Barco offers flexible solutions for media-based attractions
by Joe Kleiman
Projection systems that seamlessly integrate with the audiovisual workflow support designers, integrators and operators striving to present the best visuals and latest media in their attractions. Barco’s new projectors are designed to create versatility in their deployment and deliver ultimate flexibility for media-based attractions. As a tool for the storyteller, these projectors are designed to be “invisible” (essentially undetectable or unobtrusive to the guest; compatible and adaptable for the creative and technical team) while providing optimal imagery for a wide range of applications, spaces and settings. The recently announced XDM and XDX projectors, based on Barco’s cinema projector series, are native 4K and are designed for environments such as dark rides and theatrical shows, while the UDX, UDM, F- and G-series projectors are well suited to projection-mapped projects.
Multiple Thea Awards for Barco projects
Several projects using Barco projectors have been honored with the prestigious Thea Award from the Themed Entertainment Association four years in a row. The art exhibition Carrières des Lumières received a Thea Award in 2018. Three dark ride projects also earned Theas. Barco partnered with Alterface on two of these projects — Bazyliszek at Poland’s Park Legendia (awarded in 2019) and Popcorn Revenge at Walibi Belgium (2020). The third was Sesame Street: Street Mission at PortAventura World, produced by Sally Dark Rides (2021).
Both Bazyliszek and Popcorn Revenge utilized the PGWU-62L laser phosphor projector. One of the benefits of this projector for use in a confined space (such as a dark ride tunnel) is its very low noise levels.
The versatility of Barco’s UDX-W22 projectors is demonstrated in how they illuminate each of the Sesame Street ride’s eight screens. The screens range from 30-feet to 70-feet wide. Four of the screens feature projection mapping on dimensional sets with practical target integration. Another screen is curved 90-degrees, with animatronic and show element syncing. Two more screens are curved 180-degrees, allowing for a flight through The Count’s castle and a dive into Oscar the Grouch’s trash can. The final screen is flat and is used as a Hall of Fame scoreboard.
Barco recently introduced a new projector line designed specifically for the attractions market. According to Koen Van Belle, Segment Marketing Manager overseeing the themed entertainment market at Barco: “We had received requests to show high resolution images with a very large color palette. Our new XDM and XDX meet these needs by using discrete RGB lasers as a light source to show a Rec. 2020 color gamut. Both XDM and XDX projectors are using native 4K durable DLP chips and are providing a brightness of 25K and 40K lumens.”
The XDM and XDX have a modular design to support the replacement of individual components if issues arise. The modules are designed to be removed and replaced from the outside of the projector. This internal setup of the modules facilitates servicing the projector on-site. “Barco provides training,” says Van Belle, “to make sure the projectors are serviced and maintained in the best possible way, so visitors can enjoy the attraction over and over again. We are confident in the reliability of the new XDM and XDX line as they build upon Barco’s existing cinema projector line.”
Two additional advantages that the XDM and XDX share are 1) cloud connectivity — which allows projector placement in non-traditional locations while allowing management and technical staff to operate and remotely monitor them, an advantage for both operations and projector maintenance, and 2) installation flexibility with different lenses from ultra-short throw projection to long-distance projection.
Like the XDM and XDX, the UDM and UDX also feature modular components and cloud connectivity. Regardless of the project, Barco provides flexibility by concentrating on the projection aspect while the client can utilize their own servers, 3D software and other equipment.
Museums and outdoors: Projection mapping
Within the museum sector, Barco technology can be found in fulldome theaters and is incorporated into IMAX’s laser projection system. For indoor projects involving projection mapping, Barco offers the G62, G100 and F80-series projectors. “These laser phosphor projectors are offered in a range of lumens, starting at 7,000 lumens, tailored for indoor mapping,” says Van Belle. “Barco is best known for its larger projectors, but we have also developed smaller projectors ideal for museum installations.”
In a series of installations, Barco partnered with the French cultural organization Culturespaces on Carrières des Lumières museum in Les Baux-de-Provence, Bassins des Lumières in Bordeaux and Atelier des Lumières in Paris, an agreement that has since been extended to other projects. 2018 Thea Award recipient Carrières des Lumières, built inside an ancient quarry, features giant, animated projected images along its walls based on classical art.
“Projection mapping tends to differ from market to market,” says Filip Vindevogel, Segment Marketing Communication Manager for Entertainment at Barco. “In North America, there is much demand for indoor applications for museums and attractions. In Europe and other regions, it’s both indoors and outdoors due to the emphasis on cultural heritage.”
For outdoor projection mapping, Barco’s UDX and UDM series are both designed to be installed in climate-controlled, weather resistant housing. “The high light output — 41K lumen for the UDX and 22K lumen for the UDM — gives the necessary brightness to project on large structures, and the wide variety of lenses gives the flexibility to install them in all locations,” says Van Belle. “Next to the WUXGA and 4KUHD resolution versions, we also offer an UXGA version with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is ideal for outdoor projection mapping since it mimics the shape of most buildings.”
In a recent project in China, UDX projectors are used in the city of Zhangjiakou to projection-map a nighttime spectacle onto the cooling towers of a retired coal-burning power plant. In Lhasa, Tibet, one of the highest elevations ever for a projection mapping event, the UDX proved itself in projecting on the plaza in front of the ancient Buddhist temple 12,000 feet above sea level.
“We are always aiming for the best quality,” says Van Belle. “Our goal is to show the content as intended without loss of pixels or information. We’re not just supplying the projectors, we’re a partner in the whole system.” (And a somewhat “silent partner” at that.) “We work to keep our projectors out of the way so they can’t be seen,” Van Belle adds. “Our tech should be integral, but it should also be invisible for the visitors to provide for the best immersive experience.” • • •