News / Winnipeg

Lights, sounds, action: Upper Fort Garry interactive display ready

The park's app, audio and visual experiences were developed locally by Pattern Interactive, whose Jeremy Choy is very proud of the "immersive" end product.

The Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park was animated by Pattern Interactive, making it a unique, immersive, multi-dimensional sensory experience.

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The Heritage Wall at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park was animated by Pattern Interactive, making it a unique, immersive, multi-dimensional sensory experience.

The birthplace of Manitoba is coming alive Wednesday night with a unique, high-tech and totally immersive sensory experience.

Before the construction fence around Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park came down, – unveiling the massive steel interpretive art installation in summer 2015 – local tech company Pattern Interactive was working on activating it with engaging lights and sound.

Their work merging heritage, art, and interactive technology culminates with a grand unveiling at a sound and light show Wednesday that the Friends of Upper Fort Garry group said “brings a new dimension” to the park.

Jeremy Choy of Pattern Interactive said his company’s contribution to the project does that and more.

“The idea behind the lights is it attracts visitors to the park… as they get closer, they hear the audio, get drawn in further by the video, then look at the art on the wall as they get closer,” he said, adding the mobile app and interpretive materials take it from there. “There are so many layers to the experience—everywhere you look or turn, you hear or see something different.”

Pattern Interactive developed all of the content for the app, as well as visual components to play on the installation’s wall via 7,000 daylight visible pixels to tell stories of the Fort’s past. They also developed content for the audio aspect, which Choy said is one of the coolest parts of the project.

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“There are 18 distinct channels… it’s not a typical 5.1 surround sound system,” he said. “Depending on where you stand in the park you’ll hear a totally different audio experience to go with the visual experience.”

For example, at one end of the park you might hear fire crackling and distant, quiet fiddle music. But as you move, the fire becomes distant and the fiddle music and laughter gets louder.

“It encourages the visitor to go and explore along all 400 feet, explore the art created for the wall… engage with it and learn (the history),” Choy said.

He admits there were challenges in the early development, as working on the lighting and audio before the physical installation existed made “visualizing very difficult.”

Choy and his crew got over that hurdle with an eight-foot-long scale-model prototype of the park using custom electronics and 3D printed parts.

“That helped us get a big head start,” Choy explained, adding as difficult as the undertaking was, it was also incredibly rewarding.

“We wanted to make this project right… it’s a big one for the province of Manitoba,” he said. “One thing that’s really special is the artwork that’s gone into it, the multi-layer steel sculpture forming the history of the province, then through interpretation you’re telling the story of Manitoba.

“The other big side is the technical one—what permanent outdoor installations have a theoretical video screen 400-feet-long with audio?”

He hopes the final product is something people can appreciate passively from a distance, or engage with in a meaningful way up close.

“I think all Manitobans would want to check it out, the park is a big part of Manitoba’s history and this is a completely different way to learn about it,” he said.

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Upper Fort Garry was built between 1834 and 1837 and functioned as a trade hub and centre of the Red River Settlement. Later, it was the place where Louis Riel formed his provisional government that pushed the province into entering Confederation. By 1889 it was demolished. Heritage group Friends of Upper Fort Garry has been working to revitalize the park since 2006, and planned the new heritage park in 2010. It became a provincial park in 2014, the current physical installation was unveiled in 2015, and the full interpretive experience is being launched this week. 

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