Draw & Code were enlisted by National Museums Liverpool to create an immersive experience for the China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors Immersive exhibition. Projected AR, hand-drawn animation and VR visualisation were all utilised as we played our part in this successful cultural event.
Draw & Code were tasked with bringing the world of the Terracotta Warriors to life using a suite of the latest immersive technology including a bespoke projected augmented reality set-up. Working closely with our technical partners Adlib, the project was to combine projections with audio, olfactory and practical effects such as false-perspective spaces, it created a wonderful environment that showed the Warriors in the context of the world they inhabited.
The challenge was to expand upon the tale told by the 180 artefacts on display at what promises to be a cultural highlight for the UK during 2018. The visitor journey should leave no stone unturned and transport them from modern China back to its origins as a nation – this is as ambitious an exhibition as it gets in terms of scope and execution.
The first step was for the creative team to research the story of the Emperor and the Warriors. Storyboards of four separate main animations were created by hand before the animation moved onto the computer.
Meanwhile the technicians from Adlib and the exhibition designers at the World Museum assisted us in creating a 3D environment to explore how the space would work. This was then realised in virtual reality using Unity 3D and the HTC Vive headset to create real-time interactive visualisations of the space that allowed the executive team from National Museums Liverpool to experience the exhibition long before it opened.
By this point the creative team were moving beyond the storyboard stage and the animations were starting to come to life. Never-before-seen archive footage mingled with 3D animation and hand-drawn characters to create a rich tapestry of imagery.
No stone was left unturned when creating the visual-language of the animations – the discovery of ink was one of the hallmarks of China’s ‘Warring States’ era so it featured heavily in the aesthetic of the exhibition. We even experimented with water and ink animations – it gets no more analogue than that!
The most innovative aspect of the immersive content had to be the re-creation of the Emporer’s tomb itself using projected AR. The tomb has never been excavated so it is usually missing from exhibitions of the Warriors. Using practical effects such as a false-perspective set, wooden models and a projection scrim allows visitors to experience this beautiful and fascinating space that is so crucial to the Warriors’ story. Adlib really came to the fore here, finding ways to incorporate projectors and smoke machines into spaces that they really shouldn’t have been able to work in.
China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors Immersive exhibition has currently sold over 150,000 tickets and has thrilled all those who have attended. Featured on national TV and broadsheet newspapers, it is living up to its ambition to bring something unique to the Terracotta Warriors as they continue to tour the world.