Motor Interaction at Mercedes - Benz World

AUTHOR: Inavate

Mercedes-Benz World’s gleaming new palace of glass and marble at Brooklands, Surrey, attests to a remarkable rebirth of what was once the glamorous heart of UK motorsport.

Mercedes-Benz World (MBW) is part supersized car showroom, part interactive visitor attraction and part vintage car museum. Designed by brand experience agency Live, MBW features AV supply, installation, commissioning and programming by a Sysco team led by project manager Graeme Bunyan and project engineer Glyn Hughes, with construction, mechanicals and décor by Stage One.

For his projection requirements Bunyan was able to fall back on the Christie portfolio, as he has many times in the past. The company has found solutions in a wide range of applications — from permanent LCD and DLP installations at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, to a series of major art exhibitions in some of London’s landmark edifices (such as the British Museum and the V&A).

At Brooklands, Christie projection is in evidence almost from the second visitors enter the Reception area where a three-storey-high glass atrium presents a magnificent display of Mercedes cars through the ages. At the top of the escalator we see the first hint of the AV experience to follow, in the shape of Watch — which introduces the entire project.

A short HD film with surround sound spanning the marque’s history is delivered by a Christie DW6K projector, fitted with a 1.45-1.8:1 lens to a front-projection screen fed from a Doremi Pro HD server. Denon DN-V300 DVD and DN-C635 CD provide other playback sources and signal switching takes place in a Kramer VP724XL.

The surround sound system is driven by three Lab.gruppen C28:4 amplifiers, a Parasound 7100 5.1 Surround Sound Processor and Peavey X-frame DSP. The loudspeaker complement comprises three Turbosound TCS-30 front speakers, recessed into the ceiling, four Tannoy V8 surround/delay speakers and a pair of Vs15BP subwoofers.

Microphones are AKG C747s and an Audio Technica handheld/lavalier radio mic system, with all sources routed through a Yamaha 01/96V mixer. In command is an AMX NI-3000 Controller with DMX and MIDI interfaces and AMX NXT-CV10 (control room) and NXD-CV7 (lectern) touch panels, with Sysco custom facility panels.

This classy retro-styled movie theatre is also available for corporate hire. In hired-out conference mode the setup allows full flexibility for PowerPoint and the complete gamut of corporate presentations, offering AMX source equipment control and adjustment of lighting and sound levels. Radio mics, HD-DVD, CD and VHS players cater for most needs and if someone calls with a particularly unusual technical request, Sysco’s technical team will be on hand to provide a solution.

Overall show control is provided by an AMX NI-3000 controller with DMX and MIDI interfaces and AMX NXT-CV10 (control room) and NXD-CV7 (lectern) touch panels, with Sysco custom facility panels.

Day-to-day operation, as elsewhere on the site, is handled by MBW’s in-house IT team but, says Sysco’s Graeme Bunyan, “We programmed the system, as much as possible, to take away all the complexity of running a presentation.” The 13.5m-diameter theatre’s construction, flooring, luxury seating, control area, soundproofing, lectern and finishing were the work of Stage One.

In hired-out conference mode the setup allows full flexibility for PowerPoint and the complete gamut of corporate presentations, offering AMX source equipment control and adjustment of lighting and sound levels. Radio mics, HD-DVD, CD and VHS players cater for most needs and if someone calls with a particularly unusual technical request, Sysco’s technical team will be on hand to provide a solution.

Christie equipment is next called into action in the Build zone, a truly immersive experience provided by a 90 sq. metre 3D simulator ride lasting ten minutes. This gives the visitor an idea of what it’s like to “be” the frame of a new Mercedes CL, entering the production line and being assaulted by robots drilling, painting, welding, gluing and fitting the rest of the body.

Every start, stop, jolt and turn is faithfully conveyed via custom-built seats, with an extra touch of realism given by heat from infra-red lights that represent the paint process’s baking stage. The seats tilt and swerve in sync with the action on screen, controlled by Stage One’s Q-Motion software and Q-Pos positional controllers. Accompanying the ride, an audio soundtrack neatly morphs between the car’s “thoughts” and that of a computer-voiced narrator.

Making the process more realistic still is 3D active stereoscopy, on which Sysco worked closely with autostereoscopy specialists Inition to devise a high quality solution. Playing out animation created by Lol Sargeant at Studio Simple (who also provided the interactive software for ‘Solve’), this is based on Inition’s 3D Playback Server technology, running on a Sysco high-spec graphics PC with an NVIDIA Quadro card feeding a Christie Mirage S+4K with 0.73:1 fixed lens projector and Paradigm rear projection mirror assembly.

Visitors watch the action through Christie 3D Active Glasses, synchronised to the graphics PC by a Christie IR emitter. The system employs a high frame-rate left/right interleaving technique to create the illusion of a high resolution 3D full colour image.

“The Christie element is crucial to the quality of the effect,” says Bunyan, “because it’s one of the few projectors that can handle that type of stereoscopic projection. Christie spent a lot of time in the design development with us, as well as assisting with demonstrations to the client of the different available technologies.”

Audio features Lab.gruppen amplification in the shape of C28:4 units and the four-channel, 4 x 1200W C48:4 model, driving nine Tannoy iw6DS in-wall surround/delay speakers and a Vs15BP subwoofer via a Parasound 7100 surround processor. An AMX NI-3000 operator’s touch screen system with Sysco custom control panels is linked to its counterparts elsewhere in the building.

Sysco also designed in a VPN connection to provide secure remote access to all PCs on site, allowing rebooting, updating of media and real-time monitoring and diagnostics. Bunyan explains: “From any location on the network we can talk to any of the show control equipment; we can update it and we can interface it with other systems.”

LED lighting – installed, as elsewhere in the attractions by DHA Lighting – features in-floor strips and LED shadow gap lighting around the room’s perimeters, along with spotlights and single strobes, and the aforementioned infrared heaters for the ‘paint baking’ sequence.

The final major attraction, Solve, is also MBW’s most overtly ‘educational’ zone, infused by a modern take on a classic theatrical trick.

Solve shows the visitor how engineering difficulties of the past were overcome, before moving on to the technical issues facing today’s designers and engineers. The futuristic structure presents a series of small ‘teaser’ windows at various heights and sizes that tempt the guest to try their hand at various educational interactives, including touch screens and control lecterns.

The attraction’s centrepiece is a massive display case containing a vintage 1902 Mercedes-Simplex, familiar to movie fans as the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, electronically revealed from behind Dayview liquid crystal polymer-laminated glass, onto which imagery is back-projected from a trio of Christie LX40 projectors.

The Simplex exhibit invites exploration of how the original engineers developed their solutions. A three-station interactive, using high speed graphics PCs customised by Sysco with Isol’s ClipShare synchronising software, and the LCD glass (that conceals or reveals the Simplex), allows visitors to choose different elements of the show, and test their ideas about resolving engineering challenges such as cooling an engine, with joysticks and buttons at each station.

The show is programmed to support two different modes. ‘Public’ is the unsupervised, automated mode which allows visitors to walk in at any time and start interacting with the exhibit, beginning with the revealed car. ‘School’ mode allows a teacher to host the area for a party of children. In this mode the teacher can manually switch the LCD glass to opaque while gaining the kids’ attention before initiating the interactives, and then cue the show’s closing reveal of the Simplex – all through a simple set of buttons on a key-protected control panel.

The smaller interactives dotted around this zone include the aforementioned theatrical trickery, where that Victorian visual innovation, Pepper’s Ghost, is reincarnated to illuminate state-of-the-art fuel cell technology. The effect is married to 21st century interaction via GestureTek motion-sensing that picks up a visitor’s hand movements in front of the display window.

Another interactive console, named Accident Free, centres on a pair of 30” NEC screens, the lower of which is equipped with a Zytronic touch sensitive layer that allows visitors to explore Mercedes-Benz’s development of safety-related systems such as Distronic technology which automatically slows the car on getting too close to the car in front, night driving with infrared vision assistance and more.

The third, simple Terramatics interactive uses an NEC 4610 46 inch display and a 17 inch Elo touch screen to further explore safety issues via touch screen options, video and audio clips. Driving this entire zone is an Alcorn McBride Amptraxx amplifier, AMX NI-3000 Controller and NXP-CPI-16 and AMX DMX interfaces, and Sysco custom control panels.

Sound is localised for each interactive by a combination of two Speakercraft MT-6 loudspeakers sited above each workstation position, one carrying the zone’s ‘global’ ambient track of noises and music and audio and narration, the other providing local spot effects to reinforce the messages of each interactive. DMX-based ambient lighting, similarly, is controlled via the AMX system, enabling complete integration of the entire A/V/L concept.

The MBW concept has already appeared in five European locations, but according to attractions manager Graham Clatworthy, the UK incarnation is unique in that it is not merely a visitor attraction but a fully-fledged working car showroom where leather interiors are caressed, gleaming paintwork admired and, ideally, cheques signed.

And it’s already well on course, says Mercedes, for its planned 300,000 visitors a year, eager for a sight of European motoring history.