WWE's Senior Vice President of Event Technical Operations Duncan Leslie recently spoke with Tony Maglio of The Wrap to discuss the new WWE ThunderDome at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Leslie noted that the intention behind The ThunderDome was to give fans "via technology, the most immersive experience that we could think of."
Leslie confirmed that ThunderDome is an expensive addition for the company, but they feel like it's worth it.
"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.
Leslie also revealed that the company doesn't plan on packing up the ThunderDome set for good once fans are allowed back at arenas amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We don't want to just shed all of the learnings and all the accomplishments that we've created with the ThunderDome," Leslie said. "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."
Leslie also confirmed that there are no real differences to what ThunderDome virtual crowd members see vs. what TV viewers see at home, besides the fact that the live feed to screens is not slightly delayed like TV is.
"They're seeing the program cut," Leslie said.
Regarding the audio for The ThunderDome, Leslie noted that a "virtual audience mix" is used, where they essentially pump fake crowd noise into the broadcast, but are still able to "introduce the fans at home" by un-muting the virtual ThunderDome fans. That option does come with a "slight delay" and "a lot of ambience" at home, according to Leslie, who added that it's a nice option to have.
Leslie also confirmed that The ThunderDome name came from the 1985 movie starring Mel Gibson, the third in the "Mad Max" trilogy from George Miller. He said they settled on the name "pretty quickly."
Leslie was also asked if WWE will try to coordinate fan chants via a chat room. It was noted that they already have a moderator and WWE Superstars hosting the events and giving instructions to ThunderDome participants as the night goes on. He said it's an "open playing field" right now, but there is room for more structure in the future.
"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," he said.