The Perth Mint Visitor Center: Going for gold

When the Perth Mint decided to upgrade their visitor center to tell the story of gold in Australia, DRM Audio Visual were tasked with bringing the narrative to life. Hurrairah bin Sohail talks with the company’s Brad Hogan to find out how they brought spectacle and interactivity to the installation.

Established originally in 1899 and still housed in a colonial building, the Perth Mint serves to shed light on the gold and precious metals industry in Western Australia. While the establishment no longer functions as a refinery, those duties being passed on to a new facility in 1990, it is still a major tourist attraction.

The visitor center previously housed exhibits pertaining to gold and offered guided tours which explained the history and story of gold in Western Australia. However, the visitor center has now been upgraded to feature a full range of AV equipment to enhance the visitor’s experience.

Work on the Perth Mint visitor center project started in early 2012 and was undertaken by Acumen Design in the capacity of interpretative architect. Tim Hooper, the creative director and project lead at Acumen Design, described the scope of the project, “The brief that I received from the Perth Mint [for the project] was completely open. They had an old tour of the mint, static displays and a gold pour. They wanted to update it to upgrade the visitor experience. The open brief let us start developing a story about gold.”

Tim Hooper brought in DRM Audio Visual to provide system integration services for the AV side of the project while the Pod Multi-media handled content creation duties for the installation. Brad Hogan who is a director at DRM Audio Visual and worked on the project said regarding their involvement: “We were part of a design team working in tandem with Acumen
Design. They were the interpretative architects and we worked closely with the and along with the content providers, The Pod Multimedia.”

With no real AV installations present, DRM Audio Visual had a clean slate to work with. The upgraded visitor center on the other hand has a wealth AV technology installations ranging from projectors, speakers, interactive touch screens and much more. Hogan described the new visitor center: “The Perth Mint now has three activities. Wonder of Gold is the first one and it is the big show. Then there is Lust for Gold. And the last one is the old, actual physical gold pour which does not feature any AV.”

The main attraction of the Perth Mint visitor center is undoubtedly the Wonder of gold. The centerpiece of this section is one tonne gold coin. About 80cm wide and 12cm deep, it has an approximate value of 55 million Australian dollars. The gold coin is raised and lowered at designated times with the help of a dedicated control system.

At the heart of the control system for the coin is an AMX NI-2100 processor paired with an AMX AX-REL8 relay controller. An AMX NXD-430 touch panel serves as the user interface and front end. The entire control system is taken online with the help of a Netgear JGS524AU network switch.

Each component of the control system has a critical role to fulfill as there is a good degree of automation and scheduling programmed for the Perth Mint visitor centre. Hogan said: “We have built in a schedule for some AV sections so that they happen automatically at the same time, or whenever the client chooses to be fit. This means that operator doesn’t have to worry about when it stops or starts.”

However, DRM Audio Visual was also aware of the fact that the system would not necessarily always be operated by AV technicians. “From an operational point of view and from our experience with these sorts of facilities, even if you design a very complex system it has still got to be able to be run by the people at the facilities. Often these people may even be part time workers, so they are not AV experts by any stretch of the imagination. A user-friendly interface is essential,” said Hogan.

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