16.05.11

Edinburgh attraction gets 4D theatre

AUTHOR: Inavate
4D effects include wind, snow, motion and scent

This year Global Immersion scooped an InAVation Award for its design and integration of a 4D theatre interactive exhibition, Our Dynamic Earth. The resulting installation was instrumental in changing the fortunes of an attraction that was shedding visitors.

Our Dynamic Earth (ODE) is a popular visitor attraction in Edinburgh, Scotland that employs interactive exhibits and technology to tell the story of the planet we live on. It welcomes more than 200,000 visitors a year and in 2009 started to think about transforming one of its exhibition spaces with a 4D theatre that would inspire and engage 5-12 year olds.

The attraction was established in 2009 and after ten years of operation its directors hoped that a 4D attractions would assist with continuing expansion plans and bolster declining visitor numbers. Douglas Walker, commercial director at ODE, was also keen the area could be used for corporate events and stipulated that the AV capabilities must compliment this use.

With its plan in place ODE started to look for a company that could implement the technology that would bring the 4D theatre to life. Global Immersion, a specialist supplier and integrator of immersive theatre technologies, was selected to not only design and integrate the theatre but also head up interior design for the project.

“I think we won [the contract] because we offered the customer a consultative approach,” explains Tony Scott, senior project manager at Global Immersion. “We listened to Dynamic Earth’s requirements and worked with them to create a much better use of the available space.” Perhaps most importantly Scott adds that Global Immersion considered what he describes as “real issues” such as the flow of the public.

All site works had to be completed in a ten week window ahead of the public opening on April 1, 2010, which was no small feat given the demanding brief Global Immersion was faced with.
Global Immersion also designed and installed a pre-show area that was capable of acting as a ‘holding zone’ for up to 100 visitors. A projectiondesign F32 projector, a bespoke projection screen, three 37” Samsung LCD displays and an Electro-Voice sound system was installed to provide an overview of the key biomes on earth and their animal and plant groups. Video cabling to the preshow area was managed with Cat6 video extenders.

Prior to installation work Global Immersion conducted several site visits to carry out detailed spatial analysis and design reviews with interior designers and the client operational team.
CAD-modelling allowed the project team to accurately forecast the display resolution, contrast and geometry and establish the optimum screen size, seating layout, audio configuration and projector location.

Global Immersion specified a 3D display system based on a projectiondesign F32 WUXGA Infitec projector and an Infitec stereoscopic 3D Kit which included 246 pairs of type 2 glasses and a custom designed glasses dishwasher, drying machine and management trolley.
Great consideration was taken over design of the washing/drying system which also includes a motorised table. It allows the cleaning process to be completed for up to 82 pairs within a ten minute cycle.

Scott says this product development was key to the project. “There wasn’t a suitable wash/drying solution on the market that would give the required turnaround time for the cleaning of the 3D glasses – so we made one! We are now delivering this on our other projects.”

The integrator pondered active, passive and Infitec stereoscopic solutions before making a decision. Infitec was selected because of low cost of ownership, high display brightness and colour retention. Furthermore, the selected solution eradicated ‘ghosting’ of right/left eye projection channels.

Projector mounts were custom designed and manufactured by Global Immersion engineers. Scott says: “We had to fully survey the ceiling area because it was so busy with air conditioning, cable trussing and lighting. This was key to ensure we got good coverage of the 4D effects and also good solid fixings for moving components.”

A 7.5m radius bespoke cylindrical screen was fitted by Global Immersion engineers and projection was I 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) resolution with 7 ftL of brightness in monoscopic mode.

The projection system is driven by Global Immersion’s Media Server solution running the company’s Media Director Software. This also provides video playback for the projection display in the pre-show area.
 
AMX NetLinx technology was integrated for control, using an AMX Modero 8.4” touch screen wireless panel as the core user interface. Global Immersion programmed additional functionality into this architecture including a VPN firewall to monitor and record activity, notifying internal and external engineers of the status of all system hardware and software. The system features a programmed single button theatre control, multiple user login settings and controls every AV component across both visitor areas.

A 7.1 audio configuration comprised of Electro-Voice EVID 4.2 speakers and a TX1181 sub speaker. The integrator had to take particular care to design the sound system to ensure that background noise from the 4D effect hardware did not affect the show. “There was a lot of existing audio equipment that was onsite to be used [and] we matched our equipment supply to get the best possible solution,” adds Scott.
 
The audio is fed by six amplifiers comprising Crown CE1000’s, an Electro-Voice CPS 8.5 and a Cloud CX – A6. The audio from both the 4D and pre-show area provides 14 channels (including Media Server, GUI machine for motion seating, pre-show video generator), all of which were fed from a custom programmed DSP controlled by AMX to manage sound routing and volume level adjustment.

High resolution, long length DVI cabling was fed to the projection equipment in the theatre. Data was carried by a mixture of Cat 6 and shielded twisted pair.
The 4D effects were made up of wind, snow, motion and scent. Six wind machines, located in in the theatre’s overhead rigging, are connected to a DMX board, programmed into the show with Global Immersion’s custom 4D hardware management protocol. Two snow machines are controlled by AMX and power controlled over relay.

The 80 seats are each fed by seat rumbler units and 22 seat rumbler amplifiers. A scent machine, controlled by DMX and integrated into the central AMX automation system, releases olfactory fluids to recreate the smells of fresh sea, pine and undoubtedly less pleasant scent of rhinoceros urine.

Scott says the project put Global Immersion’s management skills to the test. “The most challenging aspect wasn’t actually the technical integration part of the project,” he explains. “The fact that this project was outside of our normal scope of work: from the conceptual design, through to the build, integration and commissioning.”

Shortly after opening the 4D theatre ODE experienced its busiest Easter Monday in its ten year history. And the initial spike in visitors wasn’t short lived. Last year the experience also recorded more than 30,000 visitors in July, again another record. They’re heartening figures for an attraction that had experienced a 15% drop, year on year, in visitor numbers.

Tech-Spec
Audio

Cloud CX-A6 amplifier
Crown CE1000 amplifiers
Electro-Voice EVID 3.2 and 4.2 speakers, SB121 bass speakers, TX1181 sub speaker, CPS 8.5 amplifier

Video
AMX Modero 8.4” touch panel, UPC20, NetLinx Controller
Global Immersion media server
Infitec stereoscopic 3D kit
Martin smartMac
Projectiondesign F20 projector, F32 projector
Samsung 37” LCD monitors