Wrapping Vegas

The basic elements are the same with wraps of all sizes, but large mass transit wraps offer some additional challenges that offer valuable lessons from graphics installers of all shapes and sizes.

What does it take to wrap a Las Vegas monorail inside and out? Final Film’s president shares what he has learned about metropolitan mega-wraps.

There are wraps ­ and then there are wraps.

Hollywood, Calif.-based Final Film, an environmental advertising and imaging company, has done them all. Final Film recently produced and installed the graphics on the exterior and interior of the Las Vegas Monorail for BankWest of Nevada. REZN8 created the theme for the branding program.

“We apply the same principles of branding to all of our projects, whether for a national network’s on-air graphics or for a company’s visual image in a local market advertising deal like the one with the Las Vegas Monorail,” says Paul Sidlo, REZN8’s founder and creative director.

“In every case, our goal is to capture each brand’s unique personality in a bold and memorable way ­ and the monorail’s innovative immersive experience doesn’t get any more memorable,” Sidlo adds.

The wrap is part of the BankWest Nevada’s immersive branding of its new themed Las Vegas Monorail train as part of a million-dollar advertising campaign entitled “We Take You Where You Want To Go.” Final Film also completed images seen on the trains for Nextel Communications, Hansen’s Beverage Company, Paramount Parks and the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

“REZN8’s creative vision and Final Film’s technical savvy offer companies like BankWest of Nevada an opportunity to present a personalized brand message in a distinctive, larger-than-life fashion,” says Patrick Pharris, president and chief executive officer of Promethean Partners, the company that created and sells the monorail’s experiential marketing program.

“The companies’ creative work will be emblazoned on the monorail trains for millions to see and experience each year and will eave its distinctive mark in advertising history,” Pharris noted.

Preparing for the project
How did Final Film prepare for such a massive wrap? The first step was to ensure that the artwork provided by the graphical designer fit the wire template of the train. “We go over details such as making certain a percentage of windows aren’t covered,” says Final Film President and CEO Gabe Lakatosh.

They used several tools. For exterior printing, they use the Vutek 5340 or 5300. For interior printing, they like Seiko because they output clean, crisp images. Mounting tools include a variety of basic squeegees and knives.

Lakatosh and his team have had plenty of experience determining what works ­ and what doesn’t. Final Film has successfully wrapped a number of Chicago elevated, mass transit trains. The projects in Chicago and Las Vegas are comparable in terms of the square footage of the wrap and the need to work around complex train schedules.

The Las Vegas Monorail train included wrapping four cars ­ that’s 4,340 square feet of exterior wrapping. The wrap included the top of the train where hotel patrons could view the signage from their hotel rooms. The project enlisted a crew of six to eight people and took approximately three to four days to complete.

“The main difference between wrapping a vehicle like the Las Vegas Monorail versus a standard vehicle is the real estate. Obviously, there is more space to cover, more accessories to wrap the vinyl around and more cutting involved,” Lakatosh says. “Similarities include the application process. The material adheres to the same surface and conforms to the same curves.”

First things first
The first thing the crew did when approaching the actual train was to remove the standard blue decals that are plastered on the cars. Next, the crew washed the train and used alcohol to clean the surface in preparation for the vinyl. After that they positioned the vinyl along the surface prior to removing the adhesive backing.

“In mounting the vinyl, we start in the center and work outwards. The center serves as the reference point. We use laser levels to ensure accuracy,” Lakatosh explains. “The noses on the front and back of the train are the most challenging parts because of their curves. This area takes more finessing to complete.”

The interior portion of the train is even more complicated than the outside because of the additional features involved, Lakatosh says. The crew had to work with floor graphics, ceiling graphics, control panels, and door handles. “The interior job is more labor intensive and also takes three to four working days,” Lakatosh says.

Scheduling challenges
Unlike wrapping a car in a garage studio, Final Film had to deal with monorail schedules during its project. The company made it a policy to not allow a train to go out into the public until the project was complete. This made it critical to complete projects in a tight time frame.

“We worked closely with the Las Vegas Monorail crew to communicate and report our progress. Final Film’s team regularly worked nights and early mornings, from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., when the trains are not in operation to complete the projects,” Lakatosh reports. To meet the scheduling demands, the company also had to keep a large crew working those odd hours.

So far as techniques and materials, Final Film used a wet application and 3M products. This was a better approach than dry application, considering the magnitude of complex curves and other tricky aspects to navigate, like emergency handles, air conditioners on the roof, doors and windows. “Anything that opens such as a door or has a natural line to it, we will follow it to ensure that you don’t see any cut lines,” Lakatosh explains.

There is a certain pressure that goes along with working with mass transit systems. “There is always the chance that the vehicle we are working on will be pulled into operation. Sometimes the primary trains in operation break down. At any given moment, they can take the train we are working on and put it back into operation,” Lakatosh says. “We make it our policy to work quickly and efficiently to avoid the scenario of putting a half-completed train into the public’s view.”

Weather lessons learned
Working in Las Vegas, you encounter extreme the desert climate ­ hot and cold. The Las Vegas Monorail train station itself has swamp coolers. At Final Film, they have learned how to work with the vinyl in fluctuating weather conditions.

“Given the weather in Vegas, the vinyl manufacturer has offered a three-year guarantee. The Hansen’s Monster Energy train is three years old and still appears in pristine condition. The vinyl may last as long as five years, depending on weather conditions. We can apply these lessons to other vehicle applications such as buses and standard vehicles,” Lakatosh concludes.

As seen on signindustry.com