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National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey

New York, New York | 2017

Located in Times Square, National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey is a first-of-its-kind immersive entertainment experience that transports audiences on a breathtaking undersea journey utilizing innovative new technology, dynamic lighting, and life-size photo-real versions of some of the largest and most fascinating creatures of the sea.

What It Was

Located in Times Square, National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey is a first-of-its-kind immersive entertainment experience that transports audiences on a breathtaking undersea journey from the South Pacific across the ocean to the west coast of North America. Through innovative new technology, audiences explore the ocean on a digital underwater “dive” and encounter life-size photo-real versions of some of the largest and most fascinating creatures of the sea. Located in the 60,000 SF basement of the old New York Times building, the space that once housed printing presses now transports guests along an incredible underwater journey without leaving the heart of Ney York City.

What We Did

Lightswitch was involved throughout every stage of planning for Encounter, from scouting locations to the initial concept stage and through the project’s completion. We were responsible for all experiential space lighting, the marquee, the retail experience and the architectural lighting in the ancillary areas. SPE Partners, a New York-based entertainment developer, is the creator and producer of National Geographic Encounter. SPE hired a world-class global team of Academy, GRAMMY®, and Emmy® Award-winning artists to come together to create this first-in-kind experience. With the help of this multidisciplinary team, this project came to life beyond expectations. Falcon’s Creative Group, a themed entertainment design company and frequent Lightswitch collaborator, was instrumental in conceptualizing and designing the experience. Working hand-in-hand, we ensured the lighting enhanced the multi-media programs and created a truly transforming environment. Visual effects studio Pixomondo created stunning 3D media and unique photo-real animation and projection mapping using “mega” projection screens. Together, we created lighting effects that support this multi-media experience, at times using all four sides of the room and projecting light on ceiling and floors to completely envelope guests as they encounter the wonders of the ocean. Other collaborations included the scenic fabrication firm Adirondack Studios, with whom we created bioluminescent corals that come to life under UV lights. We also worked closely with GRAMMY® Award-winning composer David Kahne to ensure that the audio and lighting work in harmony. Our involvement on the project continued through the budgeting and construction phase. We worked with Turner Construction, the General Contractor, to ensure the design was implemented as imagined, troubleshooting along the way to create lighting that sets the mood and brings together all the components of the virtual experience.

Why It Worked

From the very first moment they descend the escalator, guests are transported to another world -- one that lives underwater. Lighting is a critical component that complements the virtual experience and sets the mood for the entire experience. Our broad experience in permanent installation lighting, theatre lighting, and entertainment and theme park lighting comes together in Encounter. Continuity and the transcendent power of light are found throughout every aspect of the project’s lighting, from the retail experience to the incredibly immersive 3D scene.