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14/08/2009

4D Takes The London Eye To A New Dimension

A visit to the Merlin Entertainments London Eye is about to take on a new dimension - literally - with the addition of a 4D movie to London's most popular paid-for visitor attraction.
Designed to whet the appetites of the London Eye-riders in a state-of-the-art entertainment environment, the movie was written and directed by Julian Napier and stereo 3D produced by Phil Streather, CEO of 3D specialists Principal Large Format. The film was produced by Centre Screen Productions in association with Principal Large Format and Pablo Post.
The focus of the four-minute film is a little girl on a day trip to London, whose view of the capital's many tourist sites is constantly obscured by people, buildings, and the general hubbub of the city. Just when the girl's visit seems destined to end in disappointment, she is whisked away to the Merlin Entertainments London Eye by a friendly seagull for what is literally a 'bird's eye' view - for viewers, a tantalising foretaste of what awaits them when they board the unique landmark on London's South Bank.
"The story needed to be told very quickly and be non-dialogue dependent - many of the Merlin Entertainments London Eye's passengers are foreign tourists," explains Napier. "It was also paramount to set this apart from the typical adrenaline-pumping, bone-rattling 4D experiences you encounter at theme parks; not to say those aren't fun, but the London Eye is visited and enjoyed by infants, pensioners and everyone in between, who have all come for a serene and elegant flight above the city. Our 4D experience had to appeal to the broadest demographic possible."
Despite its short length, the movie required a creative cast of more than 100 people to assemble. "I was fortunate to be able to put together a world-class team from my past 3D productions," says Streather, "including the Writer/Director Julian Napier, Director of Photography, Director of Timelapse Photography, Director of Aerial Photography, Unit Production Manager, Editor, Sound Designer and the visual effects company."
Streather believes the film is "the most significant live-action 3D movie produced in the UK to date". The movie will be seen by four million people a year, and screened in a purpose-designed theatre in County Hall, adjacent to the Merlin Entertainments London Eye's welcome space, ticketing area and catering facilities.
"Having a purpose-built theatre for a 3D or 4D film is perfect," Streather explains, "because getting a film like this right relies a lot on the theatre geometry. The distance of the audience from the screen and the size of the screen itself have an enormous impact on the experience. Knowing the exact dimensions of both the screen and the theatre before we started production meant that we could craft a film that would perfectly fit the space."
While Principal Large Format has enormous experience of stereoscopic film production, the movie for the Merlin Entertainments London Eye posed a unique set of challenges - not least the need to produce the first 3D view of the UK's capital from the air. "Among the many firsts on this project are the amazing aerials over the London Eye and London," says Streather. "We worked with Jeremy Braben of Helicopter Film Services to design and build the world's first gyrostabilised 3D helicopter camera mount, and we think the results speak for themselves - just simply breathtaking."
As well as providing technological infrastructure and assistance to the project, PLF also contributed creatively, as Julian Napier concedes: "Phil Streather artfully and delicately reined me in when the story shot off in tangents, pushing me to remodel moderate ideas into better ones."
Streather, meanwhile, is quick to acknowledge the role played by the project's lead production company and Executive Producers, Centre Screen Productions, and Merlin Entertainments, for their support.
"It is testimony to the forward-thinking nature of Merlin Entertainments that they were prepared to invest in such a ground-breaking film. The access we were given to the Merlin Entertainments London Eye itself and the assistance from staff was first class, and the creative input from the London Eye marketing team and from Merlin Studios was both welcome and invaluable.
"All film-making is hard work, but if everyone pulls in the same direction, which we did on this film, then the work speaks for itself. I think it's a cracking film!"
(KMcA/BMcC)
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