Ross Monroe
Student and Creative Technologist
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West World Comic Con

 

Project:

West World Comic Con

Client:

HBO

Agency:

Digital Kitchen

Location(s):

New York, NY

Role(s):

Hardware Development

Hardware Installation

Collaborator:

Ben Chaykin

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Overview:

During Comic Con 2017, HBO wanted to create a new type of activation that brought the experience of West World into real life. 

Guest would sign up then be directed to a hidden location that was transformed using real props from the show and guided through an experience full of hosts, delos employees, and the Mariposa Saloon complete with a player piano softly filling the room with songs from the show.

We were brought on by Digital Kitchen to build the two player pianos needed for this experience.

Development:

With both the player pianos already sourced by Digital Kitchen, we had to sand, paint, then convert the pianos to accept midi input from a computer.

The conversion consisted of replacing the old lead and brass tubing with rubber, adding an electronic blower, and connecting the tubing to a digital roll that utilized solenoid valves that would open when midi notes were received from the mac mini hidden below that would actuate the keys.

The physical roll that sat in the center of the piano was converted to be a never ending roll to appear as if it was still being utilized to play the notes with the added blood splatter as an accent carried over from the final episode of the first season.

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For the piano utilized at the guest sign up, a acrylic sheet was added to the upper portion of the piano and a raised platform with a back wall was designed to hold the piano along with a flat screen tv that showed an ip address where guests could login and place song requests.

Execution:

In San Diego we coordinated with the piano movers and contractors to get the pianos placed. We then worked on searching for any air leaks, fixing cosmetic damage, and buttoning up the pianos to get them show ready.

The piano in at the sign up location had a tv we installed connected to a mac mini that controlled the pianos playlist. Users could view the tv and figure out how to connect and queue up the next track. In the Mariposa Saloon, the piano was on a randomized playlist but staff had an iPad that could control the playlist as well as stop and start the music whenever necessary.

We were on call for the four days during the experience if any issues arose. Thankfully only two minor problems occurred that were easily fixed in between viewing groups making this project an incredible success.

Results:

The experience was lauded by major publications around the country as one of the most immersive they have ever attended at Comic Con. One of the shows main producers like one of pianos so much is was shipped to the set of West World making me now wait to see if it ever appears in one of the episodes.