KLM, which calls massive European airhub Schiphol its home, was celebrating its 95th anniversary with two open days for its 34,000 employees plus their family members on 4 and 5 October. Combining an informative walk-through jet engine engineering and demonstrations of smaller aircrafts and vehicles first, visitors were ultimately led through to a hangar for the ‘KLM Experience’. This 15-minute projection show formed the highlight of activities, featuring a KLM MD-11 passenger plane as the projection surface together with a large part of the hangar back wall.
The idea to project on a plane for the open days originally came from Johan Zandstra (Manager Corporate Procurement) of KLM and Gerard Maijenburg (Technical Director), who contacted the Unit Showcontrol. This was music to the ears of The Unit’s Creative Director Daan Oomen and Managing Director Jeffrey Goes, who had already worked on mulitple 3D car and set mapping projects before and thought it’d be a good challenge to project on a plane next.
To help push sign off for the project forwards, The Unit created a quick d3 project using a
3D airplane model they found online and some test content, enabling them to show what the experience might look like through d3’s 3D stage simulator. Seeing this together with some earlier succesfully delivered mapping projects, KLM’s executive team became enthused and gave the project the green light, kicking off a strong collaboration between The Unit Showcontrol and KLM’s marketing department, with The Unit Showcontrol in charge of the creative and technical delivery of the experience.
In total, The Unit had three months from start to finish. Due to the complexity of the story – KLM have many departments that needed to be represented in an exciting way without losing sight of the corporate message – a month was spent on storyboarding and developing the creative looks of the content, settling on using a fictional protagonist to go through the motions from flight booking to experiencing the airport and using KLM’s social media.
With the projection surface’s resolution being 4608×1024 pixels and the top of the plane being blue, The Unit’s content designer Flip Buttinger, also had a challenging task cut out for him. “Production time was short, and we were working with a large surface. d3 helped me to visualise how the content would be perceived by the audience. This was especially helpful when placing titles and other elements that were critical to deliver the message of the show.”
Next to content challenges, there were some particularly tricky parts of delivering the project due to the operational nature of KLM equipment involved. Says Oomen: “All planes are used as efficiently as possible, so we knew we had to wait a while for the final decision if we would get a Boeing 777 or an MD-11. To spread the risk we worked with two parallel d3
projects, building up the story and creating content for the 3D models of both planes. Only two weeks before the show did we get the final call that it was going to be an MD-11.” Knowing this, The Unit fully focused on finalising the project before going on site.
Going on site, The Unit immediately faced their next challenge: as the operational protocol of an airline has to be prioritised over events as these, the team only got their plane less than 24 hours before it was show time. Dave van Roon, The Unit’s d3 specialist, says: “The first visitors were due to walk in and enjoy the experience at 10am on Saturday. We had been on site since the Thursday, but we only got our MD-11 on Friday at 3pm! With 25 projectors and only 16 hours to calibrate, finetune, rehearse and make sure the whole thing was perfect including lighting and sound, it was pretty challenging. With d3’s QuickCal tools though I had about 80% calibrated in two hours. The next three I spent on detail. d3 was definitely the system for the job – I needed all the speed and power and no other system could have handled it – creatively or technically.”
The show, which was built around MIDI TimeCode and presented to a new group of people every half hour for two days in a row, also had a big role for audio. The d3 4x2pros used also proved useful in this aspect: with their capability to send out multi-channel audio up to 8 layers, the sound engineer was able to work the six-tracked audio to perfection, not knowing beforehand how sound would travel through a hangar packed with people.
Reflecting on the project, Oomen says: “It was tough, but absolutely worth it. To have a major airline take a journey with you like this, without them ever having seen anything like it before? That is just fantastic. They really believed in the power of the experience from the start, and we are chuffed we were there to to deliver it. On to the 100th anniversary!”
1x d3 4x2pro (master)
4x d3 4x2pro (slaves)
22x Barco HDF-W26
3x Barco HDQ-2K40
2x Rosendahl Nano Sync
2x Lightware 8×8 HDCP matrix pro