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Sarner provides AV integration for revamp of Science Museum’s biomedical gallery (South Kensington, UK)


South Kensington, UK — The award winning biomedical gallery of the Science Museum, ‘Who am I?’, has been relaunched as part of the museum’s centenary celebrations. The exhibition, first opened at the museum in 2000, has updated and revamped the gallery with the very latest scientific research, interactive exhibits, hands-on experiences and educational showcases.

Internationally renowned AV installation company Sarner was appointed as audiovisual systems integrator for the detailed design, installation and commissioning of AV services of the exhibition following a tender process. The project, which was supported by the principal funder, Wellcome Trust, and major sponsors, GlaxoSmithKline and Life Technologies Foundation, took a total of five months from tender process to completion with three months on-site at the museum.

Sarner’s provision of the design, installation and commissioning of AV within the gallery includes:

• Me3 Exhibits
• 37 Bloid Exhibits
• 19 AV Showcase Exhibits
• Live Science Entrance
• 2 Control Room

The Me3 Exhibit, a multi-element interactive experience, is made up of Threshold, Central Exhibit and Backdrop. The main attraction, the Threshold exhibit, creates a dramatic entrance to the gallery and features moving colored particles which are constantly projected on to the floor of the long ‘catwalk’ with seamless projection. Visitors are ‘drawn’ along the floor, captivated by the colors, and, as they approach the wall at the end, a recessed camera converts the individual’s body shape in to a mass of colored particles, mimicking their exact body shape and movement in real time. This interactive projection was achieved using Calibre PVPROHD warp processors that allow a seamless image to appear along the floor and up the end wall at a 90 degree angle. Breaking with traditional boundaries, the 5 x Panasonic 6700 projectors have been positioned out of sight and driven at extreme angles – this not only delivers the seamless projection but also lets visitors approach the camera on the end wall without causing shadows.

Ross Magri, Sarner’s Managing Director, comments, “We enjoyed the challenge of finding a way to achieve a seamless vertical and horizontal video wall with 180 degree interaction as there wasn’t a solution available in the market at the time of tender.” Magri adds, “It was refreshing for us to focus on a pure engineering project and we feel that ‘Who am I?’ showcases our ability to deliver highly technical innovative solutions. ”

The projection of the coloured particles continues through the gallery with the other Me3 exhibits, the Central Exhibit and Backdrop. The Central Exhibit, the centrepiece of the gallery, is a large interactive table which brings visitors together to investigate what makes them unique. This exhibit consists of two tables, each embedded with 6 x 32” touch screens, where visitors play games and answer questions about themselves, while audio is heard via speakers mounted from the ceiling. This exhibit is linked to Backdrop, a large wall (18x4m) at the back of the gallery which uses the answers and information that visitors input at the Central Exhibit and projects it on to the back wall using 4 x Panasonic 6700 projectors.

Sarner was responsible for the installation of all the touch screens used in the new exhibition, including the 10 Bloids (unique aluminium 3D shapes that each house up to 6 exhibits) which cover major themes such as human identity, language, consciousness, genetics, sexuality and brain science; the 13 touch screen kiosks which are positioned throughout the gallery and allow visitors to explore subjects in greater depth and read about new developments; and the 15 screens within seven of the captivating static display cases which showcase research, museum artifacts and exclusive art works by internationally renowned contemporary artists including Antony Gormley and Dryden Goodwin.

Technical notes:
SCIENCE MUSEUM Me3 PROJECTIONS
Video magic? How it was done:

Backdrop – A single 18x4m projection on a purpose built screen sits on the north wall of the ‘Who am I?’ exhibition space.
The design specification requested that all of the display electronics be kept out of sight, where possible, and not impinge upon the image when viewed from a distance. In addition, visitors would need to approach the image without shadows disturbing the overall effect. A Mac computer generated the video which produced 4 DVI video outputs.

Utilising 4off Panasonic 6700 projectors with specialist lenses, and 4 Calibre PV PRO HD warp boxes, Sarner designed a solution which allowed the projectors to be placed off axis, so they didn’t interfere with the overall projection, and allowed visitors to approach to within 2.5m before shadows started to appear on the bottom edge of the image. The difficulty with this was that placing the projectors at such an obtuse angle distorted the individual projections in to a trapezoid. Each of these outputs was then processed through the Calibre warp boxes, which first electronically warped them back in to shape, and then edge blended them to produce a single clean widescreen image. The end result was a dramatic widescreen projection with very little evidence of the projectors on view.

Central Exhibit Tables – Two masked projections directly on to table tops, with the mask cutting out the interactive screens where visitors’ game results are displayed on the Backdrop projection.
The Central Exhibit tables were relatively simple in comparison to the Backdrop, only requiring some very careful calculations. Sarner had to utilize fixed lenses in order to reduce the throw distance of the projectors, and had an exact footprint to cover, which meant that the projectors needed to be installed within a tolerance of no more than 5%. As the projectors were driver RGBHV, additional Kramer line drivers had to be installed to maintain image quality over a distance of 22m.

Threshold – comprising of an 8.5m walk way and a 4m high free standing wall. An interactive camera sits at the center of the freestanding wall, capturing the infra-red reflections given off by body heat and translating it in real time, to display as fluid particles running down the wall and on to the floor. The Threshold exhibit pushed the boundaries of optical technology and relied upon Sarner’s ability to warp images, utilising the same Calibre PV PRO HD units as in the Backdrop. The projectors again are placed high and out of sight, and images are warped and blended back in to shape to create the one continuous image. Visitors are able to walk within 1.9m of the wall without affecting the projection at all. Kramer line drivers were also used in line to maintain image quality.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs. Judith has ties to numerous industry organizations. From 2005-2020 she ran communications, publications and social media for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA, and co-chair of the 2014 IMERSA Summit. She was publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association in the 1990s, now part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and has also contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Already making her mark as a magazine and book editor, Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. Launching as a freelancer in the mid 1990s she has contributed to dozens of publications and media outlets including Funworld, Lighting&Sound America, Sound & Communications, Urban Land, The Raconteur and The Planetarian. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. She has lived in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and now makes her home in Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts and theater community.

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