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. disguise 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 disguise 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 disguise 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, fine-tune, rehearse and make sure the whole thing was perfect including lighting and sound, it was pretty challenging. With the disguise QuickCal tools though I had about 80% calibrated in two hours. The next three I spent on detail."
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 disguise 4×2pros 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!”