Saturday, April 28, 2012

JII Version 6.2: Moving Parts

As I tend to do when I have nobody instructing me otherwise, I changed my mind about what I was going to work on for this next version.  But I added a bunch of stuff so I hope it's all good.  Version 6.2 is now up and running.  Here's what is new:

- There is a pop-up map if you get lost.  It also shows you the "portals" to other scenes.  Just press "M".  (Thank you, Martin).
- Jumping fountains!!!  The timing is not really there yet but I'll tweak that at some point.  For now, just watch your head or you might get wet.
- The pop-jet fountains and rotating Figment bush are working too.  Yes, I know Fig looks a bit like a duck.  I'll put more effort into him later when I start doing animatronics.
- The ride lobby doors closest to the theater are now windows (as is more time period appropriate.  However, you can still walk through them for convenience.
- I put a little bit of cloud reflection in the glass surfaces for an extra layer of realism.
- Finally, the employee exit gate is in with some extra landscaping and a surprise inside.  (Thank you, Ron).

- I skipped the 2nd half of Dreamport and did 3 other scenes instead.  There are now more elements in the Arts, Literature and Finale scenes.
- The Arts / White Room has a few elements in it including a spinning turntable.  I think it might be moving backwards but I'll work that out when the animals are on board.
- An updated Organ and the Cat / Bat blocks are in Literature.
- The Star Tunnel now leads you into the Finale.
- The ambient light has been turned off in here in order to better control what you see and don't see.  As a result, your vehicle will appear completely black at least for now.  The floor is still a charcoal color for navigation while testing.  Eventually, it will also be black so the full effect is correct.

- I didn't do anything really.  I only fixed it so you can't fall through the movie screen anymore.  (Thank you, Bob).

Image Works
- This scene also has a pop-up map since it is easy to get lost in here.  Just press "M".  (Thank you, April).
- I didn't add any sound to Stepping Tones yet.  Anyone have any info on which sounds were where?
- The missing passages are now behind the Digital Wall.  One leads into Lumia and the other into Stepping Tones.
- Lumia has special FX now!
- I put in placeholders for the Vibrating Mirrors room.  Since there is nothing to actually reflect, I added some nostalgic images to check out.

I'm not going to predict my next moves yet.  Clearly, I didn't fully follow them this time anyway.  I'll let you know as I figure out what is next.  Thanks for visiting.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Real Job

For those of you who were introduced to this blog in the past 6 months, I should tell you that I occasionally write posts that are not related to Journey Into Imagination but are at least a little bit related to the theme park industry.  I haven't really done that recently until now.

For the benefit of friends, family, and some complete strangers who've asked, "what do you do anyway?"...  Let me explain:

As you may be aware, I am a big time theme park nerd or a "foamer" as we are called by those in the industry.  Since I was 10 years old, I've wanted nothing more than to design theme parks for a living, and last Sept, I started working at a company in Burbank, CA called Thinkwell that does just that.  Since I've started, I've said almost nothing publicly about what I actually do despite this being a HUGE deal for me.  After almost 8 months there, I think I've had enough time to fully understand what I'm doing and what I am able to talk about.

Thinkwell is a themed experience company that produces creative designs for theme parks, attractions, museums, tours, special events, corporate branding, and just about anything else that could use a unique creative eye.  We are working for several clients right now on a diverse array of projects, only a handful of which are public knowledge yet.  You can see our currently announced projects on our website here and our latest cool thing, The Making of Harry Potter Tour here.  We'll get to my project in a moment.

I am a Technical Manager by title but the work I do is better known in theatrical circles as a Tech Director.  My job is to figure out to make the creative designs work in the real world with available technology, adhering to a set budget, and functioning safely and reliably.  As part of a team, I help create the technical designs and specifications for various things including lighting, audio, video, control systems, interactives, special effects of all sorts, networking, ride systems, facilities and utilities, and even some top-secret prototypical coolness that you'll get to see in attractions that will open a couple of years from now.

The majority of my time is spent on a theme park called Monkey Kingdom, opening in China in 2014.  This park and the project as a whole is huge.  It keeps me very busy on a wide variety of disciplines.  I am what is called a "project-based" employee.  This is very typical in the industry and it basically means that my employment is attached to the Monkey Kingdom project, theoretically through the completion of the park.  The reality is that I am not entirely tied to Monkey and have helped out in various ways on a dozen other projects - sometimes for a couple of days, sometimes for about 5 minutes.  Everyone at Thinkwell has specialties that are often additions to their core job descriptions.  I usually get to help out with projects that might involve large-scale special effects and theatrical automation, puppets, and show control systems.  Every experience I've ever had in my career has been pulled out of mothballs for use in something these past 8 months.

A typical week for me is 9am to 6pm with an hour lunch, Monday through Friday.  This is the first time in my life that I've had a full-time schedule like this.  Having weekends and holidays off is crazy!  I finally get why people like it.  Right now, Monkey Kingdom is still in the design phases.  As it starts to move into actual construction over the next couple of years, there will likely be longer and stranger hours with travel.  Right now, I feel like I'm on vacation all the time.

Most of the offices, including mine, are all open and located in one large room.  In this photo, my desk is to the left of the Hello Kitty desk and you're looking at less than a third of the whole space.  The environment is really cool.  Few or no walls, open dialogue, pretty much no politics at all (seriously), very casual and easy-going.  It is not uncommon to have strange costume days, food-related events, crazy desk decorating, or a random marching band here in the offices.  There's no class system here either.  I usually have lunch at the picnic tables outside where I might be eating with any co-workers including the company Owners and VPs.

During a typical day, I'm back and forth between my desk and various meetings or presentations around our building.  I get to meet all sorts of interesting people including clients, consultants, vendors, specialists ad service providers.  I do a lot of technical writing and AutoCAD plus a little bit of Sketchup, VBA programming, and testing of all sorts of different programs.  And they've let me try my hand at some creative work as well.  So far, I've written or co-written of a couple of show treatments that are part of Monkey Kingdom.  They are very encouraging when it comes to trying new things and expanding your skills here. Awesome.

Everything else I want to tell you... I really can't yet.  :-)  I'll post news as things are announced though.  So, that's it.  That's what I've been doing lately.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

JII Version 6.1: Journey Back to 1986

Version 6.1 of the simulation is up and running.  This version has new content but also has a bunch of small adjustments in order to align it better with the target time period of 1986.  Here's what is new:

- The simulation window is a little taller now.  Better view, I think.
- You are no longer 4 feet tall.  Congratulations on the growth.

- The bushes have been removed from the perimeter of the ride building.  They were added with JIYI in 1999.
- I'm sticking with the later fountain sculpture but I added the colored panels that briefly lived inside it.
- I've made some minor architectural updates.  The area between the theater exit and Kodak Store is slightly different now and the walls around the restrooms are correct now.
- Temporary signage on the Kodak Store.  I can't find a clear shot of what those signs look like exactly.
- Accessories in the upper lobby.

- New scenic elements in Teapot / Houses and 1st Half of Dreamport scenes.
- Slightly better lighting in these scenes and some added special FX.
- I've added some invisible force fields so you won't feel stuck down in the track pit when walking around anymore.  You may still experience random vanishing walls though.  Explore at your own risk.

- The last remaining elements of HISTA are out.  This is as close to original EO as I can currently get.  Thanks again to Martin Smith for some reference assistance.
- "True Colors" is out and "Makin' Memories" music is in.  Rumor has it that "Makin' Memories" was briefly featured early in Captain EO's run.  Even if that isn't true (research is ongoing), I still have no usable "Capture a Smile" material.  I'm also seeking a screenshot of "Makin' Memories" for the pre-show screen if anyone has that.
- The automatic door passages are better fleshed out now.  "Doors open automatically" (even though they actually don't here).
- Blue seats!

Image Works
- Light Writer is more detailed now and Lumia is roughed in.  Does anyone have a decent picture of that?  Right now, it looks like a mini-Spaceship Earth in a dark room.
- General fixes to the ceiling and walls.  Lots of little tweaks.

Known Issues
- There is still a great deal of weirdness with the music transitions, especially when loading new scenes.  I'm working on it.
- This.  I can't consistently recreate it yet but it is on my list.  I think it's kind of funny though.

What's Next in 6.2
- I'm going to take a crack at the jumping fountains, pop jets, and Figment bush outside.  Fingers crossed.  I'll also change the West glass doors of the lobby into windows, like it was early on.
- Adding the 2nd half of Dreamport in the ride.
- In the Image Works, I want to add some sounds to Stepping Tones and get some placeholders in the Vibrating Mirrors room.
- The Theater needs some straightening up with regard to the seats.  I have some more accurate plans of that now so I should be able to make that nicer.