Making Walls Come To Life

February 2018

More than three months after the opening of Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4 (T4), visitors continue to be wowed by its futuristic architecture and art. Without a doubt, one of the more popular features at T4 continue to be the immersive walls. Changi Journeys speaks to Sakchin Bessette, co-founder of The Moment Factory (TMF) – the multimedia entertainment studio that brought the walls to life. 

The Big Idea

The ultimate goal of the immersive wall is “to create an airport experience like no other, where entertainment and delight would be intertwined with its architecture.”  

With the concept of creating a “Theatre of Experience” for the traveller passing through T4, the first wall is strategically placed at a potential stress point - the security screening area. The animation here is designed to create a relaxed and cheerful ambience, to reduce the stress of passengers.

With a secondary goal “to create a sense of place, but also of possibility,” Sakchin focused on showcasing iconic international and local flavours at the second wall, through the “Peranakan Love Story”, a light-hearted and cinematic mural situated at T4’s Heritage zone in the transit area.

The Production

As the walls are one of the main attractions of T4, the details put in had to be impeccable.

 “Everything goes through an intense review process involving Changi Airport Group,” said Sakchin, citing the process from the initial sketches to the shooting, editing and compositing through an amalgamation of tools and tricks.

Digitally adding the “Girl on a Swing” into the animated background

A designer sketching the baggage machine content for the Immersive Wall

The first wall also houses one of the most complex animations TMF had ever created - the Suitcase Machine. With only a small team of animators, the intricate cast of machine characters and Rube Goldberg-style mechanisms required extensive sketching and prototyping, followed by as many as six phases of design and production for each machine across the 70-metre long wall.

The One that Almost didn’t Make It.

“What’s challenging with this project is really creating content that’s linked to the architecture,” said Sakchin. Be it the story embedded within a Peranakan shop house, or any of the other content pieces, all required an entirely different production approach; from camera angles to camera movement, unlike the usual TV ad or web content.

In fact, one of the pieces that Sakchin is most proud of almost didn’t make the final cut. The enormous virtual bas-relief sculpture at the security screening zone that appears motionless, except for a few subtle movements, is one that now brings a sense serenity and tradition, but also a sense of magic to the viewer. 

Virtual Bas-Relief Sculpture at the security zone

Being heavily dependent on ambient lighting, the final product of this piece was based largely on experience, as the lights had not been fully installed during the testing process. However, the team managed to pull it off perfectly.

“We’re not in this business because it’s easy,” said Sakchin. “We kept at it until we got it right, and it really paid off.”

More pixels than your 4k TV – and Bigger, too

With 10 times more pixels (8 220 672 pixels, to be exact) than an average HD display on such a large scale, resolution and quality definitely becomes a challenge.

“We want to make sure the visuals look great no matter how close visitors get,” said Sakchin.

“Because each playback machine can only handle so many pixels, we cut our visual content into pieces, and then reconnect it all on-site using special software and hardware. It’s a painstaking process, and requires incredible attention to detail.”

To produce this million-pixel piece with a 10k resolution when computers are so much smaller, the content had to be continuously edited and constantly blown up, to catch any possible imperfections.

The animation team carefully reviewing their latest drafts

“Changi has an amazing reputation around the world as being one of the most innovative airports in the world in creating passenger experiences. We want to touch people, to create groundbreaking work that is part of the new iconic features of Changi Airport.”

Despite how much effort it takes, Sakchin added: “it’s always worth it when you see the travellers enjoying the results!”

Other Articles

Preparing for Jewel: Changes to T1 Transport Facilities

Ground transport facilities at T1 are gradually relocated as the terminal undergoes a series of expansion plans, in conjunction with Jewel Changi Airport’s development. Development works are about 70 per cent complete, with a greater use of technology to enhance passengers’ experience. Passengers can expect more taxi bays at the relocated T1 taxi stand, and quick boarding times with the implementation of an automated taxi dispatch system.

View Full Article

Rare Peek Into Changi’s World and Its People

With the newly revamped office still lush and fresh, Changi Airport Group (CAG) hosted an inaugural office visit for its LinkedIn followers, giving them a peek into CAG’s beautifully transformed office and what it is like working for one of the world’s most awarded airports.

View Full Article

Automating to make work easier

This year’s Annual Airport Celebration (AAC) saw Smarte Carte, a trolley services provider, named Changi Airport Group’s ‘Service Partner of the Year’, in recognition of its commitment to excellent customer service and emphasis on productivity initiatives.  The annual event recognises individuals and partner organisations working at Changi Airport for going beyond their call of duty, and showing acts of kindness to passengers and visitors.

View Full Article