Immersive Education tapped Red Dot Digital Media to manage and deploy the AV system powering the IMMERSED: Ocean Wonders viewing experience.

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Location: Catalina Island, CA • Industry: Entertianment • 2023

Project Completion: September 2023

Equipment List:

  • Barco F80-4K12 projector
  • BrightSign XT1144 media player
  • Bluefin Touchscreen with BrightSign Built-In
  • FocusRite Scarlett 18i20 third-gen audio interface
  • Four KRK Systems Rokit 5 G3 powered speakers

Partners: Bluefin, BrightSign, Lumen & Forge, Immersive Education

Background: IMMERSED: Ocean Wonders is a truly unique moviegoing experience that takes Catalina Island visitors on a 30-minute virtual “dive” through the world’s oceans. Viewers explore Catalina’s lush kelp forests, get up close and personal with majestic whale sharks, soaring oceanic manta rays, inquisitive bull sharks, mesmerizing bait balls, playful dolphins and sea-lions, and even a rare dugong. The entire experience was filmed underwater in full 360-degree 8K resolution, capturing every moment from all angles. The footage is projected onto a domed screen that surrounds the audience, set to contemporary music with informative narration to complement the visuals.

Immersive Education tapped Red Dot Digital Media to manage and deploy the AV system powering the IMMERSED: Ocean Wonders viewing experience. Red Dot designed an interactive touch panel to trigger movie playback and control via a Bluefin touch panel with BrightSign Built-In using UDP commands to trigger content managed via BrightSign’s BSN.Cloud player management platform. This intuitive touch interface makes it easy for employees with little to no technical training to start, pause and play movies on demand, or even program movies to play on a predetermined schedule.

“Our hope is that IMMERSED: Ocean Wonders will deepen visitors’ connection to our world’s oceans by giving them an underwater view that people rarely see. And by reinvesting a portion of our profits back into the local nonprofit community, we’re taking a tangible step to preserve this underwater beauty by protecting the animals that call these waters home.”

– Mark Davidson, Founder & CEO, Immersive Education

Projecting 360-degree content in domed theaters is not new, however this sort of immersive experience is enjoying a resurgence in popularity following the recent opening of the Sphere in Las Vegas, which took five years and an estimated $2.3B to complete. While the Sphere certainly delivers a truly unique viewing experience, savvy entrepreneurs like Immersive Education are utilizing smaller venues to deliver scaled-down, yet similarly immersive experiences at a fraction of the cost.

The theater was custom designed by domed projection specialists at Lumen & Forge in Las Vegas and constructed on-site in just eight days. A 576-square-foot wooden deck anchored to the asphalt below serves as the foundation for the circular wood frame clad in all-weather vinyl that incorporates underwater artwork from Catalina’s famous Casino Point. The interior is finished with acoustic fabric to maintain optimal audio quality within the theater. The venue is fully air conditioned and offers patrons a choice between plush chairs modeled after NBA courtside seats, and fan-favorite bean-bag chairs that allow guests to fully recline. The structure is topped with sixteen architectural fiberglass segments bolted together to create a perfectly smooth, seamless, hemispherical curved surface. Perfecting projection on the irregularly shaped screen proved to be the most challenging aspect of the project. This required a commercial-grade projector paired with a unique wide-angle lens to achieve the desired immersive effect, and center the image on the domed screen.

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Not only is the theater providing educational entertainment to Catalina Island’s visitors, but revenue generated by its operation is funneling much-needed financial assistance back into local ocean conservation efforts. Immersive Education has committed to donate 10 percent of the theater’s annual profit to the Marine Mammal Care Center, a local nonprofit that responds to calls of seals and sea lions in distress in the waters surrounding Catalina.

“Given the remote location of the theater, it was essential to create a control system that is both easy to use and extremely reliable. Using a Bluefin touch screen with BrightSign Built-In, we created a cost-effective, dead-simple operational workflow whereby daily staffers power up the projector and speakers, and with a single tap of the touchscreen they start the first show of the day. At closing time they simply power down the projector and speakers and lock-up.”

– Darryl Kuder, President of Red Dot Digital Media