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“Believe” at SeaWorld: An immersive 4D theater experience


"Believe" at SeaWorld is an immersive 4D theater experience. What makes it 4D theater? It has the multimedia factor of 4D theater, for starters. "Believe" combines live action (killer whales and their trainers), cinema (giant screen above the horseshoe-shaped pool), music (a dramatic score that plays back during each show) and water effects (those who sit in the "splash zone" forward seats experience the water effects most intensely). All are tightly integrated to tell an uplifting story and the resulting guest experience is immersive, educational, entertaining and transformative: 4D theater at its best.

The "Believe" 4D theater supports the conservationist mission of SeaWorld to infuse people with a sense of connection to the animals of the sea. The cinematic portion of this 4D theater employs a huge, hi-definition video screen that at times divides into two screens, moving apart to the right and the left, and at times the two split into four rectangles, and the rectangles rotate. It is a complex 4D theater projection system. This 4D theater also incorporates audience participation by selecting a boy or girl and introducing them and making the child’s future ambitions known to the audience, thereby part of the 4D theater storytelling, and integrating a picture of the child into the 4D theater cinema presentation, so making it part of the 4D theater audiovisuals.

The "Believe" experience demonstrates that 4D theater is 4D theater whether it is inside a "black box" space or not. Because "Believe" is not in a black box, it is in an open-air amphitheater. You don’t need a darkened room to immerse your audience – and we will probably see more 4D theaters that are in spaces other than darkened rooms.

One of the things that makes this kind of 4D theater possible is the advancement of cinema technology, so that clear and color-saturated images can appear in an outdoor 4D theater or other setting with a lot of ambient light. It’s not being in the dark that makes the experience  immersive. An audience can get just as bored in a dark 4D theater as in a light-filled 4D theater. The quality of the story and the effectiveness of the storytelling are the factors that will make a 4D theater succeed, and all the other components must support those two primary factors.

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