Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

TEA time in Pittsburgh

5698 TEA Summit Logos C2
A focal point of Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) calendar, the SATE conference takes place this September in Pittsburgh. Here’s a taste of what to expect.

The two-day event (September 17 and 18) takes place at the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), co-chaired by Loren Barrows of Alcorn McBride and Shirley Saldamarco from CMU’s interactive media productions unit. See them talk about this year’s chosen themes – Explode The Experience, Be Disruptive, Break The Rules – in the video below and at TEA TV.

But why Pittsburgh you may ask? The Pennsylvania city is the “perfect place for creative people” reckons Saldamarco, thanks to its thriving cultural district, world-renowned symphony, museums and galleries including The Warhol, and also its major sports teams. You may wish to build in some extra time to experience them either side of the conference. The TEA also has a relationship with CMU via its Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) graduate programme.

SATE, if you don’t know by now, stands for Storytelling, Architecture, Technology and Experience, and these topics will set the template for the event’s four-part programme, with additional chairs assigned to each segment, namely (in this order) Linda B Smith of Smithink, Anthony van Dam from Forrec, Paul Kent of Electrosonic and Cory Rouse, creative director of research and development at Walt Disney Imagineering.


Clockwise from top left: SATE ’15 co-chair Shirley Saldamarco of CMU/ETC;
Experience segment chair Cory Rouse of WDI; Architecture segment chair Anthony Van Dam of Forrec; SATE ’15 Co-chair Loren Barrows of Alcorn McBride; TEA president Steve Birket of Birket Engineering; Storytelling segment chair Linda Smith of Smithink; Technology segment chair Paul Kent of Electrosonic; TEA COO Jennie Nevin


Speakers including designers, technology specialists, educators and consultants will represent a wide range of companies and interests, from Google to Star Wars, and lots of attractions industry specialists in between.

A highlight of the event is sure to be A Conversation With Anthony Daniels. This “’Inside the Actors Studio” style onstage interview with the actor best known for his role as C3PO in Star Wars will be conducted by Scott Trowbridge of Walt Disney Imagineering, whose role at WDI is dedicated solely to the Star Wars franchise, including its planned theme park environments. Daniels, incidentally, is also a visiting CMU scholar


Anthony Daniels will be in conversation at SATE’15 with Walt Disney Imagineering’s with Scott Trowbridge

Segment by segment, here are some of the other planned sessions at SATE ’15:


Architecture Unleashed
Deanna Francl of Gensler will examine current trends in storytelling and our culture and how architecture can be more than a function of space and theming.

Technology Unleashed
James Grady from Fathom Information Design will provide disruptive and constructive storytelling examples and discuss the evolution of storytelling experience in a culture where anyone/everyone can now participate.


The Art of the Extended Diversion
How and why entertainment designers focus on creating longer visits, extending the opportunities to linger and enriching the overall experience to make it more satisfying. Presented by Matt Earnest of Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA).

The Distortion of Time and Place
Thomas Fo of the noted resort hotel designer WATG talks about how the element of discovery is key to planning properties that evoke a sense of wonderment, citing examples such as The Venetian Las Vegas, and also Disney’s Grand Floridian in Orlando and Aulani in Hawaii.

Uncomfortable Shifts in Reality
An examination by Cecil Magpuri of Falcon’s Creative of why the most unsettling, heart-stopping rides are always the most popular.

Waking Up the Senses
Aromas, sounds, music, textures and temperature changes can heighten and transform an attraction experience, and even create subliminal or subconscious affects on the guest. Tony Miceli of Electrosonic provides some examples, including his work for Universal Studios creating effects for the Jaws attraction, Terminator 3-D and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


Conducted by Richard Hebert, who has the rather wonderful title of “memorable experiences lecturer” at ENTI-UB (part of the University of Barcelona), this conversation will look at using brain waves to control things – from the simple alpha wave reading cats’ ears to racing cars.

The Drones Are Coming!
Exploring the use of drone technology and how it’s changing the rules for the themed attractions industry. Speaker Chris Russell works closely with world-renowned photographers and visual storytellers at the Annenberg Space for Photography, a photographic cultural destination in Los Angeles.


Avoid the Penny
What is experience design, asks Adam Bezark (The Bezark Company). Is it purely commercial entertainment? Is it an IP branding tool, a simple marketing spin-off? Or – just maybe – can experience design emerge as a legitimate, inspiring art form all of its own? Adam’s presentation will also look at what separates great emotional experiences from off-the-shelf solutions.

Experience in the Age of Big Data
As technology continues to expand its presence in our day-to-day lives, the expectations of attraction visitors are rapidly evolving. Learn from Joshua Jeffrey of Google how the company’s Experience Centers Team handles this challenge and what it could mean for providers of traditional location-based entertainment.

Personal Experience
As technology develops at an increasing rate, we have unprecedented opportunities to give guests a first person, tailored experience – where they are not passive observers but active participants determining their own fate. Speaker will be Matthew DuPlessie of 5 Wits.

The Customer Journey
Where does it all begin? George Nauman of brand and retail design company Chute Gerdeman will describe where it all begins and how to disrupt, engage and influence the customer journey through immersive sensory experiences.

A strong part of any conference, and a key function of the TEA, are the networking opportunities, and SATE ’15 will have plenty. It all kicks off on Wednesday night, September 16, with the Arrival Mixer at Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh, followed by a Cocktail Reception on Thursday at the CMU’s own Entertainment Technology Center. Then, on Friday, Alcorn McBride sponsors the SATEoke/Closing Mixer at the Claddagh Irish Pub. We’re sure the company will be great, but putting “SATE” in front of karaoke doesn’t make such musical torture any better guys! (Park World will bring the ear plugs)

Following the conference, on Saturday, September 19, CMU will also be the host venue for the TEA NextGen GibGab, giving students and recent graduates the chance to network with some of the best companies in the business, including a speed dating-style series of short discussions with TEA members.

More details of all sessions at SATE ’15, together with speaker biographies, can be found on the SATE Blog. To check out hotel information, travel advice etc, click here. To purchase tickets, click here. In the meantime, you can follow TEA on Twitter and Facebook. #TEAsate

SATE flyer 2

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