Off the wall: Dazzling display at Northern Europe’s largest cinema

Charlotte Ashley finds out more about the unique pre-show on offer at a venue that boasts the title of both the largest cinema in Northern Europe and biggest THX cinema in the world.

Located  in  the  Nordic  equivalent of  London’s  Leicester  Square, measuring 32 metres high  and 45 metres wide, you can’t miss the  spherical  dome of  Oslo’s ‘Colosseum’  Cinema. Built  in 1921,  accolades include the title of the largest cinema in Northern Europe and the largest Barco AuroMax cinema in the world – and now, its main ‘Sal 1’ auditorium is  host  to  a  special  lightshow  during  every  film screening.

The  project  to  refurbish  The  Colosseum cinema may have been like many before it  – screen,  sound,  seating  and  décor  were  all  on the  agenda to be  overhauled, yet  what  set  the  installation apart was the client’s desire to create a memorable projected show  as  a  prelude  to  the cinematic  experience.  “The client did this to be more than a cinema where people simply look  at  the  front,”  explains Emanuel Züger, general manager at Vioso, who got  involved  in  the  project  after  meeting  with Denmark and Norway-based film chain Nordisk Film Cinemas, after they became familiar with its dome projection portfolio.

“The client did this to be more than a cinema where people simply look at the front.”

“You don’t come across this kind of dome often,” he continues.  “Even planetariums that cost millions of euros aren’t to this scale – very rarely do you get beyond 20 metres, and this is 40. The size is immense.” Vioso was tasked with blending and warping the imagery, which was created by content production specialist Nordisk Film Shortcut. The integrator deployed sixteen 8,200-lumen WUXGA laser projectors around the base of the dome to project one seamless image from the 22m-wide RealD Ultimate Screen (the biggest of its kind in Europe) to the dome.

Optoma’s ZU850 laser projectors were preferred by Nordisk Film Shortcut for their cost, size and durability.  “The purchase of 16 compact laser projectors had to be made at a good price and they also had to be able to run for over 10 hours each day,” says Züger.  The projectors accompany 4K laser projection from Barco and 50 new speakers, in addition to the Auro 11.1 immersive set-up – enjoyed from the comfort of 888 new seats, two rows of which feature adjustable electric chairs complete with USB charging. He adds: “Price was a factor, but compared to what they spent on the main projection on the screen, this is not a very expensive thing to have – but it has a significant effect.”

colourful lines of  projection on dome ceiling of Colosseum cinema, Norway

Successfully creating an effect that now wows and surprises visitors to the cinema  –  part  of broader local complex of shops, restaurants and historical sites – that seemingly ‘jumps off the screen’ was not without its challenges, however. In addition to working nights to meet the cinema’s strict deadline, the integrator had to install each projector on a small, hard-to-access rim circling the base of the dome alongside the new audio equipment and then project upwards. “The space was very narrow and high in the air,” explains Züger. “It took a lot of work to ensure that there would be no shadowcasting. We actually had to move the  projectors  on-side  (away  from  where they were going to be) to have the outcome look good  and  the  equipment  powering  it  not  be visible. Luckily the calibration we were using was flexible enough to react to that.”  Züger notes that the calibrating process on an install of this size presented its own challenges: “We needed to put a camera 13 metres high so to get a tripod this high was one of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome, but we did find one.”

Vioso  deployed  fibre  optics  for  signal transmission  to  the  projectors  to  ensure  there was  no  delay  between  visuals,  synchronised via  a  Wings  Vioso  media  server  system,  with three small IP cameras on hand to re-align the projected images should they ever misalign. “It was a particular challenge to operate on such a huge surface. But we are proud to have mastered the calibration procedure accordingly and achieve such a high precision of overlap,” added Sven Giersch, project manager at Vioso.

Geometric shapes on roof of dome of Colosseum Cinema in Norway

Everything in the cinema is pre-programmed for the smooth-running of screenings, managed by ticketing staff, with Vioso on hand to access the system for remote support should the cinema require realignment.

The projection (currently the same for each screening) acts as a lively, expanded trailer for the venue, yet commercialising the technology could also be on the horizon to bring extra revenue to the cinema. “We are already discussing expanding the functionality to not just show ‘eye candy,’ but also presentations – technically, it’s not difficult. For example, a large Coca-Cola logo could appear on the screen and suddenly everywhere.” For now, both client and moviegoers have been impressed by the installation, which officially re-opened in September. “As far as I know, this has never been done before in a movie theatre anywhere in the world,” said Espen Pedersen, COO at Nordisk Film Cinemas. He concludes: “It looks amazing. The cinema guests are overwhelmed when the picture in the vignette moves from the cinema screen into the top of the dome.”



AV Stumpfl Avio Master, Wings Vioso & Engine Pro

IDS uEye cameras

JBL CBT70J-1 loudspeakers

Optoma ZU850 laser projectors

RealD Ultimate Screen

Rosendahl MIF4 timecode interface

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