Since opening on July 25th, 2018, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi has received critical acclaim around the globe for its attention to detail, fun attractions and highly themed environments, and recently received a TEA Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement. In 2019, it was certified by Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Indoor Theme Park. The Park boasts 29 shows and attractions in 1.65 million square feet of indoor space. Government developer Miral invested $1 billion in the project, which Farah Experiences operates, along with the nearby Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi is divided into six themed areas: Metropolis, Gotham City, Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch, Cartoon Junction and Warner Bros. Plaza. Key attractions include:
The park, largely designed by Thinkwell Group, has a major focus on details, and the cast of well-known characters brings a wide variety of fan-favorite IPs to the table. In addition, the Park also has one of the most impressive technological backbones of any theme park in the world, nearly all of it invisible to guests.
The AV, projection, media, lighting and special effects create seamless immersive environments throughout the park. Perhaps most obvious on the rides and attractions, they also are apparent in the park’s many stores and restaurants. And supporting nearly all of them is the centralized management platform called ISAAC from Smart Monkeys.
ISAAC is an acronym for Integrated Scheduler and Automation Controller. “ISAAC is a fully integrated AV/IT platform, which includes centralized scheduling along with the capability of both system-wide log and user management,” said Stephan Villet, Owner, Smart Monkeys. AV and tech systems that rely on networked PCs are familiar in themed entertainment projects – ISAAC builds on this approach without the actual PC hardware. The PCs exist virtually, in an on-premises cloud-based model
“virtualization cluster,” on a robust, industrial hardware platform. According to Villet, this replicates the advantages of networked PCs without reliability risks.
ISAAC’s debut was at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX in 2014. In the terminal, ISAAC manages more than four hours of original, high-resolution, multimedia content in seven display areas, synchronizing multiple features based on intelligence from live data, including flight departure and arrival information, and passenger interactions.
The deployment of ISAAC at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi marks the platform’s largest installation to date. “We had spoken to Thinkwell about ISAAC and knew they were working on a project, but we didn’t know the details,” explains Villet. “Once we got the contract we realized the potential to have ISAAC throughout the park.”
Smart Monkeys was subcontracted to Electrosonic, who had been contracted for the Park’s AV network and control package. Smart Monkeys was tasked with show control programming for everything in the Park, except for specific show programming, which was handled by a team of programmers from a variety of organizations, including Electrosonic.
Within Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, there are 14 ISAAC clusters, although Villet says a single cluster would also work. One cluster controls each of the 13 most high-tech attractions and shows, while the last, largest cluster provides park-wide control for the remainder of the Park. Even though there are separate clusters, the ISAAC equipment operates as one central unit.
Villet says the physical layout is a nod to the past, where every attraction would have its own separate equipment room. Warner Bros. World has equipment rooms for each attraction, but since ISAAC lives virtually, one can access the controls for that attraction anywhere in the Park.
The Park’s attractions are all run off of the Medialon show control product. In a traditional installation, Medialon software is installed on a local PC that controls the show or ride. Since Medialon is platform-agnostic, it easily sits on the ISAAC virtual topology. The only change Medialon made was to the licensing system, which previously relied on USB dongles.
“This park-wide installation of ISAAC and Medialon just shows how virtual deployment of show control systems has taken root and is now taking off,” said Eric Cantrell, VP of Business Operations, Medialon Ltd, part of the 7thSense Design family.
ISAAC provides a host of advantages to the Park’s staff. First, the Park can leverage the virtual machine approach for reliability. The clusters are composed of at least two combined servers running in a mode called fault tolerance. If one server fails, there is no impact and no downtime, as the other servers take over operations. It’s a similar approach to major data centers and the switchover happens in milliseconds.
Another major benefit is the web application suite that gives users a portal view with any web browser application. Staff can have access to all attraction logs, scheduling, even accessing the Medialon show control and attraction operations panels. Furthermore, all of it is tracked so management knows who is on the system and where they are.
From a programming perspective, it’s also ideal. When programmers came in to do the specific show programming for each attraction, they did not have to learn ISAAC, they programmed directly into the Medialon show control software, just like they would on a standard PC. Additionally, if fixes or changes are needed down the road, programming can be done without having to physically go into the attraction.
For maintenance staff, there is a park-wide screen showing the entire status of the Park. If there is an issue at an attraction, an alert will directly pop up on the local panel attraction and the maintenance’s park-wide screen. There is no need for the ride operator to call maintenance, as they are directly notified.
Automatic alerts can also be created for standard maintenance activities. When a projector lamp is due to be replaced, an email is sent to the proper individual. Alerts can be configured through a simple web interface by staff and do not require special programming knowledge.
Finally, the client starts to save a lot of money on space, power requirements and capital, because what used to require rooms full of machines now is handled on several small servers.
Villet is pleased with the real-world performance of ISAAC at Warner Bros. World. “We had a great synergy with Electrosonic and Medialon and could not have asked for better partners,” says Villet. The system is also capable of easily handling any expansions the Park would like, although no specific announcements have been made.
“This is truly the first time a whole theme park has been designed and built around control systems that run entirely in a virtual environment,” said Cantrell. “The Medialon team was proud to partner with Smart Monkeys and Electrosonic to help create the most technologically advanced theme park possible.”
The Park has continued to attract guests, and the developer Miral already has plans for additional developments nearby. Villet hopes ISAAC will be a part of the growth: “With the success of Warner Bros. World, and additional interest we have seen from other parks, I’m certain ISAAC will help usher in a new IT-driven era of themed entertainment technology control systems.”
Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Claudia and Nelson Peltz Social Lab at the Museum of Tolerance
Los Angeles, CA