entire traction, then looked at the monitors you saw and then went all the way backwards throughout the attraction left out the front door. So we're watching on video of running after them and all that but. So that means that the control system itself has to be very flexible and and be able to accommodate that. We started out were like area two with preset area three and so on like that. But the that didn't really work when people would go out the emergency exit or wait too long in one area or go backwards or whatever. But I think then that the ability of the audience to do whatever they want, within reason inside the attraction i think is one of the things that makes our attraction, you know, really good. And that's different from something like Disney's Haunted Mansion which is amazing, but in that people are in a car that they only can go one direction through the attraction in fact the cars are linked they've been underneath them are all linked together in a big loop. So when the things are everything is moving or they're not. But they're not going to go backwards or anything like that that can happen with us. So I view it these days our attraction is like kind of like a golf course where we have about like 18 areas or something. And each group comes through, through and kind of plays at their own pace. Sometimes they'll merge sometimes one will pass and play through, and so on and go through it, and then they kind of just worked itself out when it's busy people will hear the people coming up behind them and go oh we should keep moving. When it's slow they can kind of take their time and look at all that detail profit and set dressing and so on. I talked about that before I could do an hour just on the entrance timing, which is a key thing in any place because you want it to go as fast as you can while still spacing people out through the attraction. So initially we would just let people in like, you know, once every two minutes or whatever, but then somebody a group would go in and stop on that stairwell for three minutes, and the next group would run into home and all that kind of stuff. So we have a very kind of complicated adaptive system for that now. So let's talk a little about the history, as I said, it started out 1999, very small project. And then over the years we've just kept expanding and redoing it doing something a little different. And originally, because it was relatively small we have the students actually did most of the design work, and with some guidance from us and so on. But then as it got bigger and more complicated. The, we really just was to the students just didn't have enough experience to be able to handle that. And then in 2001. After 911, you know, a month or so afterwards, we're doing subtraction. You know, we had started with the traditional somebody running around with a chainsaw and somebody pops out of a coffin and that type of thing was our regional, you know what it was based on, but after 2001 we really kind of toned a lot of that down. And I think that really was, you know, fortuitous for us in the life of the attraction because we really made it much more of a fun house. That really is more fun than scary now there's very little gore no one touches you, and all those things I think really make it, what it is now which has been pretty big success so in 2007, we kind of consolidate everything and then some of our excellent design faculty re conceived the whole thing. And then, renamed it to the graves and then and we're now in the process of trademarking that we filed for that so we can say tm here. And so since then it's been more or less the same structure every year but we're always changing a room revamping something updating something that in recent years, we've really been implementing the story into the cueing and voiceovers and stuff throughout the attraction that have really had a big impact on it that's been really great. Sadly this year. 2020 we're canceling due to COVID but we really do hope to be back in 2021 better than ever.
So the show control, and to control this means connecting two or more systems together in some way I have a lot more about that in my book, of course, we started in 1999 and, and. Back then, you know, we didn't have computer horsepower we have today. So we ran it on a conductor unit. And in this unit had in the back of it some interface cards so it had contact closure inputs and MIDI and DMX and serial and that kind of stuff. All these are explained in my books, of course, going in and out of it we have some buttons here for mode and a little display, but the the early shows are very simple so here in 1999 we had like five queues We have hundreds now. And then, in 2002, we moved to medium on manager which just runs on a PC, but this one is you can actually see like there's a serial port cable. I think dangling out here. The that PC had some interface cards in it to get signals in and out of a computer which of course these now is all on the network, but we've had a great relationship with Mila and they've been very supportive of us, and we've trained many many students in their software. So we have a good partnership with them, and they're releasing a new version this year so I hope to use it for 2021. This is the early user screen. Now you've seen the same basic idea but it's evolved, much more beyond that now. Originally once we move to media one we needed some input device so here's some cereal it's a contact closure devices that were connected up to the medium ATM machines over there. And then we just made a cat five snake here to run down to the sensors This is when the tractors a lot simpler. And then so then we only had eight inputs on there that would read into the computer I'm sorry 16, there's two in each one of these jacks, that would go into the system. Then we moved to this which is an advanced tech unit and this is actually a hub if I can read that right that's how long ago this was. That's not the current IP address. This is an advanced tech Ethernet to contact closure i o unit that we packaged up and surrounded with power supply and so on. And these really worked great until about two three years ago after 15 years of service or so. We just started having some problems with them so we moved to that Bekoff system. Oh and I should mention that all the funding for this stuff comes from the box office so the as the thing has gotten more popular we just take all that money and put it right back in so that's how we bought those back off i o units and stuff. And we've been, you know, the last few years I've been through a process where we've really streamlined and the system and made it all heavy duty industrial stuff because the, the audience that we get now is so you know kind of relentless that it had we don't you know we don't have downtime anymore so we will talk more about that in a minute. Different types of sensors originally we started with these, you know alarm system motion detectors problem with them is they're just too slow for show purposes like this, because they are very reliable in terms of detection but they're just too slow so people were actually like believing the area when it got activated stuff. Then we use some retro reflective photoelectric sensors that were not laser those are worked great but they're only good for about three feet. We also use some magnetic sensors and stuff, also tried some of these infrared retro reflective sensors, those work great except they have some pickup pattern issues that are not really documented. And then if you mount these at knee height which we had to do in a few places. Turns out I discovered that my black jeans actually absorb infrared light from the sensor and would not trigger so for me that's good for audience members we're trying to track as not so good. So then we went on to the laser sensors a couple years ago. Can need about $100 apiece, but
we had to come up with a new cabling infrastructure and all that, but these have been grades just super reliable. Really the only thing that can go wrong in fact this one. The scenery crews sheared the back end, so that that happen, but mostly it just shoots the red dot across to the reflector. If it's on the reflector and works, it can go about very long range. And now if somebody, you know, you know people bump into things as they go through, if they happen to hit one of these sensors knocked out of alignment. It's very easy to get it, rewind and we've actually been moving from these guys which are adjustable just to sort of metal plates that just don't move. Once they do it again this stuff was not really designed to be put in and taken out every year. And it's been a constant process of upgrading that lighting the regional system as a hog to this was triggered from show visual via MIDI show control can see old CRT monitors and stuff. And then in 2009, long time ago now we moved to the grand ma two, and that we brought a controller that onto the network, and that's what we're still using that's just been a very solid solution, and they still make that product they have a version granddam a three now but,
as we'll talk more about this in a minute.
Sound we recently started with a program called s effects and we've also used over the years digital performer max audio box, all kinds of things. In 2011 we started sending the audio from s effects out over the network to several devices and then 2014 we moved to qm, and now we have that completely network distributed system you saw over Dante, same basic idea though. I think this was getting muddy back in the day and of course now that's just getting OSC commands over the network from show control video started like hey let's stick this camera in there and a monitor, so we can see inside that's kind of how it started. And then it was one camera, and then it was four. And then we had to come up with some control stuff around that to route it and so on distributed, and then students said Hey, how about instant replay so I remember riding my bike down and buying a T bow which you can see here, And I never activated as so we just use that as a constantly recording, you know record playback device. And then we built a whole infrastructure around it to switch the four cameras into the TiVo and then back out. Then we went to eight cameras, and then we had a more complicated system this switch that. And then what you can see here so this would do all that. And then in
camera one year.
2000 something. We went to a Power over Ethernet camera, because each of those cameras you saw before also had to get a microphone and power, and then up in this setup which you can't see there's also a mixer controlled by this media on instance here. So that would switch the microphones along with the cameras and so on. You know, if we were currently installing we would have sort of left at boot. Now, was a really good move to this, but this was running on one old Windows Server that was just really really working too hard. And so then we upgraded that to the most recent system is these little as main products called ally, and it's just a surveillance system for that and those more modern cameras you saw on the other picture. And now what we have is we have for these little rackmount network video recorders spaced around the attraction those connect to and power the cameras directly which takes a little traffic off the network. And then in that video station you saw before, we pulled together all those feeds and that's how we do the instant replay and stuff so that all comes back up over the main network.
So what's interesting is that
that idea of video of watching the the patrons go through was just an evolution for us I think I just said, Let's throw the camera and then we just started just scaled from there over the years we had a replay. And my friend Tom Robbins who's now our artistic director pointed out to me like you know this idea is 100 years old I'm like What are you talking about hundred years old, there's no video. So it turns out in steeplechase in Coney Island. There was this thing called the blowhole theater, which is what this old film was from, and what that was it says people exit the attraction like ladies would have their skirts blown up. And people would torment them with various things you saw there's like crazy table moves for moving. And then what's interesting though is that these are all people that came off the ride. And the people that are watching them that you'll see here in a second. Sorry, support but that are watching them have also been on the rise. Here you go. Here's a good shot of the whole group, watching it. So we stumbled into this, but I really think it's one of the things that makes our attraction very unique and, you know, going through the attraction takes a few minutes. Like any, you know, you know, most haunted attractions. But people will sit for an hour and watch other people go through and it's very fascinating because it is voyeuristic, but it's voyeuristic for people who've already experienced the same thing. So when we started, I thought oh people when we especially started doing the instant replay. I thought people would be very upset about seeing themselves on screen but of course I was wrong about that. Now people want the clip to put online. So in addition to the video surveillance playback system we have, we had, as you saw in the walkthrough there is a portrait that comes away to speak to you. Originally, that was a live performer. As you can see here this is all analog camera monitors so that she could watch and so on. She's an earpiece big rack of stuff control to make that all work, and that was fantastic when we had the right person in place so like the very first student who sat in in for this thing was like a stand up comic and so she could bust on people, and so on. And then over the years you know she graduated, we had other people in there were like hey you in the red shirt, and it just got less and less interesting so then we pre recorded all the clips, and we had a physician student operator who could playback various clips, but that turns out that's kind of boring. So then eventually we just settled on one clip that you saw, and we built the show around and so that's one of the things we had in the works for this year but we're going to redo that clip wheel for next time. And the animatronic system we started with a pirate. Again, this was a demo unit from a commercial animatronic company. He started out this kind of the way you came from the factory. And then we have this backdrop and then it just evolved over the years with our excellent design staff came up with this great props and so on. This whole environment here and he's now retired and he's in the still in the system but he doesn't really do much anymore. and the main character you saw there. So we started with our food system, went through wings platinum and now for the last 567 years we've been on Weigel system, or it's all controlled by the network that scalar fluke was not control over the network that again there's not much reason, it does everything we need to do. And it works great so there's no real impetus to change that at the moment. Oh, here's the new character we got so I took this photo in the shop in Ohio on my way back from Storm Chasing couple years ago. So this was in a sort of family entertainment center lodge thing, singing and, and, and had been brought back to the shop and the had gotten kind of rusty and so on so the company life formations, really did a kind of a great deal and refurbish the character and this thing has been absolutely rock solid which is just great. So when they are not able to license the costume and so on so we came up with their own concept. She obviously looks much different now in the haunted house context than she did then. But it's in this thing runs about every 90 seconds when we're in show mode. So, it's a heavy duty unit, just been working great. The network itself. 2004 we had nine devices on the network. And now we have 59. And then in 2011 we moved to a routed managed network I have a lot of information about this on my blog that goes through all that stuff. And I think what's really fascinating so now the entire system is based around this network, and it's been absolutely, you know, just totally rock solid I really can't recall any problems with it. And I think what's so fascinating is that this is a chart I made, let me take my picture up here. So this is a chart I made for an hour a couple articles I wrote last spring while I was on sabbatical that are at this URL on my website, just go to control the dotnet you can find it.
My idea the sort of theory that I developed in these articles is that our industry in Shell technology, you know started out in the early days from like the Beatles at Shea Stadium, through about the mid 80s you know things were improving there was new stuff but then in the mid 80s, we had this just explosion of technology, and then around somewhere around my date is around 2010. The, the new technologies really started flattening out a little bit, primarily because of the impact of the network as we've seen in this attraction directly. And this is really great. I think for the industry because now we can you know the basics are solved so power rigging and network data transmission or Saab, and we can focus on the skills and the programming the integration in the story and so on. So it's actually two articles explaining that idea are available on my website. And of course also on my website is information about my book show networks and control systems. It's available on Amazon and print and Kindle editions. You can also Google Book Search the whole thing here, and then also appear as video lectures, related to the book chapters, most of the chapters in the book here there's a free video about an hour or so on each topic. These are some of the shorter ones you can see up here. And that actually gets into design principles there's information on show control, and then three chapters they're on networking and also at the moment on the website or some networking lab demonstrations. So also on my website, I have a whole bunch of write ups of various things about the graves and in specifically about the network about the sensors, the animatronic character anything you're interested in there it's all off my website. And then here's the URL for the attraction itself Grayson in.org. Please come in 2021, we hope to be back. You know, COVID allowing bigger and better than ever and one key thing is that you can see all the stuff that you saw here in the video and everything. You can see live while it's open we specifically have designed, all the technology in the attraction so that it's not locked in some machine room somewhere. It's available for you to come and see. And while it's operating which is really the best way to see it. So please come out and check that out in Brooklyn in 2021.
So thank you very much.
Hey thanks john What a cool project. So, what inspired you to create the graves and experience in the first place and does the experience change year over year.
Yes. So, we started this in like 1999 we basically just pulled some things off the shelf and plugged it together. And then, over the years, it really evolved and then I came over the year I mentioned in the video but, no, no 2007 something like that we kind of stabilized the design, but now we still every year we revamp a room change things around, but honestly it's such a massive project that just about all we can do is get it installed every year now and typically, we'd be working on it right now, and like, kicking off the end of August and just flat out until Halloween to get it up and running.
So do you ever go backstage at any of the big theme park, you know attractions like Halloween Horror Nights or anything like that to get tips and tricks or ideas for what you're going to do with the Gravesend in.
Yeah, it's a pretty small industry the people that do this show control kind of stuff and in fact a good friend of mine does the all the control systems and AV for the Hollywood Horror Nights in LA, and you saw in the video these bright sign players. I couldn't really figure out if they would work, my application I saw my friend drew at the IFA which is the big theme park convention and like hey use bright sign right he's like well they work yes, he said, Here you go. And then I've also been, you know, under the Haunted Mansion and Disney and all kinds of things like that because people that do show control which is a small field, but they, you kind of have to know a little bit about everything which is always what sort of made it interesting to me and so they get access to all kinds of crazy spaces.
So you're a professor at the school and this is kind of your, your primary focus is one of your primary focuses and what you teach. How did you get student Do you get students were specifically take courses or majors, just to work on this project.
Yeah, it's a big recruiting event for us now, because we get about like 6000, people a year we now have families that have come every year for 10 or 15 years. And those kids have like enrolled in our program and all that stuff so yeah we've had students that do that. And then the animatronic characters on there is the that's in a class that I teach in the spring typically where those students get to program that character and do so it's usually singing crazy rap songs and all kinds of things like that. Throughout the year but it's the other thing that for us. We're an entertainment technology department. You know theater is one thing that we do, but we put about 100 students to work on this project every year, and we need a project that size to kind of give our students that experience so that's what it's really evolved into.
Awesome. So, one person had a question, is it named in homage to all at all to Coney Island.
Yes, well there's Coney Island in Brooklyn there's themes from that but yeah graves and is a neighborhood in Brooklyn and the backstory, which is developed by our production designer Norma chartoff that many many hours of research on this where there's the character names all come from real historical characters in Brooklyn graves and I don't know, I can't remember if there was an actual graves Indian but it was all based in that sort of tradition of course comes from Coney Island and I shoot a lot of photos down there and a lot of friends in Coney Island so there's a big influence in that, that whole area.
So we have a couple more technical questions coming in from the audience in the matrix chat. So, are you thinking about using computer vision to trigger timing of next sections of the experience.
Yeah, we've looked into some of them. Some of that comes for free with our surveillance system. I honestly just haven't had time and that where our students are, you know, we have a lot of students that are get really excited about doing shows but a lot of them come in without a lot of experience before so you know we don't have a graduate program or anything like that to get into some of the more advanced areas but in the end now it's such a big thing with, you know, 6000, people a year coming through that reliability is really critical. So what we do each year is we look at whatever new technologies, we're going to put in. We typically evaluate them in the spring troubleshoot them and kind of, you know, try to break them in the summer, and then only if it survives all bad. Then we'll put it into the attraction. But we're always looking at stuff, and we have an emerging media program in our school which we're we partner with and we're going to, we hope to be able to give them sort of platform like okay here try it out in this room first. And then if that works and survives the onslaught of kids during the day or whatever, you know, that, then we'll put it in.
So another technical question from the audience. Most control systems seem to be quite pricey hardware solutions, low cost recommendations for home Tinker enthusiasts to start getting into cheap PC and Arduino so that the best way Are there any low cost controllers out there that are available.
Yeah, that's a really good question. There's an entire, the whole industry is now enormous it's sort of like, there's pretty insane and very sophisticated Christmas light displays and things like that, then you can buy you know stuff from a little company or make it yourself and do pretty sophisticated stuff. Also in the hunt market now there's a this year I'm not sure but there's like a haunted convention and all that where there's lots of solutions that are very inexpensive. This one we build here is really and again it's evolved, we never set out to do this, it just sort of evolved this way. Over the years, but this one's really sort of theme park grade stuff like the CRI Oh solutions and stuff are literally what Disney uses, which, what a lot of other companies use but there are certainly like Arduino and things like that you can do a lot with those and there's even just little boxes you can buy with an integrated sensor and you know sound will come out of it.
So another technical question for you. What is the mix between intelligent and conventional dimming.
Well, I'd have to ask our lighting designer that the, the, I don't know I'm gonna say we have both we have some conventional fixtures, we have a bunch of moving lights now.
But I don't know the numbers off top my head.
How you control the lighting console I can tell you that
uh alright so are there any future steps for your setup on how you plan to innovate further that you would be willing to reveal at this point.
At this point well everything of course is sort of derailed this year because normally we do the new development in the spring in the summer, we weren't able to do any of that our immediate plans is more a couple years ago I really went through and spent a lot of time sort of cleaning up the systems documenting things. It's not the most sort of glamorous or exciting things but it's really critical because, you know, in the old days we do it there'd be a few hours where no one would show up and if something broke we go fix it. Now it's just sort of this relentless seven day thing where we don't get a break. So we spent a lot of time like just updating sort of backend systems you don't really see and all that, and cleaning up so we want to replace some of the older videos like one of them, that's in there now I think you're looking at like 200 by 400 pixels or something, because we shot it like on SD video, you know, and then crafted, and then move that it's just it's been through like 12 systems and we need to replace that. So that's the kind of stuff we're working on but we do have some longer range plan, I should say we, we brought in a new artistic director in the last couple years, Tom Robbins, and we've been adding a lot of just little things and make a huge difference in terms of voiceovers and characters, things like that throughout the attraction and that's that's what we've been working on now but we are we have lots of plans off into the future.
Exciting. So, are there any things that the students have done over the years that have surprised you are impressed you.
Oh, I would say every day. Our students are amazing and they come from, you know, I came from, you know, small town and I always wanted to work in this business I was doing shows when I was 12 and 13 and stuff like that. Our students you know they just, most of them grew up in New York or they, they're dropping in another country or whatever, and what they overcome, even to get into our, you know, make it to our school is always inspiring. Every day, and then the ones that then sort of catch the bug the same way I did when I was a teenager, they go off and do very well in the industry and that's pretty exciting,
how that works.
So, someone who young a teenager, somebody in their preteens. What would you what recommendations would you have for them, what should they play around with if they're interested in getting into the motion technology or internet entertainment technology industry.
Good question. The thing I love about especially the live performance aspects of entertainment is it really encompasses everything. So whatever your passion and the key is you got to be passionate so whatever you're passionate about, pursue that because we, you know, I'm passionate about control systems and this kind of stuff. but we have painters prop people costumes fabricators you know mechanics electrician, anything you want to do video, audio, you know all these things it's all there. The key part in our industry is it's again about passion, and also being able to like the show must go on ideas, sort of ingrained in our personalities so whenever we do you have to be able to get a show up one way or another and not, it's not sort of a like nine to five kind of thing where you're like oh, time to go home it's like no we have 500 people, 550 thousand people coming tomorrow we got to get something
well, we're that we need to wrap it up we're about out of time for today but on behalf of the hope 2020 attendees presenters and volunteers. Thank you so much for sharing your project with us today, and I, for one, I'm really looking forward to when you open up again to go experience grave sin myself. But thank you john We appreciate it. As to the audience come back at the top of the hour for our next talk how to turn your hacking skills into a career and Until then, keep on hacking.