Imagine a bar where the immersive décor could change on demand. That’s the ground-breaking aesthetic at Bar Illuminarium, where an everchanging and immersive setting transports patrons to a Japanese night market, an interstellar nebula, lush gardens, and a glowing reef below the ocean’s surface.
Bar Illuminarium is the nighttime embodiment of a brand new, $30 million AV spectacular on Atlanta’s BeltLine. During the day, the space hosts a spectacular immersive safari called WILD. It’s the first of a series of place invoking “illuminariums” driven by projection, Lidar, sound, and special effects.
The walls are 350 feet wide and 22 feet tall; the floor is also a screen. WILD is a safari across Africa, taking visitors into the bush and savanna to see wildlife up close. A second experience, now in production, will put visitors on the surface of the moon, where their footsteps across the venue will appear to kick up moon dust.
At night, the same technology defines the ambiance at Bar Illuminarium, a unique AVdriven nightspot. Together, the attraction and bar comprise the latest ambitious project in the immersive, explorable art trend popularized by latter-day museums such as Meow Wolf in Santa Fe (and now Las Vegas on the back of a $158 million investment). The “experience economy” has new entrepreneurs, new creatives, and thousands, even millions of guests worldwide And it’s driven by AV.
Illuminarium was created by private school entrepreneur Alan Greenberg, who is also the former publisher of Esquire magazine; filmmaker Jon Kamen, who founded Radical Media; and David Rockwell, the architect, theater designer, and founder of Rockwell Group. Fast Company described Illuminarium as “attempting to be a space that is something of a cross between a museum, a movie theater, and virtual reality—with an emphasis on experiencing it together with other people.”
“We are in many ways VR without the glasses,” Greenberg has said. “VR’s a singular experience, hard to share, hard to talk to people, hard to have a ‘wow’ moment with somebody. We’re not strapping a computer on your back and fitting goggles on your face.”
The main attraction of the 26,000-square foot Illuminarium complex is an 8000-square-foot room filled with a projected African safari. The 50-minute immersive 16K film is non-linear; visitors can enter and leave at any time, and move at their own pace through the space, feeling the experience through the haptic effects at their feet (see sidebar).
A smaller projection room becomes the bar at night with a series of different interactive worlds. A gaming engine drives the AV in response to visitors’ movements and actions.
“The Bar at Illuminarium is the first-ever immersive nightlife environment,” says David Rockwell founder and president. “We designed the space to complement the truly unprecedented entertainment experience that is Illuminarium. Stunning and ever-changing digital worlds will transport guests to far-flung, surreal destinations through sight, sound, and scale.”
The Bar at Illuminarium features seven global landscape projections: Living Mural, inspired by the tropical artwork of Henri Rousseau; Shibuya Night Market; Jardin De Fleurs, a lush Mediterranean garden in which vegetation will shift before the eyes; Nebulas, with its cosmic cloud of stars and interstellar dust; Crystal Excavation, a crystal cave; Luminous Reefs; and Sunset in the Stratosphere.
Adjacent to its venue, Illuminarium is building a state-of-the art R&D and postproduction center called The Illuminarium Lab, an ongoing center of research and development in immersive and interactive, in collaboration with key Illuminarium technical partners, including Panasonic, HOLOPLOT, and disguise. The space is shared with Orlando-based Evolve Technology—Illuminarium’s technology leasing partner. The Evolve CX serves as their customer experience center. It is outfitted with a 50 x 12-foot curved 1.9mm LED videowall backdrop utilizing Evolve’s new StudioLED product, Brompton video processing, Mo-Sys camera tracking, and Pixera media servers with Unreal Engine. A separate xR studio for immersive production features right-angled 12 x 12-foot 1.9mm LED videowalls and a ROE LED floor. “Creative teams can come in and learn about the technology, test and develop content, do customer demos, then rent the space to produce their movie, TV and corporate projects with Evolve providing technical support,” says Brian Macauto, Director of Facilities and Business Development at Evolve CX.
Following Atlanta, Illuminarium will open in Las Vegas at AREA 15 in January 2022 and Miami at Mana in the Wynwood Arts District, in fall 2022. Illuminarium expects to have 25 to 30 Illuminarium venues open in the world’s great megacities and mega tourism locations within the next five years.
At CES 2021, Panasonic announced that they would the Official Technology Partner of Illuminarium and tthe exclusive visual solution provider of native 4K projectors, 4K professional displays, and 4K professional camera solutions for Illuminarium’s 360-degree immersive experiential entertainment centers. The inaugural location in Atlanta uses Panasonic’s large venue native 4K laser projection technology, the Panasonic PT-RQ50k with 50,000LM brightness, and 4K resolution.
The Panasonic partnership also included the manufacturing of a unique lens that allows Illuminarium to produce an enhanced immersive experience. Panasonic’s engineers collaborated to create an ultra-short throw lens with minimal offset and loss of light for Illuminarium.
“We’re excited to partner with Illuminarium whose mission to expand communal access to amazing, but typically out-of-reach places and experiences is truly awe-inspiring,” said Joe Conover, Manager of Panasonic Live Events Group. “Following what has been a challenging year for the entertainment industry, we believe there will soon be extraordinary opportunities for innovators in experiential entertainment, like Illuminarium, to transport and inspire audiences through compelling storytelling.”