by Michael J. Shapiro | November 01, 2013

Grabbing attendee attention is a greater challenge than ever before -- just consider how many people walk around with their concentration focused squarely on their phones. To truly engage a crowd, it sometimes seems one must force them into a dark space where they have no choice but to pay attention.

A number of production companies are doing just that via geodesic domes or other types of immersive structures. They're being built for indoor or outdoor events, for everything from trade shows to product road shows. The idea is to use cutting-edge projection techniques and surround sound to impress and truly immerse attendees. Similar tactics can turn even a typical ballroom into a more engaging place.

• Indoor or out. San Francisco-based advertising and production agency Corso Communications has been building geodesic domes for clients; Los Angeles-based production studio V Squared Labs partners with Corso to create and operate the multimedia experience within. "The beauty of the domes is we can create pretty much any type of custom experience with visuals, sound, light, etc., to meet the clients' expectations," says founder and CEO David Corso. They can be made for indoor use or skinned with material suitable for any environment -- including rain, snow, heat, cold -- with a controlled temperature on the inside.

Inside the domes, 360-degree, seamless high-definition video is projected on the surfaces. In some cases -- as with the Heineken Dome, above, which travels to various music festivals -- live deejays and veejays collaborate to create a coordinated show of pulsing music and striking visuals.

  • heineken1
    The Heineken Dome, the result of a collaboration between Corso Communications and V Squared Labs, offers a respite from the main performances at outdoor festivals.
  • heineken2
    Inside the Heineken Dome, deejays and veejays create a fully immersive experience of 360-degree high-definition video with a coordinated soundtrack.
  • heineken3
    The dome sometimes acts as a "chill lounge," offering air-conditioning, refreshments and a laid-back vibe.
  • immersive1
    AV Concepts built the Innovation Expo, an immersive environment for an information-technology client’s traveling road show.
  • immersive2
    Holographic hosts welcomed attendees into the Innovation Expo, which offered a 45-foot timeline of company history and identity.
  • cema
    AV Concepts designed a room-length projection screen for the Corporate Event Marketing Association’s annual summit, complete with 3-D graphics and animation.
  • dragon
    For a technology client’s VIP events, AV Concepts created a 3-D animated dragon that morphed into the company’s product. Attendees were lining up to see the buzzed-about production.

• High-tech touches. Other technology flourishes can include a Wi-Fi signal that is broadcast and made available only to guests inside the dome, as well as an array of creative apps. Event2Pix, for instance, is an experiential photo app created by Corso and V Squared, with which event employees take photos of guests that can then be instantly printed, projected onto the ceiling and/or sent to the guests electronically. Using another app, Painting With Light, attendees can use iPads to create light patterns on the dome ceiling.

Space transformation: CEMA attendees were
wowed by 3-D visuals and immersive projection
onto a room-length screen designed by AV Concepts.
 • Holographic hosts. Similarly immersive experiences can be created within more open structures, such as those designed by AV Concepts, a Tempe, Ariz.-based technology solutions provider. Recently, for one client's traveling road show, the company built a high-tech roofless structure. As attendees entered, they were greeted by holographic virtual presenters along the way. Inside, 10 video projectors, 360-degree projection and a 7.1 surround-sound system delivered an educational tour of the brand's history, identity and new products through a variety of presentations. An interactive projection sphere, which reacted and responded to touch, mesmerized attendees in the center of the space.

Step inside: Holographic hosts
welcomed attendees into the
immersive Innovation Expo.
 • Ballrooms transformed. The video streaming and projection technology AV Concepts uses -- which the company has dubbed Liquid Scenic technology -- also can be used to transform keynotes or banquets, lending an immersive quality to a large room.

At the Corporate Event Marketing Association's annual summit, AV Concepts created a custom projection surface that spanned the length of a huge ballroom. Animated speaker introductions, plus opening and closing animations that complemented speaker presentations, included 3-D visuals and immersive projection. The resulting impression was that the visuals weren't merely shown on a flat screen, but rather enveloped the whole room.