AV takes off at the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum

High quality projection and clever installation breathes new life into an immersive aircraft carrier experience. Reece Webb goes aboard.

The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil, UK, is dedicated to telling the story of the UK’s naval air asset, from its inception and humble beginnings in the first world war all the way up to its role as a key asset in Britain’s defence in the modern day.

The museum is home to countless examples of the Fleet Air Arm’s famous aircraft, as well as models depicting Royal Navy aircraft carriers that brought these sea-faring warbirds into action.

To showcase these exhibits interactively, the museum created an immersive carrier experience to tell the story of life on a modern-day aircraft carrier, bringing visitors face to face with the aircraft and day-to-day life aboard an aircraft carrier.

Since installation several years ago, the carrier experience needed refreshing and updating to overhaul the overall experience with new technologies and content to entice visitors.

Enter Sysco Productions, an experienced integrator with a number of similar museum installs under its belt. Sysco already has a history of working with the Royal Navy’s exhibitions throughout the UK.

Bruce Stedman, operations director, Sysco Productions, explains: “Our direct client for this project was the exhibition designer Studio MB. We’ve worked a lot with them in the past and we have also worked with the National Museum of the Royal Navy before.

"The museum wanted a fresh update [for this experience] as it has been a long time since the original installation. They were after a huge projection for the main carrier exhibit area which dominates the space. The old exhibit had a nice experience, but it had a dated set up with two projectors in the corner of the room and an image that did not fill the large museum walls.”

Upon entry, visitors experience a helicopter take-off by walking through a hollowed-out Navy helicopter. A sensor triggers a vibrating floor in the helicopter, simultaneously activating a discreet audio system hidden within the structure.

This system is comprised of an existing Audac loudspeaker system and a new Behringer amplifier, combining the sound of a helicopter in flight with the vibrating floor to create a feeling of immersion from the first step. The audio is triggered by a Brightsign media player, housed in a Penn Elcom rack cabinet.

"We’re not just integrators, we’re good at mechanical engineering as well, so this was second nature to us." - Bruce Stedman, Sysco Productions

Moving through this space, visitors enter a huge open area depicting the runway of an aircraft carrier. In this dominating space, visitors find themselves surrounded by aircraft from all eras. The highlight is a huge projection of an aircraft carrier at sea supported by a booming audio system that fills the vast space with an intercom-like voiceover.

Two Epson 4K projectors bring a 24m x 7.8m projection to the wall of the space, using a Showmaster LE show controller and Netgear network switch to deliver content. An AV Stumpfl Pixera media server is also present on the flight deck and adjacent lift experience.

Stedman says: “We replaced the amplifiers with new Audac ones, but all the speakers/drive units are existing parts of the client’s system. They are Dante enabled so there is scope to do something far more exciting in that space than we are currently delivering. It’s a capable toolbox for designers and creatives should they wish to invest more in this space.”

Going up

Sysco Productions was tasked with overhauling the venue’s lift experience, taking visitors on an immersive journey through the different levels of an aircraft carrier as the lift slowly rises to the next level of the experience.

The lift experience sees visitors step into a large elevator structure that slowly brings them up to various screens which are rear projected with Vivitek VL904G projectors. Guests are slowly lifted from screen to screen as part of a visual journey through the different levels of an aircraft carrier, from engine room to flight deck.

Stedman adds: “We used another Audac SMQ500 and ANI44XT amplifier with four channels of Dante and a subwoofer.”

Reaching the top and exiting the elevator, guests are greeted by an Epson EBL502OU projector, supported by a Behringer EPQ304 amplifier and Brightsign LS243 media player detailing the history of Royal Navy aircraft carriers, supported by some physical exhibits of famous navy carriers.

Coming to life 

Making headway into the next section, visitors find themselves among a number of static exhibits focused on carrier life. 

These dioramas are supported by iiyama displays with 65-in 4K UHD displays that explain the minutia of carrier life, based on individual exhibits. Audac ceiling speakers support these exhibits, providing a personal experience to enhance the feel of the exhibits.

As the tour begins to draw to a close, visitors are moved into a small exhibit of a carrier’s bridge, where sensors trigger a Pepper’s Ghost effect of a crew member, appearing on the bridge to explain the role of the space to visitors.

This effect is achieved with a perspex screen and an NEC 86-in Multisync V864Q display. The Pepper’s Ghost install came as a late addition to the project and presented its own unique challenges due to the confined space in which the technique is deployed.

Stedman explains: “The Pepper’s Ghost exhibit was a bit of a curveball for us. It was uncertain whether the exhibit would make it into the spec due to budget and other concerns, but we added it as a last-minute addition.

“We had to do scans because of the geometry of the Pepper’s Ghost being deployed in such a confined space. Figuring out the sight lines was a challenge for us. The screen needed to be at least 86-in to get a full height, realistic person and this display offered 300 nits more brightness than the iiyama display used elsewhere.“

Take flight

Late in the project Sysco Productions was also called upon to deliver an AV exhibit funded by aerospace defence company Lockheed Martin showcasing a rotating model F-35 fighter jet and accompanying AV experience to spice up the video content.

Stedman explains: “We worked with Studio MB and came up with solutions for eight AV exhibits. The museum then came to us and said that Lockheed Martin want to fund a ninth exhibit about the F-35 fighter jet. This was a second contract for us.”

An Optoma ZU606TSTE projector was used to project video content on to a wall detailing the specifics of the F-35 as well as projection mapping schematics of the F-35 on to a model of the aircraft. This model rotates on a moving turntable, pausing for schematics of the aircraft to be projected onto the physical model.

Stedman adds: “We were asked if we could project on to a model F-35 fighter jet that can be rotated. They didn’t have anybody to install a turntable for the F-35 or have plans on how it would be mounted as it was very late in the project and we stepped in to do the job. We’re not just integrators, we’re good at mechanical engineering as well, so this was second nature to us. Rigging something to the floor is not that different to rigging something to the ceiling.”

This setup is supported by a Brightsign HD224 media player and Audac CEL06 in-ceiling speakers, as well as a Pixera media server for extra media manipulation.

The final installation took a total of just four days to complete, putting the Sysco team up against a very tight installation deadline, but delivering without compromising on quality. Sysco is in constant contact with the client, offering potential support for any new upgrades and exhibits at other Royal Navy museum sites around the UK.

Stedman adds: “The biggest challenge, physically, was getting the glass in for the Pepper’s Ghost; it was a difficult area to install and access with kit due to the multiple flights of stairs that we had to climb. Getting the lift sequencing working in a way that felt realistic also proved to be a challenge for us.

“We are very proud of the F35 installation. It came up last minute and involved us having to engineer all the mounts which was a very unique challenge to overcome. We were also very fortunate that the client was a great customer to work with.”

Kit list 


AUDAC VEX08 speakers, BAS012 sub base speakers, SMQ500 amplifiers 

Behringer EPQ304 amplifiers 


Epson EP-PU1007W 4K projectors, ELPU03S lenses 

iiyama Prolite 65-in 4K UHD displays 

NEC Multisync V864Q displays 

Optoma ZU606TSTE projectors 

Vivitek DU5671 projectors, VL904G lenses 


AV Stumpfl Pixera media server 

Brightsign media players

Netgear 24-port network switch