Draw & Code were tasked with bringing the world of the Terracotta Warriors to life using a suite of the latest immersive technology including a bespoke projected augmented reality set-up. Working closely with our technical partners Adlib, the project was to combine projections with audio, olfactory and practical effects such as false-perspective spaces, it created a wonderful environment that showed the Warriors in the context of the world they inhabited.
The challenge was to expand upon the tale told by the 180 artefacts on display at what promises to be a cultural highlight for the UK during 2018. The visitor journey should leave no stone unturned and transport them from modern China back to its origins as a nation – this is as ambitious an exhibition as it gets in terms of scope and execution.
The Warriors routinely tour the world with the host city given the opportunity to interpret and present the exhibits in their own way, so this was a big responsibility for NML (National Museums Liverpool) and the crack team of suppliers they had assembled. Draw & Code’s directors had visited one of the preceding Terracotta Warriors exhibitions in Seattle just prior to work commencing, so we had a very clear benchmark in mind.
By this point the creative team were moving beyond the storyboard stage and the animations were starting to come to life. Never-before-seen archive footage mingled with 3D animation and hand-drawn characters to create a rich tapestry of imagery.
No stone was left unturned when creating the visual-language of the animations – the discovery of ink was one of the hallmarks of China’s ‘Warring States’ era so it featured heavily in the aesthetic of the exhibition. We even experimented with water and ink animations – it gets no more analogue than that!
The most innovative aspect of the immersive content had to be the re-creation of the Emperor’s tomb itself using projected AR. The tomb has never been excavated so it is usually missing from exhibitions of the Warriors. Using practical effects such as a false-perspective set, wooden models and a projection scrim allows visitors to experience this beautiful and fascinating space that is so crucial to the Warriors’ story. Adlib really came to the fore here, finding ways to incorporate projectors and smoke machines into spaces that they really shouldn’t have been able to work in.
China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors Immersive exhibition went on to smash records. For the entirety of its run it was sold out; this perpetual sell-out status meant that the show welcomed over 600,000 people in total. It was deemed the most successful ticketed show of any kind in the UK during 2018. For the Liverpool City Region, NML’s post-event report showed that the exhibition brought in £78m of direct and indirect spend.
Featured on national TV and broadsheet newspapers, the event lived up to its ambition to bring something unique to the Terracotta Warriors as they continue to tour the world.
Since the exhibition, Draw & Code have been invited to partner with NML once more. This time around the brief is to create original IP and a unique visitor attraction. Our designers are developing a new location based experience in conjunction with various NML team members from director level to front-of-house staff to the digital team.
Director of Exhibitions, National Museums Liverpool