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Anna Valley’s 2023 Inspiration Showcase brings back the fun to live events.

Over 330 event professionals made their way to Tobacco Dock for a traditional day at the fair with a technological twist in February 2023. Anna Valley promised to bring back the fun to live events by reinventing classic fairground games at our annual Inspiration Showcase and boy did we deliver! From 19 – 24 February, visitors laughed, danced, solved challenges and competed for a spot on the leaderboard – all while gathering ideas and inspiration for their next in-person event.

The 2023 event was probably the most ambitious Inspiration Showcase to date, drawing on Anna Valley’s technical capabilities and technology across video, lighting, audio, scenic and project management to create an event experience rather than a technical demonstration. From The Haunted House and Escape Room to the Big Buzzwire, Skeeball Challenge, Tin Can Alley, Pinball Machine and Digital Dance-off, each activation was designed to demonstrate how technology can be used to engage and delight audiences in a celebration of the return to live events.

A personal experience

The entire showcase experience was underpinned by a sophisticated tracking and personalisation system that started with guest registration. For this, the Anna Valley team created a customised interface to send visitor information to a central database and, with the help of Passworks mobile wallet technology, create a unique QR code for each attendee. When scanned at various points throughout the event, the QR code either triggered unique content personalised to that attendee or tracked data specific to their experience – starting with a personalised greeting from a larger-than-life fortune teller.

Displayed on a 7m+ long, curved LED video wall with 90-degree corners, the fortune teller’s voice was generated in real time using guest’s data from mongoDB and Google’s text-to-speech API. Next up, individual drinks orders were taken, facilitated by a 98-inch touchscreen and a custom user interface made in Intuiface, which automatically sent their selection ahead to the bar. And they’d need a drink after what Anna Valley had in store for them next.

An automated haunting

Built by Anna Valley’s scenic department using recyclable material, the haunted house and escape room were entirely automated experiences. Proximity infrared sensors and pressure pads were used to track guest’s positions and trigger lightning flashes, eerie audio effects and gusts of wind. Visitors progressed under the watchful eye of digital portraits featuring some familiar faces – their eyes following every move thanks to a camera tracking system based around Microsoft Kinect and Notch graphics and the clever combination of digital and scenic artwork. Making it out of the escape room was only possible by solving a series of clues, correctly placing objects on matching RFID sensors and triggering the automatic door mechanism. The relief of escape was short-lived though as, under the shade of the autumn leaves provided by Event Trees, guests were reminded of their mortality with a projected personal harbinger of doom.

A bit of fun and gamification

Then it was time for some fun and gamification, starting with a well-earned drink and The Big Buzzwire game! This classic fairground attraction was reinvented by Anna Valley’s scenic and technical teams to enhance the drama with a digital countdown clock and lighting and audio effects that were cued whenever a player lost a life. In the spirit of competition, each contestant scanned their QR code at the start of the game, and their results were automatically calculated and added to the digital leader board.

And the fun didn’t stop there. Next up was the Anna Valley Tin Can Alley which used an LED video wall to display a tin can pyramid and a radarTOUCH system to detect the impact of balls thrown at the screen. Alongside was a hybrid version of Skeeball, where real balls were thrown down a physical chute before being seamlessly converted into a digital representation of the balls landing in bullseye rings. To create this effect, Anna Valley and Target 3D made use of the OptiTrack motion capture system to track the physical balls’ positions, speed and rotation. The system then translated the information into the digital version of the game created in Unreal Engine 5 and displayed on an LED video wall. Both games also used participants’ QR codes to track their results, send their scores back to the central database and update the digital scoreboard.

An immersive pinball perspective

After the games, it was time to bid a final farewell to the virtual fortune teller – this time displayed on a CNC cut-out using 12K ultra-short-throw projection. Next, guests were taken behind the scenes to the neatest MCR in event history to discover the technology driving the showcase. Then, it was down the rabbit hole through a forced-perspective tunnel lined with Astera Titan Tubes before they were launched into The Pinball Machine. This immersive environment was created using a variety of different LED products across the floor and walls with DMX-controlled flippers running on Robe Media Spinners. The Anna Valley team also used a zactrack mini system provided by Ambersphere Solutions which communicated with a GrandMA3 compact to control moving-head lights and d&b Soundscape to dynamically track the audio and lighting according to an object’s movement in the game.

The last dance

Finally, guests were led past ROE’s impressive virtual production LED display to take part in a digital dance-off on an interactive LED dance floor. No scores were tracked for this game – because who are we to judge your dance moves? Having worked up a sweat and an appetite, visitors were treated to culinary delights and refreshments from Tobacco Dock Food and introduced to some of Anna Valley’s other event partners, before the time came to leave the fairground.

Unprecedented demand

Despite running for five full days, Anna Valley’s 2023 Inspiration Showcase was fully booked weeks before the big top went up at Tobacco Dock. This result is a testament to the work that the team has put into not only this event, but also previous showcases. Each year, the Inspiration Showcase is entirely reinvented with a theme that is unique to the event landscape at that time, and experiences that reflect the latest trends and audience expectations. The 2023 event was in planning for months with our event partners, took fifty crew members over seven days to build and required fourteen technicians to run on show days. Judging by the feedback we’ve received following the event, it was worth every bit of that effort. Planning is already underway for our 2024 event – get in touch now to register your interest and we’ll make sure you’re the first to know when bookings open!

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