ViewFullApplication

EPIC MEGAGRANTS APPLICATION

To the Epic MegaGrants Team: from all of us at Falcon’s Creative Group, thank you for your time and consideration. We sincerely hope this application expresses our passion and enthusiasm to take the themed entertainment industry to the next frontier with the power of Unreal Engine.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss further, please feel free to reach out to us at any time. Our Director of Technology Saham Ali is available via the contact information below:

Saham Ali, Director of Technology

Falcon's Creative Group

[email protected]

(407) 909-9350

APPLICATION VIDEO

FALCON'S X-LAB

Introduction

Falcon’s X-Lab is our experience laboratory: the research and development complex where our team of architects, engineers, game designers, and visual effects artists employ cutting-edge interactive technology to create immersive experiences for theme parks, attractions, and entertainment venues around the world.

We are pursuing the Epic MegaGrants program to enhance the hardware configuration of Falcon’s X-Lab into a working virtual production and real-time motion capture stage. Using this facility, we plan to integrate Unreal Engine as the real-time gameplay ecosystem for our diverse portfolio of proprietary ride systems and attraction products, as we embrace the gamification of attractions and parkwide experiences across the themed entertainment industry.


Project Definition

Falcon’s X-Lab is the name we have given to the uniquely versatile research facility and prototype laboratory adjacent to our main studio in Orlando, Florida. Originally constructed as a product showroom to house a full-scale prototype of our proprietary dome theater projection system, this space quickly evolved into the crucible of research, development, prototyping, mockup, testing, and pre-programming for our custom ride hardware, interactive software, and media production projects. We use Falcon’s X-Lab as the central testbed to exhaustively research and experiment with emerging technologies in unique applications to produce immersive, interactive experiences in both the physical and virtual worlds.

As our core business model, we operate within a distinct nexus of real-time interactives applied to media-based attractions, theme park master plans, special venues, hospitality design, architectural visualization, and augmented, mixed, and virtual reality projects. The processes of facility design, specialty hardware integration, and media production for these rides and attractions are developed in tandem—requiring us to pioneer new methods to supplant traditional tricks of the trade for VFX and film production beyond conventional cuts, baked content, and editorial manipulation.




The media environment has naturally had to evolve to keep pace when the ride systems demand causal interactive gameplay using external multisensory hardware integration, alongside moving lens distortion and ride motion profiles in a continuous, uninterrupted media sequence. Embracing real-time engine integration from the genesis of the design process through delivery of the final product has become a core component of our pipeline and workflow solutions.

The gamification of attractions and venues is undeniably the future of the themed entertainment industry. We have not only seen this on the horizon, but have been actively sprinting toward the forefront of this emerging technological landscape to embrace the revolution of real-time interactivity within physical spaces for the past decade.

Since our inception as a firm, it has been a fundamental mission of Falcon’s to bring astonishingly immersive and tangibly interactive experiences to life: experiences that allow guests to step into a world that fully envelops their senses, and to interact with that realm with palpable consequence—cause and effect that empowers them to truly become a part of that narrative.

For the past 3 years, we have continued to invest in expanding the infrastructure of our former product showroom to transform it from the hardware gallery it was into the industrial R&D laboratory it is today—where we explore, invent, develop, and test a litany of interactive hardware and software platforms integrated into our proprietary ride systems and large format projection mapping products.

Some of the tangible fallout from these efforts have amalgamated in our patented Falcon’s Vision™ augmented reality headset, our mixed reality Spectraverse™ interactive attraction, and our gesture-tracking GameSuite™ playsystem products, which we are implementing directly into existing venues for active project installations across the globe.




Our goal in applying for the Epic MegaGrants program is to fully realize our long-term plan for the hardware configuration of Falcon’s X-Lab into a virtual production and real-time motion capture stage—a digital showroom for the capabilities of Unreal Engine in multiple crossover applications: transforming traditional theme parks, exhibits and live venues into fully interactive, real-time ecosystems.

From our experience in executing a diverse portfolio of immersive experiences over the years, we believe in the power of real-time: especially in the unparalleled capabilities of Unreal across ArchViz, VR, and interactive gameplay. This MegaGrants funding will expand the capacity for the space to the capabilities of an XR stage for all these use cases—in addition to discovering new, uncharted interfaces with other theme park and attraction technologies.

With this financial acceleration to our development plans, we plan to implement Unreal Engine as the core interactive ecosystem powering our custom media-based rides and special venue installations for multiple active and upcoming project developments worldwide. Merging the power of Unreal Engine with the quality of our brand, we want to help Epic further break into the themed entertainment market, and to manifest the potential for unrestricted growth in this sector. Through our caliber of work, we hope to inspire other major players to embrace Unreal and eventually cement it as the go-to solution for interactivity and gameplay in the themed entertainment industry.


Collaboration with HTC Vive for Busch Gardens Williamsburg VR attraction

Located in Orlando, Florida, we are positioned at the epicenter of themed entertainment venues, live event locations, a burgeoning tech sector, and extensive military simulation and defense industry. Home to the largest yearly international IAAPA Expo, we have prominent exposure to the heavy hitters in the themed entertainment industry when many tens of thousands of international themed entertainment professionals make the annual journey for the expo. Moreover, we have strong existing relationships with universities such as the University of Central Florida, as our CEO, Cecil D. Magpuri, serves on the Advisory Council for UCF's Themed Experience MFA Program.

This past year has brought an unprecedented international upheaval to normal life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this has impacted our themed entertainment industry as swiftly and brutally as it has many others, we also recognize the profound opportunities at hand for the innovators of every industry to pave new paths forward in how we approach personal and professional interaction in the age of social distancing.

Until last year due to the pandemic, we have hosted a myriad of annual studio tours, industry conferences, and internship programs for university students from multiple institutions focusing on themed entertainment, architecture, engineering, visual effects, animation, game design, and software development. We feel obligated to use this time of worldwide crisis to come together as professional communities and find ways to continue our outreach efforts, not only for those in our local community, but for all those isolated at home, virtually. The augmentation of Falcon’s X-Lab into a fully-fledged virtual production stage and real-time engine research facility will expand our ability to support our educational partnerships, and to broadcast those same community events to a broader, virtual student audience.

As we have grown over the past two decades, we have sought out and aligned ourselves with likeminded thought leaders interested in transposing technologies from disparate backgrounds to elevate human experiences. We applaud Epic for this amazing program and look forward to exploring the power of Unreal in the themed entertainment industry.

Development Plan

Our short-term development rollout will begin with initial hardware installation for the XR stage LED screen walls, workstations, and servers as well as cameras, switches, and mechanical trackers for the motion capture stage in 2021. Longer term, we plan to hire additional interactive developers to expand our existing Unreal game design team later in the year, poised to tackle exploration into new territory creating interactive experiences for our attractions using Unreal—along with operating the virtual production and motion capture stages—accessible both privately for film production, as well as operating publicly for educational purposes.

We plan to establish Falcon’s X-Lab as a go-to research and development hub in central Florida that gives tangible technological access to our clients, colleagues, students and collaborators from the broader public community as both a virtual showroom and analog hackerspace alike. Alongside the virtual production stage, we intend to rebuild our motion capture camera system to push through Unreal as a live-feed virtual performance capture that can render real-time in engine with custom content.


Robb Wilson and Saham Ali calibrate projectors for Falcon’s GameSuite™ playsystem

While the scale of projects we tackle are quite large, our team has had to remain agile and tight-knit, staying true to our indie mindset to think outside of the box and take versatile approaches in attacking what is often uncharted territory in our highly bespoke projects. We currently employ a variety of real-time and rendered VR emulations to design, test, and modify our custom systems—often using a combination of stereoscopic projection with active shutter glasses, integrated wireless and ultraband tracking devices, along with computer vision and optical marker tracking in engine. With a virtual production stage from the help of Epic MegaGrants, we can fully integrate these tangential processes into a cohesive digital development pipeline.

As Unreal Enterprise Program customers, we already utilize the platform for several of our newest proprietary products and custom gameplay systems. We simultaneously maintain and support current products developed previously in Unity, where we have had to create a plethora of customized tools in the Unity platform to achieve real-time solutions for moving lenses and ride motion profiles.

As it stands, Unreal may be the only single standalone software platform that interfaces comprehensively with each of these disciplines and carries meaningful crossover capabilities for all of the industries under the umbrella of our immersive experience designs. Unreal Engine notwithstanding, some permutation of multiple Autodesk, Foundry, SideFX, and Unity applications is required to cohesively integrate these real-time motion-tracked projection mappings with ride hardware, past moving the screens. We will use Falcon’s X-Lab to both demonstrate the implementations and develop the tools to validate to the themed entertainment industry at large that Unreal is the go-to solution for interactive ride system and attraction applications.

Alongside the project schedule, we plan to roll out a series of press releases and blog posts detailing our Falcon’s X-Lab activities: giving broad public exposure to the developments in applying Unreal Engine to a boundless realm of live venue and interactive attraction implementations. In parallel, we intend to spotlight the project through our studio podcast Experience Imagination™ by releasing new episodes diving into the research and development we are undertaking, and highlighting Unreal Engine specifically to further expose the power and versatility of the platform.


Saham Ali testing Digital Projection’s HFR Dual Laser projector capable of displaying 360 FPS at 4K resolution

In the long term, we intend for Falcon’s X-Lab to become a renowned center for cutting-edge real-time experimentation and virtual production: initially in the integration of Unreal Engine interactivity across the ride and attraction systems in our own project scope, but more broadly to catalyze the inevitable gamification of the themed entertainment industry at large.

Using the momentum of Epic MegaGrants and the expansion of Falcon’s X-Lab, our objective is for each of these use cases to bolster the industrial applications of Unreal Engine in this sector, and to work toward the ultimate goal of substantiating Unreal as the industry standard for interactive theme park, attraction, and entertainment venue applications worldwide. Our first step toward that future begins in Falcon’s X-Lab, as our interactive experience designs become powered by Unreal.

Project Budget

As we envisioned the expanded and fully functional Falcon’s X-Lab in our minds’ eyes, the execution plan previously discussed was developed as a path forward. From that execution plan, we extrapolated a budget, allocated to near- and long-term needs.

Our key near-term need is to get the XR stage and supporting Mo-Cap system up and running before the end of 2021. To achieve this, we will need to provide electrical and infrastructure upgrades, purchase Vicon Optical Motion tracking equipment and mechanical camera tracking equipment, an LED panel cave array, supporting workstation and miscellaneous hardware/wiring. The labor for this phase will be handled primarily by our in house project management and technical services team. We estimate adding two Unreal programmers to our staff for this phase.

Our longer-term goal is to complete the greater expansion through 2022. This includes purchasing and expanding into the site adjacent to our current facility, updating our Spheron™ LT dome theater projection system, adding a second GameSuite™ play system and converting these to use the Unreal Engine, installing a Falcon’s Vision™ augmented reality station, enhancing our ON!X Theater™ system and converting to Unreal Engine, and installing a Dark Ride Vehicle development and display station. Much of the works for this phase can be handled by our project management and technical services team, however, key infrastructure and utilities work will need to be performed by contractors as needed. We envision adding 3 additional Unreal programmers to our staff for this phase.

This grant will start us down the path of this ambitious goal of creating the most advanced development and production studio in the region, supplying ultra-high quality themed entertainment solutions. In terms of specific expenses, we can break these out generally in terms of Buildout, Hardware/Software Purchases, and Personnel.

Combined, this ambitious project is estimated to cost approximately $4,123,562.

We are asking for an amount of $500,000 to support us in achieving this vision.

About Us

Falcon’s is a minority-owned themed entertainment company that has been helping clients experience their imagination since opening our doors in 2000. We put a great deal of emphasis on elevating the guest experience by transforming reality. Our focus is compelling master plan designs, cutting-edge content creation, immersive interactive experiences, and licensed attraction and technology systems. As progressive thinkers, we spend quality time on research and development, which is underscored by our U.S. and international patent count. To date, we have been issued nearly three dozen patents with more pending.


Falcon’s 20th Anniversary team photo

Our experiences have been enjoyed by millions of people all over the world. We are widely recognized as a global industry leader and have earned dozens of awards from multiple outfits. We have been honored with the Themed Entertainment Association’s top prize on four separate occasions, including last year for our work on National Geographic Museum’s exhibition “Becoming Jane, The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall,” which also took home the American Alliance of Museum’s top prize. The Visual Effects Society awarded us when we unveiled the epic Dragon’s Treasure™ 360° dome experience in Macau. We are two-time recipients of IAAPA’s Brass Ring award, which honors members who exemplify excellence in the themed entertainment industry. To sum it up, we might need to invest in a bigger trophy case.

Because of the work we do, and the fact that we’re based in Orlando, we have a very broad reach. Our existing customer base is massive. We’ve worked with some of the biggest names in themed entertainment, media and communications, the museum and zoo space, and even the gaming world. Additionally, our trusted vendor pool is composed of the most recognized brands in the industry.

Although we have steadily grown to more than 60 employees, we still have an indie studio mindset, mainly due to our agile working environment. Our professionals wear many hats and are asked to pivot quickly from project to project or sometimes juggle multiple priorities simultaneously. No two projects are alike, so we are always innovating and seeking the best ways to implement emerging technology that will take our story-driven experiences to unreal levels.

Our Work

The work we produce is all custom. Every project we undertake requires a high level of bold thinking and innovative design in order to bring fresh, memorable experiences to guests around the world. This is partly why we invest significant resources into researching and developing our own breakthrough solutions while also leveraging existing technology. A perfect example of the latter is using VIVE tracking technology in three of our recent projects, all of which featured different use cases. We used this to achieve an impressive augmented reality experience at Brevard Zoo on a shoestring budget, an interactive underwater journey at National Geographic’s Ocean Odyssey experience in Times Square, and a multi-sensory virtual reality motion simulator ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

We designed our own augmented reality solution that would be utilized in the location-based entertainment space. We wanted it to be accessible, durable, intuitive, and easy to maintain. We sold the concept to National Geographic Museum for the “Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall,” exhibition. The invention, which we call Falcon’s Vision® headset, offers guests a new way to enjoy an augmented reality experience by seamlessly incorporating the technology into the story. In this case, the guest picks up the headset and holds it up as binoculars to watch animated chimps performing some of their remarkable behavior.




For the same award-winning exhibition, Falcon’s created a vocalization experience where guests could learn to speak like a chimpanzee. Chimp Chat was highly successful at educating kids and adults alike on some of their more common chimp calls and giving them an opportunity to mimic the sounds. We created the interactive experience using a real-time game engine. We provided a multitude of design and media services that ignited the creative pulse of Kennedy Space Center’s U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. A highlight of this engaging experience is the many user-friendly interactives we created that are spread throughout the landmark attraction and museum.

Falcon’s has been ramping up our efforts in virtual production. We just wrapped support on Karate Combat Season 2, which seamlessly blends a real-world athletic event with cutting-edge virtual production to transport viewers to simulated worlds. For the live-action shoot, we built a digital set inside Epic’s Unreal Engine so the camera crew could reference it during filming.


Falcon’s utilized Unreal Engine for virtual production on Karate Combat Season 2

For a project in the Middle East, we are co-producing a permanent installation of an XR stage that leverages the full power of Unreal engine and features an LED RAVE.

We have been developing the master plans, storylines, characters, and media content for Katmandu’s newest theme parks across the globe. Part of our work is focused on introducing two of our latest products - ON!X™ Theater, an interactive attraction system that combines action-based gameplay with responsive real-time feedback and dynamic special effects to take gamified attractions to a whole new level, and the Suspended Theater® attraction system, an elegant vessel for immersive storytelling that takes riders on an epic journey while mimicking the sensation of flight.


One of the new Katmandu theme park locations under construction in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Lastly, we’d like to touch on two of the brand-new ecosystems we have developed in Falcon’s X-Lab. GameSuite™ playsystem and SpectraVerse™ attraction systems are revolutionary additions to the family entertainment space. GameSuite™ playsystem merges imaginative gameplay with advanced interactive technologies to create the premiere fusion of modern play, immersive atmosphere, and social connectivity. SpectraVerse Odyssey™ and SpectraVerse Quest™ attractions use next-generation projection, tracking, and optical technologies to empower a joint social experience of individualized perspectives in a themed environment.

Regardless of the endeavor, we always seek to ignite the imagination by transforming everyday reality every day.

Lastly, we’d like to touch on two of the brand-new ecosystems we have developed in Falcon’s X-Lab. GameSuite™ playsystem and SpectraVerse™ attraction systems are revolutionary additions to the family entertainment space. GameSuite™ playsystem merges imaginative gameplay with advanced interactive technologies to create the premiere fusion of modern play, immersive atmosphere, and social connectivity. SpectraVerse Odyssey™ and SpectraVerse Quest™ attractions use next-generation projection, tracking, and optical technologies to empower a joint social experience of individualized perspectives in a themed environment.

Regardless of the endeavor, we always seek to ignite the imagination by transforming everyday reality every day.

TEAM SPOTLIGHT

Cecil D. Magpuri

President and CCO

Having started his career as an architect, Cecil is now entering his 29th year in themed entertainment.

He founded Falcon’s in 2000 with the goal of developing inspiring experiences for people of all ages. Cecil serves as a guiding creative force for everything we do at the studio. A few significant points to mention:

  • Named to the Blooloop 50 Theme Park Influencer list three times
  • Advisory Board Member, UCF’s Themed Experience MFA Program
  • Advisory Board Member, OnePULSE Foundation
  • Member of TEA and IAAPA
  • Visual Effects Society (VES) Member
  • Asian Heritage Award Honoree for Information & Technology.
  • Speaker at multiple conferences and in many forums, including TEA’s SATE and Fast Forward Conference

Jason Ambler

VP of Digital Media/Executive Producer

Jason’s expertise in client relations, contracts, budgeting, scheduling, technical equipment, and visual effects software makes him an exceptionally diversified leader. He has helped build the diversified media team at Falcon’s. A few significant points to mention:

  • Advisory Board, Gasparilla Film Festival
  • Visual Effects Society (VES) Member, Head of Florida
  • Member of IAAPA and TEA
  • Presented at Orlando iX, Digital Orlando, and Synapse Orlando
  • Presenter at the first Halo: Outpost Discovery event

Saham Ali

Director of Technology

Saham plays a key role in all of our studio’s technology endeavors. His deep understanding of hardware, software, and networks for IT, AV, and CG allows him to navigate the intricate territories of IT systems infrastructure, technical planning, and computer graphic technologies with ease. A few significant points to mention:

  • Epic Games Unreal Engine Virtual Production Fellow
  • Sits on the advisory board for two Orlando-based organizations: DAVE School and Orange Technical College.
  • Served on the advisory board for Otronicon 2018
  • Member of VES, TEA, IAAPA, and ACM SIGGRAPH
  • Presenter at Halo: Outpost Discovery event in Philadelphia
  • Presenter at Orlando iX, Otronicon, SkyNext, InfoComm, BeyondX, and SIGGRAPH with NVIDIA and Qumulo
  • Published articles in Post magazine, Inpark Magazine, the Orlando Business Journal, and Orlando Sentinel

Claudio Gonzalez

CG Supervisor

Claudio is an exceptionally dedicated professional whose leadership skills, honed while serving in the Marine Corps, symbiotically balance with his artistic prowess. A few significant points to mention:

  • Advisory Board, DAVE School
  • Member of VES, IAAPA, and TEA
  • Presenter at Halo: Outpost Discovery

David Consolo

Senior Interactive Designer

Over the course of his seven years in themed entertainment, David has become extremely familiar with a variety of software applications, virtual reality devices, and real-time game engines. He leverages his proficiency in these areas to develop interactives and explore custom solutions for the products we create in Falcon’s X-Lab. A few significant points to mention:

  • Member of TEA and IAAPA
  • Presented at Otronicon
  • Lead developer of Falcon’s Vision® augmented reality headset
  • Lead developer of GameSuite™ playsystem
  • Lead developer of SpectraVerse™ attraction system
parallax background
ViewFullApplication
CONTACT US