New Yorkers are taking their dinner with a side order of interactive storytelling at Journey, a unique new dining destination in New York, where VIOSO’s advanced auto-calibration technology is being used to whisk diners across the world without ever leaving the table.
Billed as ‘theatrical gastronomy’, Journey, at 27 West 24th Street, offers a multitude of ways to dine and be immersed in entertainment.
An offering from the brains behind some of the biggest Broadway shows, utilising the most advanced technology, Journey takes dining to the next level, pairing food by acclaimed chef Eddie Hong with projection-mapped visuals, audio and live actors.
The Journey restaurant is divided into four experiences: Journey Lounge, Journey Epic Café, Journey Odyssey, and Journey 360.
Thirty-seven ultra-high-definition video projectors, along with 12 OLED screens, fill the restaurant, totalling 250 million pixels.
One of the main challenges involved hiding from view the 37 projectors needed to create the experience.
“We didn’t want this to look like a mess of AV equipment – the restaurant was designed by award-winning Broadway designers and has a unique aesthetic in itself, so I was dead-set in hiding the projectors in light shades and in the ceiling as much as I possibly could,” explained Jason McFerran of integrator Illuminating Magic.
The star of the Journey experience is Journey 360, a private room that offers communal seating for up to 20 guests.
Upon entering, diners are surrounded on every wall with seamless projection, even contiguous along the 24-foot table (12,288 pixels), while 12 projectors fill the chamber but hide neatly within the ceiling.
Using a VIOSO camera calibration system, all projectors are kept in perfect warp and blend for the life of the establishment.
Illuminating Magic has previously worked on other immersive dining experiences, including Le Petit Chef at New York rooftop restaurant The View, whose combination of four-course dining with 3D visual storytelling (guests’ meals are ‘cooked’ by the eponymous chef, who stands 6cm tall) has garnered millions of views on social media.
Journey, however, is the first to incorporate several different dining experiences with varying levels: wall animations, bar-top, tabletop, and full 360°.
The combination of a “cutting-edge video presentation with four channels of spatial audio to accompany your gastronomic adventure is what true immersion looks like – an unforgettable dining experience that caters to all five senses,” said Kevin Zevchik, US director of VIOSO.
Further immersion is provided by enabling guests to interact with the environment around them – for example, by writing graffiti on the walls or creating unique snowflakes in the Arctic, all by using their smartphone.
Produced and developed by Zanim8tion, the Journey 360 video content – which includes journeys to the banks of the Amazon, the Atlantic Ocean floor and the inside of an active volcano – was created completely in Unreal Engine with a custom-made four-camera rig that renders the immersive 360° views.
This explained McFerran, came with additional “inherent risks, including camera intrinsics, parallaxes, Z-fighting, and quadrupled render errors.”
“Sustaining the 360° visuals is not only a feat from the content creation but also a requirement from the VIOSO auto-calibration,” added Zevchik.
“Given the nature of the buildings in New York City, it is nearly impossible to guarantee a perfect blend every day without auto-cal.”
Playback is also handled by VIOSO hardware, with an Anystation Media server, powered by IOversal Vertex, delivering the ultra-high-resolution visuals key to providing Journey 360’s sense of immersion.
Since launching, the restaurant – and in particular Journey 360 – has garnered rave reviews from critics and customers alike, with positive reviews in Time Out and the New York Times and being named one of the top-four dining experiences in New York City by Forbes.
“We are delighted to have played our part in the creation of Journey, which has deservedly taken the New York dining scene by storm,” said Zevchik.
“As a showcase for how immersive video, properly calibrated, can elevate the gastronomic experience, Journey has well and truly earned its place among the greatest dining experiences in the city that never sleeps.”