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The show must go on—how event companies are innovating during the pandemic

Since March 2020 and the repercussions of COVID-19, there’s been a huge decline in cultural activities and entertainment based on collective attendance. We know that social separation has mental, physical and emotional ramifications and that people instinctively want to come together to enjoy communal experiences. Luckily, we’ve seen the events community band together and turn this adversity into creative energy, leading to the evolution of new innovative forms of live entertainment and social interaction—albeit at a distance.

Technology and events have always been strongly connected—and their symbiotic relationship is helping us strengthen our real-world ties. When it comes to indoor activations and exhibits, the use of gesture detection, proximity-based devices, voice recognition software and directional sound can allow visitors to have safe, interactive experiences without literal touchpoints.

In Vancouver, three local companies have come together to produce a one-of-a-kind touchless, immersive Halloween experience. Shattered at the Beaumont: A Wicked Walkthrough Experience is a collaboration produced by The Beaumont Studios, Go2 Productions and Innovation Lighting and is set to run until the end of October. Attendees will make their way through the Beaumont’s labyrinth hallways and staircases that feature hundreds of lights, lasers, optical delusions and mind-bending tricks using projection mapping and interactive touchless technology. “Art is at its best when overcoming adversity,” says The Beaumont’s Executive and Creative Director, Jude Kusnierz. “It’s precisely in our most anxious moments that the human need to create and imagine is at its strongest.”

Adrian Scott of Go2 Productions confirms, “We’ll be doing what we absolutely love to do—fusing art and technology to create a unique immersive experience that the community can get out and enjoy.”

To ensure all the spooks and scares come from the creativity on display and not from the fear of a shared public experience, Shattered will have stringent COVID protocols including a mask requirement, hygiene stations, a definitive one-way audience flow, and physically distanced entry which is timed and staggered for up to six people in the same social bubble. “This is our chance and the community’s chance to escape the everyday and try something new; we’re so glad to be a part of this uniquely interactive experience,” says Steve Matthews, owner of Innovation Lighting.

The show must go on—how event companies are innovating during the pandemic

The Shattered team hopes to extend the attraction to undergo different holiday-theme transformations. “People are worried about how different the holiday season will be this year. We want to create some of that holiday magic for families to enjoy themselves in a safe and unique format,” says Scott, founder of projection mapping company, Go2 Productions.

One way to mitigate any risks of an indoor event is to take the experience outside—and ramp up engagement with the help of 3D content. Events professionals have found that a large-scale projection mapping experience, for example, would be the perfect way to entertain attendees while keeping them safe. With health and safety measures like timed arrivals and departures and mandating the use of face masks, “a unique experience like this gives you the opportunity to create lasting memories for the family and community,” says Scott. Festival of Lights, the famous projection mapping festival in Berlin, went ahead in September this year with all the usual COVID precautions in place, as well as the option to temporarily switch off projections on buildings where too many people were gathering at one time. This motivated people to disperse at crowded zones and come back at a later and safer time.

Several events and attractions have pivoted to adopt a drive-through model as another innovative solution to the social distancing challenges presented by COVID-19. Attractions like the Hopi Hari drive through horror park, Netflix’s Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience and the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit are allowing guests who are seeking entertainment to do so from the comfort and safety of their own vehicles. The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit recently announced the world’s first drive-in art experience in Toronto. In the show, Gogh to Go, high-resolution images of Van Gogh paintings are projected onto the walls and floors at an impressive scale. A soundtrack including scenic melodies and crashing waves accompanies the display, which attendees enjoy from inside their cars.

Creating thriving live experiences in a social distancing world is not an easy task, but the experiential community is one that thrives on creativity, adaptability and collaboration—and is very much up for the challenge.

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