How We Did That


This year, another layer was added to Epcot's annual Fourth of July Grand Celebration at Walt Disney World. As our guests exited the park, after witnessing a truly spectacular fireworks display, we offered them a warm and patriotic “Kiss Goodnight” moment by projecting different Americana images onto the exterior of our signature attraction, Spaceship Earth.

To project onto an entire hemisphere measuring 165' in diameter, we used two of the newly redesigned Pani BP 12 Platinum High Performance HMI (12,000W) projectors. This project was the first time these higher output 12K Pani projectors have been used in the USA. The projectors were set onto a rooftop at the base of Spaceship Earth by a 55-ton, 110' crane. A temporary enclosure was constructed to house the projectors, complete with three two-ton air conditioning units to keep the projectors cool through several humid Florida nights.

The image you see covering Spaceship Earth is from only one projector, thrown approximately 256' to the sphere's “equator.” The projectors incorporated 24×24cm slides made from 609dpi resolution photos. Each projector was equipped with a 12-slide carousel changer, giving us a total of 24 images. While patriotic music played in the background, we used an ETC Express 250 console to cross-fade back and forth between projectors for about an hour before landing on an image of the American flag until the park was clear of guests.

The images had to be adjusted not only for keystoning, but also to compensate for the round shape of the projection surface. A photograph was made through a 27cm objective lens, which established the positioning of longitude and latitude to correct for the distortion of the 12° projection angle. This information was imported into Adobe® Photoshop® files and used to create a plug-in to wrap the images around the virtual sphere. This resulted in projections that seemed to wrap around the sphere but still looked like they were on a flat surface.

Obviously, the triangular facets of the geodesic sphere complicated things. Reflected light was greater from some facets than others, causing a slight break-up of the images, but overall, the visuals were very impressive.

Jim Mulder, creative director for Pani, served as our projection designer.

Bill Ferrara is lighting design director for Walt Disney Entertainment.