WWE debuted the ThunderDome last Friday on WWE SmackDown, bringing fans a virtual and over the top experience lacking in the Performance Center. The ThunderDome features LED boards around the Amway Center with fans being able to watch and react live.
Duncan Leslie, senior vice president of event technical operations, spoke with The Wrap about moving the ThunderDome forward, even when fans return.
“It’s an expensive venture but I think the dividend is well worth it because we’re helping move to some type of normalcy,” Leslie said. “We don’t want to just shed all of the learnings and all the accomplishments that we’ve created with the ThunderDome. This technology will still be available to us whether or not we — and hopefully soon — have fans in attendance. We developed it, we planned for it, we executed it, and now it’s up to creative to decide how they want to implement it in the longterm.”
One complaint many watching at home have had in regards to the ThunderDome is the crowd noise. Fans can react while watching at home, but their reactions are not always used by WWE.
WWE uses a "virtual audience mix," which allows the company to pump in fake crowd noise, but also unmute fans for a real reaction. Leslie notes that unmuting fans comes with a slight delay and "a lot of ambience."
WWE has caught criticism over footage showing a director telling fans who to cheer for and who to boo. When asked if WWE would potentially take it a step further and instruct fans on what to chant, Leslie said, “Maybe down the road there will be more structure if creative and production feel it will enhance the experience, but right now it’s sort of an open playing field for us."
WWE has a residency with the Amway Center through October 31, though the agreement can be extended past that date. You can learn more about WWE taking over the Amway Center by clicking here.