Projection-Mapping Drives Storytelling Inside Cavernous Niagara Falls Power Plant

September 14, 2021 by Dave Haynes

Anyone who has been to see Niagara Falls will know how powerful the Niagara River is as its waters spill over the escarpment and run out to Lake Ontario, but a percentage of that water is diverted above the falls into pipes that lead to giant turbines in downstream power generating stations.

That’s been done for a century and the story of the engineering and impacts is now being told in a multimedia, projection-mapping visitor experience show at one of the stations on the Ontario, Canada side of the falls (New York state is on the other side of the water).

The Montreal office of LA-based Thinkwell Group was engaged by the Niagara Parks Commissioned to come up with a mutlimedia program that tells the story, and while the original idea was more of a sit, watch and learn experience, Thinkwell advocated for something that would be much more immersive.

From the project description:

Thinkwell saw even more promise in the beautiful, cathedral-like hall of the power plant. After touring the station, the team envisioned a fully interactive and immersive experience—one that the audience wouldn’t just watch, they would experience all around them.

Thinkwell designed, constructed, and implemented technology solutions that combine sound, lighting, interactive elements, animation, and 3D projection mapping within the facility to tell the story of and celebrate the Niagara Park Power Station’s rich history and architectural features. 

Spanning a 600-foot-long, 115-year-old industrial building, Thinkwell created over 40 minutes of projection-mapped content and lighting design for the nighttime show that brings the power station to life through repurposing artifacts of the building, while offering a first-hand view of how the hydropower giant generates electricity. 

These big projection-mapped venues are getting quite common in big cities, but they tend to feature periodic or touring experiences (like oversized Van Goghs), but this is an interesting example of a permanent exhibit that uses its giant space to put the visual experience in direct context. Many museums and visitor centers herd people into cinemas to watch a video about the site, so i really like the idea of making the overall site the viewing canvas.

Very nice! I haven’t heard that much from Thinkwell, but it was one of the projection-mapping creative shops involved with the Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando.

There is a video up on Vimeo that shows highlights of the experience. Unfortunately the settings don’t allow me to embed it, so click here …

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