Hershey’s Great Chocolate Factory Mystery in 4D

A Real-Time 4D Experience with Puppet Interactions
Hershey, PA

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Hershey’s Chocolate World in Pennsylvania opened a new 12-minute 4D show called “Hershey’s Great Chocolate Factory Mystery in 4D.” The unique real-time stereo 3D experience with 4D effects features technology from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and offers over 100 outcomes as the audience determines the direction of the story through participation. Electrosonic refurbished the 4D theater, where it had previously installed equipment in 2005, to accommodate the new show, and provided design, installation and programming services for the new audio, video and control system.

Standard video players were replaced with a high resolution video server, which offers true uncompressed 2K images and allows for live camera and other inputs, such as live 3D input from the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio puppeteering rig, to be layered into the content. With 700 assets on the timeline, the puppeteers can constantly change the video and audio assets based on the character they’re performing and the secondary characters and audience members they’re interacting with. All puppeteers have been prerecorded performing the entire show and each chapter possibility so that voice continuity is maintained throughout the live performance.

Hershey 4D Theater

During each show, the puppeteer sits in the puppeteering rig in the control room, which includes all the monitors, controls and foot pedals to be interacted with. The puppeteer is even able to speak with the audience through a headset and mic. The live 3D model of the character feeds into the server and is layered into the show as part of the 3D-animated movie on screen. A live camera input of the audience is also layered into the show at key interactive moments, reinforcing the audience perception of participation. The puppeteer makes branching decisions using foot control pedals, which provide input to the show control system.

The real challenge was coordination and file management of the audio and video data as it was programmed into the server timeline; there were approximately 70 layers and over 700 assets. Electrosonic preprogrammed at the Electrosonic home office, and spent an additional two weeks programming at Hershey. With 26 chapters in the piece that mark interaction with the lead puppet and 74 layers of information as choices are made, there are 354 unique shows that come out of mixing principal characters, secondary characters and choices.

Preshow

In addition to Electrosonic’s support of the new show, it also upgraded the attraction’s marquee and preshow. A 2x2 portrait-mode videowall marquee, comprised of 65-inch LCD monitors and speakers, is located in the lobby and normally fed by precorded material, but a camera and mic permit the puppeteer to appear live on the marquee and interact with visitors. The preshow welcomes the audience and sets up the show’s backstory on three 65-inch LCDs. During the preshow, docents also gather information on visitors and send it via tablet computers to the puppeteer so they can personalize the 4D show later on.

Videowall Marquee

The show producer and client was Mark Thomas at On Track Themes, and the Show Director was Ty Granaroli of Eight Entertainment.