secret cinema

When Secret Cinema recreated Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budepest Hotel inside a disused warehouse, we took care of the outside. Working with projection designer Nina Dunn, we re-created the hotel frontage from the film and projected it over the warehouse.

To bring it to life we added live action of characters in the windows, a snow storm, ZZ banners blowing in the wind and lights turning on and off in various rooms.

This frontage served as an introduction to the amazing rich world Secret Cinema had created inside the building.



To help create the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit with Future Cinema a lot of of fun and quite tricky effects were needed. The plan was to transform East London’s Troxy theatre into the film’s Ink and Paint club, complete with toon staff, toon hunting weasels and a whole night of overly animated cabaret acts before Jessica Rabbit’s big number after her treatment done by Galumbeck plastic surgery.


We created a completely puppet-able Bongo the Gorilla animation (developed by Jamie Ingram) that was controlled by an actor hidden from view that welcomed people to the club. The actor interacted with the crowd via a hidden camera, a microphone controlling Bongo’s mouth and keyboard controls to gave him 3 different emotions.


Once inside the venue we helped create 2 key animations that interacted with performances on a huge invisible mesh projection screen stretched across the stage; a toon piano that squashed poor old Teddy Valiant in a massive explosion and a 40ft tall silhouette of Jessica Rabbis’s dramatic entrance onto the stage. For Jessica we worked with Framestore and video projection designer Nina Dunn to create the animation, and then Future Cinema’s production team synced up the invisible mesh screen to disappear for the live actress to take over the performance.

Bustin’ makes everyone feel good it seems, as the crowd at Future Cinema’s Ghostbusters where one of the most excited yet.
Our role this time was everything digital. This began with websites for the New York Evening Post, The Columbia University Institute of Paranormal Activity, The Ghostbusters’ own website (designed and built by Doctor Spengler of course) and a high fashion magazine promoting this year’s (1984) New York Fashion Week being hosted in the prestigious (and newly renovated since it’s alleged ghost infestation) Sedgewich Hotel.
Once people got the show, during the fashion gala Walter ‘Dickless’ Peck shuts down the power grid to the nearby Ghostbusters containment unit and many spooky things start going bump during the night.
As the film started to roll, scenes leapt off of the screen and into the building, more so than Future Cinema has ever attempted before. We helped concept some of these performances and created 5 projection mapped animated sequences that interacted with performers. Our major effect was the proton streams coming from the performers’ blasters to catch smiler. Our first crude test was conducted in our garage, nobody died, except Slimer, who technically was already dead:

To do this we recreated the plasma stream effect in After Effects and created a completely animated Slimer model in Cinema 4D. For the other effects (seen the video at the top of this post) we created a series of ghostly attritions, a full lighting storm, realistic dripping slime and a hotdog (with mustard and ketchup).
For the night we got to go along and experience the show with some mates we decided to we’d never get a better excuse to make some Ghostbuster costumes. So we did – and this is our journey home:


For Future Cinema’s production of Saturday Night Fever, we created the website for the 2001 Odyssey club, the hippest disco joint in town. Working with Stephen Emslie and James Tiplady (a really jolly good new member of the team), we designed a system that allowed people to book their entrance time to the venue, as well as set them up with a character to play as for the night.
Each character was a member of one of 5 New York gangs from the ’70s, and they were given a briefing on how to behave for their gang as well as how to dress. They were also given a unique New York ID card to print out and bring with them which got them into the club and helped them meet up with fellow gang members.


Since before we started working with Secret Cinema, we’d always come out of one of their shows after a great night and say “when are they going to man up and do Brazil?”. They manned up.



We were involved very early on this one (as usual collaborating with mega developer Stephen Emslie), we helped concept and create the pre-narative experience audience members take part in during the month leading up to the show. How they interacted with the system directly influenced their final show experience.


The moment any audience member bought a ticket, they became employees of G.O.O.D., a fictional company that mimics the bureaucratic and brutal themes of the film (remember we can’t blow the cover of what the film actually is yet). Employees are given access to the company intranet after filling a deliberately lengthy appraisal form. Here they can keep abreast of all company developments, as well as access a G.O.O.D. subsidiary division called D.R.E.A.M.S, a research company that all employees have to record their dreams with.








Employees are also tasked to form connections with their colleagues by collecting Social Identification Numbers from each other using the commenting system to increase their rank in the company.




A few days before the show, each employee is informed they have been transferred to a new department and given instructions of the proper dress code required for their new role.




On the night of the show, employees are instructed to report to G.O.O.D. HQ, a 13 story office block in Croydon (where some of Brazil was shot), and G.O.O.D. is revealed as the Government Office Of Data, a play on the Ministry of Information from the film. Depending on your transfer, there were 27 possible starting points to your journey through the show, each with a different story and experience.



We created 60 consoles for the Department of Records, which all employees logged into using their password gained from the intranet. They can then browse all manner of files, videos and games. Each rank of employee is given a different mission to carry out within the 13 story building.



The system referenced the shared office spaces in the film by splitting the screen in two. Pairs of employees shared each console, waiting for their side of the screen to burst back into life.


Of course, just as in the film, you can hack the system to watch a selection of classic films or TV shows, as well as access high level integration reports (as long as Mr. Kurtzman doesn’t catch you).



Hidden away on the top floor was a secret console where employees could ‘delete’ themselves, freeing them from the system. If they tried to log into the intranet after the show they would just see a rolling video of clouds… there was also a secret method to ‘undelete’ yourself, as you can never truly escape the clutches of G.O.O.D.




All of this was just part of an amazing show from Secret Cinema that spanned the entire 13 floors and basement, with countless adventures to be sought out or stumbled upon throughout the night, culminating in a stunning theatrical finale in the central core of the building.



More photos over on our Flickr here.


For Future Cinema’s beautiful production of Casablanca we created the ‘French Protectorate of Morocco’ – as usual, the heroic Stephen Emslie was on development duties.


The site allowed people who had bought tickets for the show to book their table at Rick’s Americain, the best Bar in Casablanca.


book a table


Once they’ve booked their table, we generated a new European identity for them. They were assigned one of 6 nationalities, along with a new name from that country. This is all on a ID card they printed out, attach a photo, and brought it along to the show.




Future Cinema events are normally slightly more casual than Secret Cinema (although put together by the same people), so we deliberately made this a very simple system compared to the more richer online experiences we do for Secret Cinema. This seemed to really pay off, everybody went to town with their IDs.




For Secret Cinema’s production of The Shawshank Redemption we helped out with the pre-narrative and designed the digital system that led the audience from buying a ticket, to being in a court room having your life stripped away from you.


Weeks before you attended the show, our microsite for the fictional State of Oak Hampton, took your ticket number and delivered you your new life. This would be in the form of a FaceBook cover image detailing your new name and particulars. Everyone was from America, and everyone was male (as in the film). The system, developed by our always excellent pal Stephen Emslie, generated over 12,500 realistic men’s names and profiles. You could also use a Twibbon to style your profile photo so it appears to be stapled to your profile.



Extended versions of these profiles were then printed out and handed to you when you receive your sentence in court. Which we then used throughout the experience for example if you’re dragged before the parole board, or attend a work gang.


The site was a very non-nonsense institutional feeling experience, with a simple form for your details and links out to further news and information from the State of Oak Hampton. Learning from our work with the Prometheus show, we streamlined the options available to the audience to make it as simple as possible, but still a unique and mysterious experience for all.



We worked with Secret Cinema on their show for Prometheus. To say we were excited to be working with them is an understatement, it was pretty much a dream project. Our main role was motion graphics and 3D animation that was viewed all around the event (as seen above) which we gots lots of help from our pals at Framestore.



The show was huge, the biggest Secret Cinema had ever staged, and we only had a month to pull it together. In a massive disused building (195,000 square feet – the size of a city block) near Euston station, London, we helped them build the space ship Prometheus, complete with cockpit, hydroponics lab, loading bay (with actual vehicles from the film), upper class quarters, a secret restaurant, hyper sleep chambers, medical lab, mess hall and an android production line as well a chunk of the alien planet surface ready to explore. On top of this they also had to build 3 top of the line cinema to screen the film in Dolby 3D  – all of this was completed in about a month.


We helped out in a few ways, firstly we helped tour the building in the inception of the show and helped work out how some of the sets could be built and what was the best way to move 1,000 people through the story we wanted to tell in the show. We then moved on to helping with everything digital. We edited a promo video for Brave New Ventures – the fake company we were using to theme the event around (the actual film was kept a secret right up until the titles roll on the screen).



We also designed and built a website ( which kicked off the narrative of you becoming an employee of Brave New Ventures once you have your ticket, with a system to allow you to choose your occupation along with instruction about what your uniform should look like and information of pre-flight missions you could attend – all of the back end programming (the hard stuff) was done by the brilliant Stephen Emslie.

It was great to walk around the event and see our animations weaved into the ship, and especially odd/awesome to have people cheering at our work as they all crowded in to the cockpit to watch the ship land. The brilliant work from the actors really bought it all to life.




We also built a laser scanner prop that was used on the missions to the planet surface by a member of the audience.



We very much hope to be working with these guys again.


More photos here.

All kinds of awesome from Secret Cinema as usual. This time our shuttle bus taking us to the space port for our flight to the Off World Colonies was pulled over by some Blade Runner dude and diverted to a holding area as a Replicant uprising had caused all flights to be cancelled. We ended up in a  dystopian Los Angeles, circa 2019, complete with snake merchants, eye makers, noodle bars, strip clubs and everything you need to make a pretty damn believable slice of the Blade Runner world.


Jason took a Voight-Kampff test, turns out he’s human, who’d have thought? I was rather pleased with my home brew lighty up umbrella. A good time was had by all – except for that stripper replicant who got shot to bits as we filed into the cinema, down-town LA in 2019 is a rough area.


Here’s some pics we took, or just pour yourself some whiskey and watch the slide show below.