Niagara Falls is an awesome natural wonder that sits on the US-Canadian border, with renowned parks on both sides of the Niagara River. On the Ontario, Canada side, the park boasts the world’s largest collection of decommissioned hydroelectric power stations among its many scenic views. One of these former plants, recently opened as a new visitor attraction, the Niagara Parks Power Station now hosts an incredible sight-and-sound experience called Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed.
This one-of-a-kind multimedia experience allows visitors to step back in time and visualize the distant geologic history of the region, when the falls were first created at the end of the last ice age more than 12,000 years ago. The immersive and interactive audiovisual show then sweeps visitors along to the modern era where they can see how these plants transformed the raw power of the falls into electrical power that brought industrialization and growth to the area.
The award-winning presentation is the end-result of a project designed to repurpose the unused structure and create a unique new visitor experience in the park.
Ontario’s Niagara Parks Commission—the government agency tasked with overseeing the park—selected a 115 year-old, 61,000 sq. ft. hydroelectric plant to develop into a tourist venue at the heart of the park. As part of their plan, they came up with ideas to combine the building’s unique heritage with a public attraction that would draw visitors both day and night. They decided on an interactive multimedia show to tell the story of the falls and educate visitors about their critical importance in generating electricity.
The Parks Commission linked up with Thinkwell Studio Montréal, a design and production agency that creates immersive, content driven experiences. After touring the station’s cavernous space, Thinkwell’s design team realized they could create a nighttime experience that would completely surround visitors with vision and sound as they moved through the facility.
First, the designers had to figure out a way to integrate the various visual components with the building’s open architecture as well as the decommissioned power-generating equipment which still occupied sections of the plant’s floorspace. In addition, the hardware required—lighting, projectors, wiring, and all—would have to be unobtrusive, flexible, and reliable enough to allow for continuous operation without drawing attention or interfering with the experience. Above all else, the presentation equipment could not compromise the historical integrity of the heritage site.
Thinkwell designed a system that utilizes 23 video projectors to bring a 40-minute presentation to life with sharp images and crisp colors. When the time came to choose their equipment partners, they contacted Barco about projector technology. For this project, the Barco team proposed that the best fit for Thinkwell’s requirements was the brand-new G100 projector. In fact, Thinkwell would become the first worldwide client for this new product line.
The Barco Difference
The G100-series single-chip projector offers optimum performance, flexibility, and reliability, with higher brightness levels both indoors and outside. The projectors support HDMI 2.0 for richer colors and deeper blacks, providing impressive overall image quality that resists light bleeding.
The G100 is versatile enough to project from short or long distances, with a throw ratio from 0.38 up to 10.8. It can even project to a 360-degree orientation—perfect for Thinkwell’s needs. The projector features excellent onboard cooling that can withstand ambient operating temperatures of up to 50°C (122°F). The G100’s laser-phosphor light source and advanced cooling design also provides more than 20,000 hours of operation without a lamp change, which saves considerable maintenance costs.
Barco’s Projector Toolset software makes installing and managing the G100 projector easy with an intuitive user interface. The software’s blending and warping capabilities make the G100 ideal for multi-channel media-based attractions like planetariums, domes, theatres, projection mappings or, in this case, Thinkwell’s bold presentation.
After 18 months of design and installation, Thinkwell and the Niagara Parks Commission launched their epic, innovative show on September 3, 2021. The imaginative blending of the historic structure with the mind-blowing sights and sounds afforded by the new technology has drawn much acclaim, and the show recently won first place in the 2021 Blooloop Innovation Awards.