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China wows with underwater theater

Hollywood provides sound, visuals for 'Bubble'

When China decided to build “The Bubble” — a hi-def, 360-degree, underwater film theater that promises audiences a near-psychedelic sensory experience — it looked to Hollywood to turn its Electric Kool-Aid fantasy into a commercial, family-friendly reality.

The 70-feet-high, 120-feet-long Bubble, soft-launching this summer, will be the centerpiece of the new City of Dreams resort in Macau, China’s only gambler-friendly enclave. Inside the Bubble, 500 standing guests will be transported underground where they will experience a 10-minute, multimedia-immersive extravaganza called “Dragon’s Treasure.”

The film, with screen technology care of Stewart Filmscreen, relies on visuals and sound– very big sound — to tell its epic tale.

For composer Klaus Badelt (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), who hails from Hans Zimmer’s Media Ventures studios in Santa Monica, Calif., the project was an opportunity to let his sonic imagination run wild.

“Imagine sound and images are surrounding you completely while you’re in the center of this magical world,” Badelt says. “The scale and the mythical content allowed me to extend my composer’s vocabulary indefinitely.”

Badelt was handpicked for the job by Orlando, Fla.-based creative services firm Falcon’s Treehouse for City of Dreams developers Melco Crown Entertainment two years ago. He had written music for the opening ceremony of the China-hostedOlympics last year and scored Chen Kaige’s 2006 Mandarin-language movie “The Promise,” so his understanding of Chinese culture made him a strong candidate for the job. Nonetheless, even with his extensive cross-cultural knowledge, Badelt says, working on “Dragon’s Treasure” opened the door to Chinese musical traditions he had no idea even existed.

“We’re using some traditional Chinese instruments whose names I can’t even spell,” Badelt says. “Some don’t even have names.” Badelt had traveled the country looking for musicians who understood how to play ancient Chinese music. “The most amazing instrumentalists are in Beijing and in the provinces,” Badelt says, “people who have dedicated their entire lives to studying these obscure instruments. They get tones and sounds out of them I can’t even describe.”

Badelt combined those traditional Chinese sounds — emanating from such bowed instruments as the erhu, the agica and the Mongolian matou as well as Chinese flutes, referred to as di zi — along with Western orchestral elements (recorded at Abbey Road studios) to create a “grand, sweeping” score. The final mix will be recorded inside the Bubble next month. “I am a German living in Hollywood writing for a Chinese project,” Badelt muses. “I guess this is what they call ‘international magic.’ “

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