Full Production raises the game for Treetop Golf
UK – Full Production, the Berkshire-based specialist in the delivery of world-class entertainment technology solutions, has completed the audio-visual design and installation of the latest Treetop Golf destination. Sited at Metrocentre shopping centre in Gateshead, the new themed attraction includes over 400 luminaires and an immersive audio system with 140 loudspeakers.
The regular service supplier to Treetop since 2020, Full Production has lived up to its name with this, the fifth Treetop Golf site, carrying out the design and installation of the audio, lighting, show control and visual infrastructure. With successful attractions in Leicester, Cardiff and Manchester, Treetop’s management brought in Full Production for its next site, in Birmingham, where its critically acclaimed design and installation significantly raised production values. With this experience, Treetop’s management were fully convinced to enhance the new Metrocentre site even further. As well as requiring that the multi-faceted system be able to run standalone, without technical operators, for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week – it would also set a new bar for world-class visitor experiences, employing the very latest show technology.
The site has two themed 18-hole golf courses – ‘Tropical Trail’ and ‘Ancient Explorer’ – plus the Bonus 19th hole. Full Production’s Steve Richardson says, “When designing these sites, we have to keep in mind that, first and foremost, it has to function as a mini golf course. Because of this, when we lit the Birmingham site, we had adopted a ‘more but less’ approach – more lights but at a lower intensity – to ensure the playing surfaces were evenly lit, minimise shadowing, and be sure the players could actually see the ball! We brought that approach to Treetop Metrocentre too. This is the base of our design, which we use as a framework to then build the eye candy and wow-factor within the integrated elements.”
Consequently, the Metrocentre design features a lot of luminaires. Among them are 270 Jade Expo track-mounted fixtures from CLS, which include an internal soft diffusion filter. “The Jade fixtures are great,” says Richardson. “Each has a 42˚ beam-shaper to even out the beam and eliminate any hot spots, plus some deft barndoor action to remove spill on the kerbs and planting. Their DMX control is invaluable – many of the units are only running at 5 or 6% on the playing surfaces, but the output is consistent and even – and we can also utilise them for ball trigger effects.”
Also used, for the very first time, are 20 EclMini DAT Gallery fixtures from PROLIGHTS. Of these, Richardson says, “They are new to us on this site but are phenomenal. When we were designing Birmingham, I struggled to find a small profile fixture, with shutters and onboard DMX dimmer, which could hang from a lighting track – this product ticks all of those boxes, and the light output is insane! In the future, we’ll be using these a lot more for gobo and texture work.”
The lighting design also features more than 50 lighting fixtures from Chauvet – including Accent 3, Ovation E910 FC and ColorDash Batten Quad 12 models – plus Elation SixBar 500s, UV Battens from ADJ and several dozen RGBW LED downlighters and uplighters.
There are 40 ball-sensors triggering special ‘moments’ for the players on 18 interactive holes across the Metrocentre site. It sounds straightforward, but show control is complicated, as Richardson explains. “Most holes have ‘Win’ and ‘Lose’ routes, but each can have multiple outcomes. The Bonus 19th hole, for example, has one win and four losing routes. The ‘Win’ route has five outcomes and the ‘Lose’ routes have 10. As the ball triggers the sensor, our Pharos LPC2 controllers fire a host of commands across the network – playback for lighting, pixel-tape, audio automation and video which are synced together.”
Video content, including graphics, effects and results is displayed on a number of screens which are fully integrated within the various elaborate set-pieces throughout the site. Digital content is stored on and played back from 13 BrightSign HD1024 units.
However, it is with audio that Treetop has taken the biggest step forward at Metrocentre. Here, guided by Full Production’s vast knowledge and support, they wanted to ensure the visitor experience was enhanced as much by the possibilities of audio technology as by the lighting and visual elements. To help its client meet this need, Full Production drew on the skills of its regular go-to audio solutions architect and experienced sound system designer, Dan Roncoroni of Raven AV.
Initially, Roncoroni made some improvements to the audio system at the Birmingham site, and some strong recommendations for the future, which led to Treetop agreeing to make a significant new investment in audio. “I stressed the importance of investing not just in audio hardware, but in content,” he says. “Sound designer Dave Shepard has put together a team of composer, voice actors and a script writer to create all-new content for quite a lot of the holes in Metrocentre. Dave understands what I wanted to do, so he’s designed it for spatial audio.”
Audio enhances the visitor experience. Spatialized sound effects are triggered on the majority of holes throughout the site. For several holes of the Tropical Trail, in an area called the Mystic Wood – seen as the ‘highlight’ of the route – these sound effects are enabled by a TiMax SoundHub-S32 with Dante networked I/O, with its hybrid delay/level spatialisation system. Elsewhere, Roncoroni uses the level-based spatialisation capabilities of Innovate Audio’s panLab software. He explains, “Some content needs to be very accurately localised, for example birdsong moving from the low-level shrubbery up to the centrepiece tree, and TiMax does a great job at that. For the rest of the site, where we just need a more general, atmospheric positioning of sound, the power of TiMax wasn’t needed and panLab was the ideal option. Both systems are invaluable in these situations as time-saving programming aids. To do this manually, setting the delay times in each loudspeaker, would have taken forever!”
Playback, through either TiMax or panLab, is controlled via QLab software, from two Mac Minis, one serving each 18-hole course. Scripts within QLab randomise sound effect playback (saving staff from irritating repetition) while lockouts ensure that ‘win’ or ‘lose’ moments are uninterrupted. “It’s relatively complex,” says Roncoroni. “There are just over 1,000 cues between the two Mac Minis – so we’re doing quite a lot there on the audio front.”
He adds, “The idea is that, when you shut your eyes, you are in the middle of a jungle – it’s more immersive. The loudspeakers disappear and you just hear the content. You don’t hear where it’s coming from.”
To deliver those realistic, spatialised sounds – including birdsong and screeching monkeys – 140 loudspeakers are secreted around the set. These include over 100 cabinets from UK manufacturer EM Acoustics, with the remainder a height layer formed of pendant loudspeakers from QSC Pro Audio. Power is provided by 16 of the new Unica amplifiers from Powersoft, which also gives the advantage of a suite of monitoring and alarm tools – an extra layer of assurance in such a situation. Great care has also been taken to maximise intelligibility – quite a challenge in a busy, noisy environment receiving hundreds of visitors, of various ages, every day.
One especially interesting element is also from Powersoft – a tactile transducer called the Mover. This is a small (9cm x 9cm), robust unit with a moving magnet and platform which can impart an earth-shaking rumble to a floor or wall. In the Ancient Explorer’s temple-themed environment (think ‘Indiana Jones’ rather than ‘quiet prayer’) an obelisk falls over, accompanied by a terrifying ground-shake from the Mover.
For Roncoroni, without space to hang a large subwoofer to achieve a similar effect – and with noise issues to be wary of – the Mover is a fine alternative. “This was something entirely new for Treetop,” says Roncoroni, “but everyone loves it. It’s been really successful.”
Full Production is now responsible for the ongoing service and maintenance at all five Treetop sites which, between them, see more than 14,000,000 triggers in the course of a year. Richardson concludes, “We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved for Treetop, and of course we’re hugely grateful for the trust they’ve put in us, to deliver such a wonderful environment. We look forward to the next challenge.”
68 x EM Acoustics EMS-41
13 x EM Acoustics EMS-51X
5 x EM Acoustics EMS-61
4 x EM Acoustics EMS-81X
14 x EM Acoustics S-48
24 x QSC AD-P4TB pendant loudspeakers
1 x TiMax SoundHub-S32
8 x Powersoft Unica 2000W/8-channel amplifiers
8 x Powersoft Unica 4000W/8-channel amplifiers
270 x CLS Jade Expo
20 x PROLIGHTS EclMini DAT
30 x Elation SixBar 500
34 x CHAUVET Professional COLORdash Accent 3,
11 x CHAUVET Professional Ovation E-910FC
6 x CHAUVET Professional COLORdash Batten-Quad 12
22 x ADJ UV Battens
3 x Pharos LPC2
2 x Netgear M4250-26G4F-PoE++ Switch
1 x Netgear M4250-10G2XF-PoE++ Switch
1 x Pharos TPS (touch panel station)
7 x Pharos RIO 80
12 x Artistic Licence Railsplit RDM
3 x Artistic Licence RailSwitch
1 x Dell NUC control PC
1 x 4-way KVM
1 x KVM console drawer
1 x Enttec S-play
4 x Enttec Octo
40 x ball sensors
13 x Brightsign HD1024