Thanks for joining me in Part 2 of our series on creating the world’s largest animatronic show at Sentosa’s Resort World in Singapore. In Part 1 of the series, we discussed how a show using construction cranes evolved into a spectacle about actual cranes. Ya know, the feathered kind? Jeremy Railton of the Entertainment Design Corporation took inspiration from his desk lamps to get a rough idea of how the robotic figures could move for this show. He then began mapping out storyboards.
Automatons are some of the earliest form of robotics and are typically animated human or animal figures that don’t use electronics to make them move. They instead use a series of wheels and cogs hidden underneath the figure that trigger specific joints to move at a pre-determined time based on the speed the wheel turned. Jeremy studied several automatons in looking for inspiration for how the figures could move.
Then a light bulb went off! What if the birds started off as mechanical birds, then transformed into “real birds” as the show progressed? Many cultures believe in stories that show the power of love to breathe life into inanimate objects. In this case, when the birds meet, they start off as robots, but as they slowly go through a courting ritual. We can see their hearts turn from mechanical hearts to real ones via giant LED screens. Each screen is eight square meters or twenty-six by 26 foot, and are equal to 1,000 television sets.
With all the mechanics needed to build a massive show like this, a man-made island needed to be created to hide the cranes from the public during the day. This also protected it from the elements, including seven motor rooms under the water. Instead of creating a generic black box, Jeremy took his inspiration from reeds that you would find in a marsh. The outside of the barge is covered in chrome lotus spinners and other designs that spin when the wind blows which create a beautiful kinetic sculpture during the day and night.
Malcolm McLaren provided the engineering for this massive project. In the picture above, the construction crew is attaching the base of each bird to the slew rings. After fully constructed, each crane weighs 131,000 pounds or 65.5 tons for each structure.
It requires 1500 horsepower to move one of the cranes, which is the same amount of power to move a small diesel locomotive. Through the use of very sophisticated computers and motion controls similar to those used on Japanese bullet trains, the birds are able to move with grace and stunning precision. All in all, the project was in development for 36 months and took over 800,000 man hours to create.
The maximum speed at the tip of the crane’s beaks can reach up to 5.6 meters per second. Each bird has a total of six axis of movement, including 6 foot in diameter eyeballs that blink and squint. The barge where the spectacle takes place is 100% unmanned during the show.
Make no mistake about it; what is most astonishing about this show is the massive size of these figures. Each bird standing up right is approximately thirty meters tall, roughly the equivalent of a nine-story building.
Much like any project, the Crane Show came with its fair share of challenges. Each figure’s lighting coming out of the wings had to match the massive LED screens. Sea water proved to be problematic for the screens, but over time they found a process that reduced the impact of salt water on the displays.
When finally finished, the team had a product that rivals, if not trumps, any other on the planet. The ten minute show is usually performed once a night to a crowd of thousands. During events like Chinese New Year, fireworks are added to make the show even more spectacular. To see the finished product in its entirety, I highly recommend clicking on the video below.
A Incredible isn’t it? There is no other show like it in the world: majestic, jaw-dropping and inspiring. The entire crew at Entertainment Design Corporation did an incredible job. So what do you think of the show? Had you heard of it prior to this article? Does it make you want to visit Resort World Sentosa in Singapore? For more stories like this, please like our Theme Park University Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter.