3 Questions with Chris Roy, Director of Creative Design, OTL, Inc.

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Programming Perfection: How Software Can Make or Break a Fountain Show

Storytelling is a pillar of OTL’s creative process. Whether it’s done through the design and detail of a themed environment, a series of architectural fountains, or the choreographic movement of water in a show fountain, narrative drives our work. Done right, a great fountain delivers a spectacular result and brings joy to crowds of all ages.

Engineers and construction tradespeople contribute to individual aspects of the creation of a musical show fountain, which is an enormous endeavor. Creative designers, however, permeate every area of production from start to finish.
Chris Roy, Director of Creative Design for OTL.

Artists visualize jet layouts and make aesthetic nozzle selections that will allow the future fountain to dance to music, then choreograph the shows as the project is completed. My recent blog post covers the importance of our thorough program process and how it has been developed over time. For a quick look, keep reading below:

1. How does the OTL team approach the role of programming in the fountain creation process?

Music and choreographic flexibility form the fountain’s fundamental starting point. Just like a musical masterpiece, the final result should be rich and robust. The different fountain effects we choose serve as the instruments—equipment selection and layout are key to success, just like an orchestra.

For example, moving jets capture the lyrical and melodic movements of a song while staccato vertical jets support tempo. Arranging the jets in arcs and rings can put together a visually rich display to enhance the experience of the viewer.

2. What are the benefits of the new programming system OTL has adopted?

We use a system called “Syncronorm” for show programming, which works extremely well for a number of reasons.

In the past, visualization and programming were two completely separate items, so artists had to create a computer-generated animation of the fountain show to share with architects and developers, then start from scratch again to create the program to run the actual fountain once it’s built. Syncronorm allows programmers to create both the visualization and the show’s programming together in a single step.

In addition, Syncronorm’s software works with all equipment, allowing our engineers to select equipment from a variety of manufacturers for specific effects when needed to maximize the unique character of an individual fountain.

This system also allows us to program with a visual, timeline-based approach.

Older show programming is often plagued with a disjointed appearance due to disparate pre-programmed sequences.

This is not the case in OTL’s fountains; our show programmers can create effect palettes that are unique for each project and compose them to match the musical arrangements for each show. Syncronorm’s software includes tools that allow for impressive transitions and blending of effects, ensuring continuity and smoothness.

The visual, timeline-based approach is suited for artistically-inclined individual programming, and this is where OTL’s fountain show choreography really stands out. When putting a fountain show together, our designers constantly pause and replay segments of songs, listening to the timing and details for inspiration to create beautiful sequences of water and light.

3. What are some challenges and rewards to programming a fountain show?

Restraint during programming is paramount—it is all too easy to throw everything together in a bid to add excitement, but the result rarely flows well and is seldom lyrical. Our designers focus on building elements to weave a narrative supporting the underlying rhythm, movement and emotion of the music.

Allison Long is one of our primary programmers and creates the bulk of OTL’s fountain shows. Her favorite element of the process is seeing her musical creation come to life after spending so much time listening to and dissecting the piece she’s translating into a show.

After the software is learned, programming a show fountain is fun. It’s a truly special experience—there aren’t many people who get to do this, and we feel privileged to do this work. It’s a tremendous feeling to design these fountains and put shows together knowing so many people will enjoy watching them for years to come.



Chris Roy is the Director of Creative Design for Outside the Lines, Inc. In this role, he leads the company’s design efforts, working with developers, architects, and landscape architects, as well as engineers and vendors. Contact him at ChrisR@otl-inc.com.