Seeing the Elephant         

Kensoha Public Museum | Kenosha, WI

It is a profoundly powerful experience to be immersed in the middle of a Civil War battlefield, where brother against brother combat rips at the union of our nation. Within Kenosha’s award-winning theater presentation, "Seeing the Elephant," eight robust projectors cast a seamless 360-degree film that completely surrounds the audience. BPI’s attention to historical accuracy in this unflinching story places you in the heart of a war torn community and immerses you with a range of emotions and sensations. With subwoofer vibration in the floor and the scent of gunpowder from air cannons, all of the audience’s senses are stimulated during this intense presentation.

The title of the film refers to the beginning of the Civil War, as young soldiers await firefight or, “seeing the elephant.” Throughout the film, soldiers’ dialogue from letters and diaries tell stories of leaving home, enduring training camps, facing battle, and ultimately dealing with the consequences of war—for them and their families. When the “elephant” appears, visitors are thrown into battle and surrounded by gunfire, as they are immersed into the story.

 

Prototyping at Half Scale

In order to show the experience in the round, BPI used a 360-degree camera rig, and then programmed using Dataton’s Watchout to seamlessly thread the moving images around the twelve-foot circular screen. Eight HD projectors hang above as thirteen channels of audio surround the visitors. Special visual and sound effects augment the projected film. Visitors can feel the cool blast of air from an air cannon hung above as subwoofers rumble and shake the ground below.

Storylines Pulled from History

The title of the film refers to the beginning of the Civil War, as young soldiers await firefight or, “seeing the elephant.” Throughout the film, soldiers’ dialogue from letters and diaries tell stories of leaving home, enduring training camps, facing battle, and ultimately dealing with the consequences of war—for them and their families. When the “elephant” appears, visitors are thrown into battle and surrounded by gunfire, as they are immersed into the story.

After the filming, the work really began for BPI. Editing, scoring, effects, lighting, computer control systems, rumbling floor and air cannon all had to work together—seamlessly. This 360-degree experience is complex and rarely done. During the editing process, BPI listened and attended to every detail of our comments. When I saw the ½ scale mocked-up theater in their facility, it brought tears to my eyes, even though it was only 60% edited…this is historical storytelling at its best.

Dan Joyce, Director “Seeing the Elephant,” Kenosha Public Museums