Walt Disney World is going through the process of upgrading its popular shopping and dining destination Downtown Disney, with a whole new theme along with a new name – Disney Springs.
An extremely popular eatery at Disney Springs is the T-Rex Café; a place that transports diners to the Mesozic Era where they can enjoy a meal surrounded by their favourite dinosaurs.
As with many of the restaurants at Disney Springs, T-Rex Café takes theming seriously using a range of effects to make the diners feel that they have really gone back in time.
A crystal cave that constantly sweeps through a range of intense backlit colours and thickets of cretaceous jungle foliage around smoke-emitting tar pits are all highlights of the T-Rex Café.
All those effects provide a backdrop for the main event though; a cast of 23 fully-articulated animatronic prehistoric creatures that include likes of the tyrannosaurus rex, apatosaurus, triceratops, mastodons and a woolly mammoth family, together with pteranodons and an 11m giant octopus suspended over the bar and the heads of the diners.
T-Rex Café also has a number of other effects; including a star ceiling and suspended model of the planets, which provided an outdoor night time atmosphere to a large section of the dining area. What’s more, several times an hour the night sky is disturbed by a massive meteor shower which agitates the animatronic beasts, who are further terrified when a massive asteroid crosses the sky and smashes into the earth, shaking the building with 8kW of sub-bass rumbles and crashes.
Cinematic quality HD video content for the meteor shower was created by AVHD Visual Solutions, Canada.
Although the entire attraction has been running successfully and reliably for many years, some improvements were needed according to AV Stumpfl Inc US manager Kevin Zevchik.
“In particular, the five 4K-lumen projectors blended to deliver the meteor and asteroid show, together with a single projector in the retail area, needed occasional replacement lamps and realignment of overhead projector blends after each re-lamping,” Kevin notes.
AV Stumpfl and local integrator Zanim8tion came up with a solution for the lamp issue and another for the projector alignment, bringing the T-Rex Café from prehistoric AV to the brink of what’s possible today.
First, the five ageing projectors were replaced with two of Digital Projection’s 11K ANSI lumen, laser-powered HIGHlite WUXGA projectors with an operational life of 20,000 hours before requiring re-lamping. Based on their current usage cycle of a two-minute show every 20 minutes, the projectors are estimated to be able run for about 56 years before the lasers will need replacing.
Despite the long-lasting lamp, the projectors will still require regular maintenance visits to clean the optics and change the dust filters, which will inevitably have some impact on their alignment.
This where the café’s new AV Stumpfl Wings VIOSO system that controls the projector blends and media replay comes into its own.
“Once the maintenance crew has finished handling the projectors, Wings VIOSO uses a small, dedicated camera pointed at the ceiling to automatically realign the images and the blends and have the show ready within five minutes of completing projector maintenance. Nobody is going to miss the tedium of projector alignment,” enthuses Kevin.
The other step forward in the upgrade was to replace the early-model AV Stumpfl SC-Master show controller with a system that would allow the programming of custom dinosaur shows for such occasions as corporate events and educational tours that are planned to extend the range of activities for the T-Rex Café.
In addition to the audio, video and projection elements controlled by the new Wings Engine, the new AV Stumpfl AVIO network has 12 Wings IO box relay controllers tasked with running the 192 movement controllers that drive the animatronic models.
According to AV Stumpfl, the flexibility and ease of programming of the Wings AVIO system has allowed the development of new movement sequences and the independent programming of individual dinosaurs for the educational tours.
By taking advantage of the new Wings Touch user interface system the entire replay system can now be controlled from tablet devices when staff need to conduct tours or customise the entire venue for specific events and applications.