As we’re always saying here on the blog, sound, lighting and theatrical inspiration is all around us. From bars to popular attractions to botanical gardens, sophisticated lighting isn’t just restricted to elaborate stage and conference design, it’s utilised across a range of venues to achieve a look and feel that goes beyond what the competitors have to offer.

On a recent trip to London Dungeons, we were fully expecting to see a rather impressive spectrum of lighting and sound; after all dark, dank and spooky was the main attraction! What we experienced however was a sound, lighting and sensory experience that went well beyond our expectations (in some cases unpleasantly so!)

But of course amidst the shrieks, the gruesome and the gory, we kept a professional mindset throughout to document exactly how the good wenches and peasants put on such a good show. We know, we know, the lengths we go to!

Olde London Lighting

Down in the depths of the dungeon, lighting was barely at a level that allowed us to see more than 10 metres ahead and after some digging we discovered that the dungeon lighting was designed to be rarely more than 15-20 lux, which is incredibly low when you consider that a classroom will typically be around 400 lux. To create the low lighting levels, precision LED lighting fixtures were utilised with more than 350 Pico 1 and oculus spots used throughout the attraction.

The lighting, as well thought out as it was, was primarily designed to be completely discreet; in fact, the audience was only really aware of the lighting levels during the regular bouts of pitch black darkness. Lighting rigs were additionally painted black to make them virtually invisible and gobo projectors (‘goes before optics’) were used to create ‘dappled’ effects. The resulting effect was an eerie space with just enough lighting to complement the acts and give the illusion of a dank, desperate historic London.

Projectors and Sensory Elements

As you can imagine, the London Dungeons excel at clever projections and use this technique to create everything from animated Guy Fawkes imagery to a terrifying ghostly Jack the Ripper and scurrying sewer rats. Unfortunately in some cases the projections weren’t quite as seamless as the lighting design and as result some of the effects were less of a surprise, but the projected Jack the Ripper was a real triumph in projection – very real and incredibly scary!

Aside from the ‘live’ elements brought about by the projections and actors, the experience was far from an olfactory delight and throughout we were treated to the stench of ammonia (use your imagination…) and the assault of trailing tendrils hanging from the ceilings. Guests were also given the option of experiencing a simulated hanging! Those of us who dared were strapped into a ride, plunged into darkness and dropped 33ft at speed – a terrifying little extra we certainly didn’t expect!

Spooky Sounds

A fully integrated sound system was required throughout the dungeon to both deliver the eerie backgrounds noises of the dungeon and create a space suitable for wider functions requiring a dance floor area. We suspected that a full stage sound system has been installed comprising of a PA system, amplifiers and well placed speakers. Sound reinforcement systems were also utilised via microphones so that the actors could be heard by the large groups visiting the dungeons. Aside from the general background noise (characterised by rats scurrying, shrieks and moans), personal speaker systems were also utilised during some of the attractions. Examples include the ‘Sweeney Todd’ experience in which we were sat in high backed chairs and fed terrifying ‘snipping’ sounds via a personalised speaker system.

Call us diligent, but we just had to share both the simple and sophisticated ways one of the UK’s top attractions enthrals its audience through sound, lighting and impressive effects. For more information about any of the techniques utilised in the dungeons or if you have a creative space in mind then please get in touch with our professional team at PG Stage.

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