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Conjuring Signature Signage

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

The benefits of digital media lead to unique applications. Thanks to advancements in technology—ranging from productivity to color gamut—graphics for short-term promotional events are now possible in a limited amount of time.

Fans of J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter book series can credit Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. with bringing the characters and locations to life in the first six movies. The seventh movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is currently in production and the first movie in a two-part series is scheduled for release on Thanksgiving 2010.

Movie watchers of all ages can enter the world of Harry Potter through a new exhibition created by Exhibitgroup/Giltspur in partnership with Warner Bros. The 10,000-plus square foot Harry Potter: The Exhibition includes over 200 props, set dressings, costumes, and more from the first six films. It premiered at Chicago, IL’s Museum of Science and Industry in April and concluded in September. The second—and only New England—venue to host the event is the Museum of Science (MOS) located in Boston, MA, which began its run on October 25, 2009.

Marketing such an event requires huge amounts of signage. The MOS created banners, window treatments, billboards, and more to showcase this blockbuster attraction.

Spellbinding Promotion
After announcing the exhibition at the MOS on July 22, 2009, the museum launched into production. In three months a team created internal and external marketing material used to promote the exhibition. Generally any exhibit held at the MOS is supported by a variety of signage.

Two 24x36-inch poster cases herald upcoming exhibits or IMAX attractions. A backlit 48x108-inch case is placed in the concourse that connects the museum’s main lobby and parking garage. The concourse also houses a 120x18-inch banner promoting upcoming attractions. Both the side and front window entrances of the museum feature self-adhesive perforated window film, measuring 40x31 and 49x31 feet, respectively. Outside, 22x28-foot mesh vinyl graphics are displayed on a high tower located on the top of the MOS. Street lamp poles featuring two 30x60-inch banners on either side of the pole are also executed.

“There are a finite number of places where we place posters and banners, that is a given. We did not receive the graphics for Harry Potter: The Exhibition at once, so the signage was ready to go, it was just a matter of execution,” explains Carl Zukroff, director of marketing communications, MOS.

The graphics for the exhibition were provided by Exhibitgroup/Giltspur and based on the iconic characters and themes from the Harry Potter film series.

Zukroff says once the museum received the graphics, the first sign printed and installed was for the concourse. Other signage continued to roll out and several different signs may be switched out/rolled out closer to December.

Outside the Main Grounds
It’s one thing to market the exhibit to museum attendees, but the MOS also needs to draw in crowds from elsewhere in the city and beyond. MOS works with advertising agency, Gearon Hoffman, to promote exhibits and featured IMAX attractions.

12.75x17.5-inch subway posters are located inside Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) Red and Green Line trains. These lines provide easy access to the museum. 22x21-inch posters are also on platforms at MBTA Commuter Rail stations, whose lines extend into suburban areas. On the street, busy commuters witness Street Furniture from JCDecaux in the form of 46x67-inch City Information Panels and 46x134-inch Kiosk Panels.

A MOS mainstay is a billboard located on Route I-90, also known as the Mass Pike. Used throughout the year for various MOS attractions, the roughly 19x48-foot billboard is situated in a high traffic area. A permanent museum logo extends over the top right corner of the board. For Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the iconic Sorting Hat from the books/films—used to pick which house students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will be placed into—extends beyond the board as well.

The billboard was created by UniGraphic, Inc., located in Woburn, MA. For this project, an EFI VUTEk UltraVu 5330 printer was used and 12-ounce flexface vinyl from Verseidag seemee US. The tip of the Sorting Hat extending from the billboard was created by adhering self-adhesive material from MACtac Graphic Products to plywood.

“This is a very high-profile unit. Commuters really understand we own that location,” says Amy Hampe, marketing manager, MOS. Change outs for the billboard during the run of the exhibit are tentatively planned.

A Blockbuster Event
The MOS usually looks for high-impact opportunities for blockbuster events. For Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the museum created heraldry banners to hang from the ceiling in the walkway from the museum lobby to the entrance of the exhibit. “This adds flair as you approach the entrance,” adds Zukroff. Each 36x48-inch banner includes the insignia and colors from a Hogwarts house—Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Outside, installers braved harsh winds and climbed on top of the museum’s planetarium dome to affix the Harry Potter: The Exhibition logo and drop an 88x12-foot banner on a nearby brick wall. The banner’s message includes the MOS Web site. A graphic of an owl holding an invitation—made famous in the first film, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, when Harry Potter receives his welcome letter from Hogwarts—is also featured.

The MOS sits on Boston’s Charles River. Graphics like those on the planetarium dome, brick wall, and high tower are subject to harsh winds year round. In the Winter, wind is mixed with snow, sleet, or hail. “We are always weather dependent. Installation days are chosen based on monitoring the weather,” shares Zukroff.

Flying Lessons
To overcome great heights and tricky installations MOS relies on MarketKing, located in Lancaster, MA. For Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the shop created the graphics for both the planetarium dome and brick wall.

David King, owner, MarketKing fills large format digital graphics orders across the East Coast. King currently celebrates nine years of partnership with the MOS, with projects ranging from pole banners and window wraps to exhibit graphics.

According to King, job materials are based on a number of criteria, including look, durability, lighting, display duration, safety, and presentation. In the case of the brick wall banner a few concerns were instantly raised. Normally when MOS installs a banner, holes are drilled and Tapcons are screwed into the mortar. To avoid multiple holes, King suggested using Image1Impact’s Banner Tracks system.

The banner material is a 90/10 mesh from Ultraflex Systems, Inc., which was printed on Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) Scitex Grand solvent printer. To reinforce the banner from the Charles River’s winds, spur grommets were used for maximum support.

The creation and execution of the dome graphics were a whole other level of difficulty. The texture of the dome is similar to stucco, only deeper, so anything that is adhered sits on the top of the surface, making adhesion difficult. The logo was printed on a Mimaki USA, Inc. JV3-160S with hot solvent inks using 20-foot panels of FLEXcon Corporation’s Dome Vinyl.

The installation of both the banner and dome graphics took two days. The banner required two people drilling over 150 holes into the wall and installing the bottom and top racks for the banner system.

King installed the dome graphic himself, feeling it was too dangerous for anyone else to partake in the install. Using a heat torch, he heated the vinyl in certain areas where water might sneak in, ensuring proper adhesion. He then pushed the vinyl down into the dome with foam rollers found in the paint department of a hardware store.

With all of the tools, vinyl panels, and the added height issue, King says dome installation jobs usually move slowly. “The dome is 66 feet wide, 47 feet from the bottom to the top, and 197 feet around. The sun has caused the South side to oxidize the finish, so the vinyl does not stick well there. Also, the graphics get wrinkles in the panels as I install on the dome, so keeping the panels lined up is a real challenge,” he adds.

King says temperature is also a challenge. Usually 60 to 75 degrees is ideal, and in late October, when the dome and brick signage went up, Boston was a sunny 60 degrees Fahrenheit the first day and temperatures climbed to 68 degrees the second. This was after a miniature blizzard overtook Northern MA the weekend before.

A Fine-Tuned PSP
B.L. Makepeace, situated in Brighton, MA, has worked with MOS for over eight years. The shop serves the greater metro Boston area, as well as Eastern MA. For Harry Potter: The Exhibition, B.L. Makepeace created the exterior window signage, street pole banners, directional signage, posters, and canvas heraldry banners.

According to Peter Wilson, digital imaging sales specialist, B.L. Makepeace, timing played a large part in this particular exhibit. The window signage was proofed, printed, and ready for installation two days after the sign shop received approval on the artwork. Most of the signage was completed on a same-day or next-day basis to ensure installation prior to the opening of the exhibit.

Interior signage—including the canvas banners and concourse signage—was printed using an Ocˇ Arizona 250 GT printer from Ocˇ North America. Most of the rigid signage was created from foam core, Gatorfoam, or Sintra. The heraldry banners were created from Ocˇ Pro-Select canvas.

The street pole banner and window graphics were printed on an HP Designjet 10000 for UV resistance and weatherproof durability. Ultraflex JetFlex FL 13-ounce banner vinyl was used for the street pole banners and Avery Graphics’ Avery MPI 2528 Perforated Window Film 50/50—formerly MPI 4002—was used for the front and side museum window graphics.

36 street pole banners were installed along the roadway in front of the museum. The window graphic installation took 13 hours, a smaller timeline due to careful preplanning of print tile size, which reduced onsite labor and install time, says Wilson.

B.L. Makepeace hosts an in-house installation team in its 30,000 square foot headquarters and 2,500 square foot satellite suburban plant. For Harry Potter: The Exhibition, physical installation was not an issue thanks to experience and the weather.

“Luckily, the weather cooperated beautifully and was a perfect 60 degrees. We’ve produced items like these numerous times and have fine tuned the specifics so there are no surprises,” adds Wilson.

Mischief Managed
Working with trusted partners on any exhibition or attraction—no matter how big or small—is an added bonus. They have superior knowledge of surface textures; are familiar with the printers, inks, and media that work best with the location; and are prepared for temperamental weather.

Zukroff notes that marketing for the event—and the verbal and visual creation of these products—would not have been possible without the entire MOS marketing team. Despite time restraints, promotional materials of large proportions were turned around quickly. Of course it helped to have such great, timeless graphics based on the Harry Potter film series to work with.

Editor’s Note
Harry Potter: The Exhibition runs at the MOS until February 21, 2010 before taking flight to another location, which has yet to be announced. To order tickets visit www.mos.org
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Dec2009, Digital Output

By Melissa Donovan

 

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