When Craig Winslow was given this career opportunity of a lifetime, he trusted The Wild to help him visualize Burton’s whimsical ideas and experience them at an immersive, human scale—before building out the exhibition.
As a wunderkind experiential designer hailing from Portland, Oregon, Craig Winslow has brought specialty concepts to life for clients like NikeLab, Coca-Cola Consolidated, and Adobe. After being approached by Tim Burton to create an experiential design at The Neon Museum, Winslow knew he had the perfect tool to help visualize Burton’s most ambitious ideas: The Wild.
The Neon Museum is a nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing all of the old signs of Las Vegas back to life. Through preservation and restoration efforts, they protect the history of pieces like the Golden Nugget (1905) and Hard Rock Cafe signs by displaying them in a spectacular exhibit. Winslow says, “Any design or creative-leaning person in the world is aware of The Neon Museum, and its significance from a design and cultural standpoint of what made Vegas, Vegas.”
Filmmaker, artist, writer, and animator Tim Burton was selected as the first solo artist to take over the Neon Museum, with his 2019 exhibit named Lost Vegas. This exhibit circled around personal themes of childhood wonder and confusion in a city meant for adults. It also drew from the mysterious parallels of Vegas as a bright desert in the day, that then comes alive at night.
As the exhibit’s experiential partner, Winslow knew that, in order to properly visualize Burton’s fantastical vision for Lost Vegas, it was important to understand how his ideas would be experienced at human scale. The Wild was the perfect tool to provide this level of tangible collaboration in VR, so Winslow tasked a colleague with helping him bring The Neon Museum into The Wild.
Using drone photogrammetry and a bit of cleanup in Blender, Winslow and his colleague were able to create an entire 3D model of the museum’s main boneyard area and import it into The Wild at a 1:1 scale.
Winslow says, “I was surrounded by a virtual version of The Neon Museum that I could literally just walk around in via VR and place Tim’s art where it needed to go.”
Lost Vegas included the design and construction of a large geodesic dome, a neon gridwall, a 40-foot tall Lost Vegas pylon sign, interactive viewports, and several other hidden easter eggs from Burton’s past creations, including Mars Attacks! (filmed in Las Vegas) and Beetlejuice. Winslow imported these 3D concept models into The Wild, then strategically placed them with an intuitive flow that allowed guests to follow natural sight lines as they explored Tim’s exhibition.
“There are certain things VR is super helpful with, where you have your spatial awareness,” Winslow says. “I can't really show you a 3D render and say, ‘Here's how wide this inner circle is.’ But you can put on a headset and say, ‘Here's how wide the halls feel.’ or Okay, I can see the sight lines for these things.’”
Using The Wild to help visualize Burton’s design before building it out was crucial—the team only had two weeks to install the exhibition. Pouring concrete foundations for the 40-foot tall Lost Vegas sign required a long lead time, and they didn’t have the luxury of being able to restage things before the installation. Burton is particularly detailed about how he wants his work positioned and expected perfection down to the inch. Winslow explained, “Tim was particular in making sure all the heights of his works had a complimentary hierarchy, creating a relationship between every single object surrounding it.”
After virtually staging the 2019 Lost Vegas exhibition in The Wild, Winslow was able to put Tim Burton in a VR headset and share the vision in real time. Burton loved that they could tweak things live, at human scale, and share immediate feedback from across the world. Within minutes, Winslow was able to confirm the placement of things that needed fast approval.
Winslow says, “It took a few moments to get him comfortable in VR but once it clicked, he got so excited. Tim loved it so much. He kept saying, ‘Wow, this is so great. Hey! The dome looks pretty good from here!’”
Winslow’s assistance as an experiential partner and lead designer allowed Lost Vegas to create an amazing experience for a record-breaking 191,000 visitors during its six-month run, which began on October 15, 2019, and officially ended on April 12.
“Since then, we’ve seen countless people around the world in social isolation and realized we could look at ways to virtualize the boneyard, integrate annotations from their digital archive, and enable The Neon Museum to open their doors like never before” Winslow says. That brand new 360 Virtual Tour just launched and is available now at https://www.neonmuseum.org/virtualtour offering an immersive, life-like experience from home!