Sometimes, the best way to see how cool a Pro AV installation looks is through the eyes of a child. Sure, we can interview integrators and site managers and find out what’s behind the scenes, but if you want a straight-up honest answer on how it all came together, just ask a 7-year-old.
Last year, I took my daughter to Waking Wonderland at Illuminarium Atlanta and earlier this year, they were treated to pizza served by robots at her friend’s birthday party. She and her friends are becoming quite the Pro AV experts, so I recently took her and her two besties to Monet: The Immersive Experience—Atlanta.
For the Love of Monet
The exhibit is housed at the Exhibition Hub Atlanta Art Center. It is a massive building that can host two immersive adventures at once (the other currently is a journey through the world of Legos called Art of the Brick). The Monet exhibit is a slow burn, but the payoff at the end is well worth it.
The first two rooms are static pictures and timelines giving you a background on impressionist painter Claude Monet and how he became the iconic artist he now is. The recreation of his famed living-room studio in Giverny, France, looks like the real thing with replicas of his many paintings—which is every bit immersive as immersive can get—but there is no Pro AV in action, so it is time to move on.
Jump Into a Painting
Next up is Monet’s Japanese Footbridge painting. You literally feel like you walk right into the painting, with bright flowers hanging from the ceiling and what appears to be the exact same bridge Monet painted more than a century ago. This is where the girls experienced the first Pro AV marvel of the exhibit: The pond on the floor was brought to life with fish and lily pads floating by, projected down from the ceiling, making “walking on the water” a child-approved favorite part of our trip. It is pretty realistic, so much so that they were afraid to step on it at first, thinking they may get a little wet.
All of this was just an appetizer to the centerpiece of the exhibit.
There are 15,000 square-feet of screens that reach two stories high in the main hall. Projected upon them are a slew of Monet’s most famous works, while flower petals or snow seemingly falls from the sky onto the ground below. You travel Europe through the eyes and art of Monet, and it is all done in a voyage through the seasons. You can relax in one of the many beanbag chairs or beach chairs to take in the surroundings as you are engulfed in a complete 360-degree, stunningly immersive experience.
There is soothing and pleasant music playing, with crystal-clear, full coverage whichever side of the exhibit you choose to sit. And I kid you not, as the season’s changed from spring to summer to winter, you could almost feel the change in temperature (perhaps it was the snowflakes coming down from the ceiling).
“I almost fell asleep in there,” our friend’s mom said. “It was so relaxing. The way that it was also projected on the floor and not just the walls was very atmospheric. I liked exploring the art through seasons.”
Perhaps the most fun part is that the classic paintings come to life before your eyes. These aren’t merely Monet’s iconic images blasted onto massive walls by projectors, but the windmills circle in the wind, trains pull into a Paris station, butterflies fly about, and trees sway in the breeze. The artist behind the installation makes beloved paintings jump off the screens and immerse every guest in this richly multi-sensory immersive experience.
Virtual Insanity We’re Living In
The final portion of the experience is in the VIP VR lounge. You put on the headset and are transported to outer space, sitting in the middle of the stars with a door ahead of you. The door leads to Monet’s Giverny studio, and you begin the same journey you just did on foot in a virtual universe. The detail is so realistic; when you are on the water you feel like you are floating, and when you walk through the train station, you have to watch where you are going and not walk into anything. Every person is moving, every bird is flying, every branch is blowing in the wind. If you lean forward to peek around a corner or behind a door, there is something interesting to discover. Literally no stone is left uncovered.
“It felt really real and interactive,” my daughter’s older friend said. “I liked wearing the headset. It was too heavy, but I think it’s because it was more for grownups.”
My daughter’s classmate took it a little further. A bit more daring than us, she walked around with the headset. “It felt like you were really in there when you stood and walked around.”
When asked whether the trio would go back it was an immediate and resounding “YES!” So, stay tuned, Pro AV faithful, we’ll be back with more insight from elementary schools on the next exhibit real soon.