Age Of Empires IV

The aftermath of a giant boulder crash landing on an unassuming vehicle parked in the middle of Times Square New York, fabricated by The Factory NYC for Monster XP.

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In collaboration with Monster XP for the Age of Empires IV release, this was an interactive activation in Times Square which included a number of elements fabricated and installed by The Factory NYC.

The Factory provided a textured back wall, an augmented reality historical portal, and a real car that we crushed and adorned with a seven-foot boulder that appeared to have broken through the TV screen to crush the front windshield and create the perfect catastrophic photo moment.

This epic Times Square takeover synced giant screens around the Square displaying the brand’s game characters and release dates.  

Case Study Q&A: Josh Newman, Account Manager

Q: Could you walk us through the creative and technical aspects of making the boulder, especially the finishing method?

A: Yes, this was the third iteration of this object. We had created this cherry (pictured below) for a previous project, and since it was such a huge piece of foam, we decided to save it instead of throwing it away after the event. So it sat up on our roof for a couple years, and then this job came along and we needed a large amount of foam. So, we were like, ‘Let’s take that!’ So we brought it, carved it down, filled the hole, and put a foam coat on it that both seals and protects it from flame and then we did a textured scenic paint job.

Q: Can you discuss the process involved in creating the “smashed” effect of the windshield?

A: It needed to be done very carefully because we needed to match the shape of the boulder to the car itself. So what we did was we got half of a 55-gallon oil drum and welded internal gussets into it, strapped that to the bottom of the forks of our forklift, and then put one skid of plywood on the top of the forks. So the forklift could raise the weight, and then the weight itself came down. We used the drum to crush the car in a very controlled manner. I kind of worked through that technique with Louie, one of TFNYC’s owners, and then he manned the forklift and crushed it! He’s the boss so it was fine haha.

Q: Could you share details about the materials and finishing methods chosen for crafting the interactive portal and title block?

A: One of the fun little tidbits about that was we took a spray bottle with a fun mister head of acetone and sprayed it. The acetone ate away in a very controlled fashion, depending on how the spray is or how tight or wide the nozzle is and we used that to create the dibble texture of old stonework. We then hard coated it and painted it so instead of trying to carve it by hand, we would go around with spray guns and that’s how we got the texture that way.

Q:  Tell us about the car. 

A: Luckily, we didn’t have to have a fully functioning car, but it was a real car nonetheless! We had to modify it and prep it to meet the venue’s specifications.  It was fantastic when we acquired it, everyone who saw it was so curious:

Is that a crushed car?”
“And that’s a boulder?” 
“Where’d it come from?”
“My imagination!”

But in all seriousness, the client comes up with all of the visual aspects of it. We take their concept and figure out how to turn a 2D drawing or concept into an actual reality so it can be built with our methodologies here.

Q: Could you elaborate on how the team secured the boulder on top of the car for the display?

A: So we took the original, the cherry, and split it in half with a hotwire knife. Then we welded, something that looked like a Christmas tree, out of one-by-one steel with a plate on the bottom and then put the two halves of the now boulder on top of it. And then from there, we did a plate inside the car and bolted through the top of the car.

Q: What did assembly day look like? How did you make sure no damage was done to the activation?

A: It was done at night. It was very late. We started at 10 pm, luckily it was nice outside. Which was great. I believe NYPD and transportation had barricades set up around the whole area. We had NYPD already there and had actual security throughout the whole environment. That was during the installation. During the day, the car was locked and we had the key, so it was immobilized. So unless somebody could pick up a car, it couldn’t move anywhere. All the other walls and archways were bagged with several 1000 pounds of counterweight. It was within our engineering specs for wind, but not from people. That’s always a calculated risk which is basically all engineering, designing, and measuring something up to a certain point. We qualify things based on experience, calculations, and based on several other factors. For example, we believe that this wall, or this table or chair, will withstand 40-mile-per-hour wind gusts or sudden impacts. But there is a difference between impact force and sustain force. Ya know? Physics.

Q: How would you describe the experience of seeing something you worked on a grand scale in a prominent location like Times Square?

A: The canyon of Times Square is vast and intimidating. In many cases, even if you bring something that seems powerful here in the shop, once you get into that space, it seems so much smaller, especially at night or when there are tens of thousands of people around. But even with this one, it was cool because even though there are so many elements in Times Square in general, when people see a car crushed by a boulder and fifty troops in gold, even in New York people are like: “Oh, that’s kind of cool.”

Photos courtesy of Monster XP.