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Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International
You would be hard-pressed to find another cruise ship venue as wholly magnificent as Two70º is onboard Royal Caribbean International's newest Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. The multipurpose room on Anthem was recently put through its paces by Nick Weir, vice president of entertainment for the cruise line, to demonstrate everything it can do, and it's undeniably impressive. Take a look for yourself by reading and watching behind the scenes. Of course, nothing can substitute for actually being onboard and experiencing it for yourself.
Observation Lounge and Stage
Two70º is first a double-decker aft-facing observation lounge with beautiful 270-degree vistas overlooking the ship's stern and wake by day. It is accurately described as a comfortable "living room," complete with plenty of seating areas, a balcony, its own cafe, library and craft workshop. By night, it is transformed into an entertainment venue unlike any other at sea or on land, Las Vegas included.
Furniture then is temporarily put away to clear three main multi-level stage areas with a rotating cake lift that are populated not by a backstage but rather an over and understage which according to Weir is "a labyrinth of corridors and dressing rooms and prop rooms and connecting conduits." There are also six strategically placed torpedo tubes where actors are ejected from below and acrobats are lowered from above into the theater space, and the venue's LED lamps and bar are computer controlled with adjustable hues.
A screen covers the windows to create an unprecedented projection backdrop over 100 feet wide and 20 feet tall called Vistarama, "for those of you who are getting excited about resolutions, as I do," said Weir.
"You know, we're all talking about should we go from high definition to 4K," he continued. "Shall we? Is there enough content? Well, that's 12K! There are 12,000 pixels across the top, and everything that goes on that screen, we've had to create ourselves at Royal Caribbean. Although we're very much a cruise line, we're sort of starting to pioneer now in the world of cinematography, video and entertainment in general.
"It's actually super complicated to do what we've done there because unlike a cinema, we have folded the projectors up into the ceiling. So, that screen is actually made of 18 different projectors, and each projector is overlapping slightly on the one next to it, pixel by pixel. About 150 pixels of each axis is overlapping, and then using super clever technology and software and very clever projectors that are able to move on a gimbal, we can overlap the pixels on top of each other perfectly and even account for vibration when we're at sea."
And the results, from an elaborate video test card to concert films, are absolutely stunning. In its simplest form, there are about 20 passive environmental projections that casually animate the space at various times throughout the cruise, and are usually played back-to-back on the final day of the sailing, like "Mysterious Library," a massive ornamental wall filled with books and paintings that are brought to life. Another, the "Airship" creatively replaces the real horizon line with clouds to simulate floating in a pre-war zeppelin instead of aboard a cruise ship.
Weir added, "we have basically gone into the video [and animation] business. We've partnered up with our friends at Moment Factory in Montreal and a few other video people around the world, and we've come up with this amazing library of never-before-seen resolution in video." The line's trick is taking a rig of three 4K RED cameras strapped together and then splicing the image to capture massive video scenes like that of Iguazu Falls in South America.
From an audio standpoint, most consumers are familiar with 5.1 or 7.1 home theater arrangements where 5 or 7 speakers plus 1 subwoofer surround the listener. Two70º, on the other hand, has about 22.6. That's 22 individual main channels plus another 6 channels of low frequency sound to fill the large volume of space.
But it doesn't stop there. In front of the projection is a five-ton gantry beam, carrying six robot-mounted high-resolution displays called Roboscreens, which is lowered into the center of the room. It's comprised of the same seven-foot precision-grade robotic arms that build cars and can run continuously for 30 straight years without even requiring oil. After the robots follow a protocol to self-check and calibrate their positions so as not to bang into one another, they begin to kinetically spin and dance all while custom video content fills the screens.
"That is a whole new type of technology in entertainment, and I can proudly tell you that at Royal Caribbean we developed this along with two or three other partners - ABB Robotics, andyRobot from Vegas, the robot animator, and Moment Factory in Montreal," said Weir. The performances are called RoboShows and range from spectacles utilizing just the Roboscreens to Roboscreen displays in conjunction with Vistarama, what Weir dubs "experimental cinema by Royal Caribbean."
andyRobot, or Andy Flessas, was originally a graphics animator who was able to program the robotic arms to run 30 frames-per-second Maya animation software to replicate organic movements. Performances include "Dance in a Box," Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain's favorite, where dancers were filmed in rotating green-screen boxes corresponding to the gravity-shifting Roboscreen performances onboard, and the award-winning "Leonardo's Dreams," exclusive to Anthem of the Seas, where da Vinci's inventions, art and mathematics take flight.
Weir recalled, "a historian was watching it recently and wrote to me and reminded me that the eight-axis robot arm is based on the human arm, and our knowledge of the human arm started with Leonardo Da Vinci's studies of anatomy on the human arm. So, we've kind of made a full circle. We've finally put Leonardo on a robot arm that kind of finishes the work."
Vistarama, the Roboscreens and live stage performances all come together in three dimensions with an Anthem-exclusive production show, "Spectra's Cabaret," that must be seen to be believed. As Weir said, "you simply will not find that on the planet unless you're onboard the Anthem of the Seas in Two70º." In the meantime, enjoy 30 minutes of demo reels that are far better in person (without any video moire artifacts from camera capture).
Jason Leppert - Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel - is a San Diego-based cruising expert with more than 100 sailings...
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