Welcome to green hell

In the first of our series of case studies showcasing award winning installations we report on Ring Werk, a visitor attraction at the famous Nürburgring. The project won the award for Most InAVative Project in the leisure category, and was installed by D J Willrich Ltd (DJW).

Grüne Hölle, (Green Hell) was the name given to the Nurburgring by Sir Jackie Stewart. Snaking through the Eifel Mountains in Germany the Nurgburgring Grand Prix track and the Nordschleife race track are now accompanied by Ring Werk, a 15,000 square metre visitor attraction and education site.

The attraction contains several different zones and attractions, each designed to engage visitors in a variety of ways. There’s a 4D cinema; a historical exhibition of eight decades of racing; the Grune Holle multimedia theatre and the Nürbus, a virtual tour through the Eifel forest.

Ring Werk was opened in 2009, just in time for the DTM race, as well as the media attractions and exhibits it also features an area demonstrating the advances made in vehicle technology, a roller coaster and a main hall filled with iconic cars.

Renowned visitor attraction consulting firm Phil Hartley Associates acted as the client in this case engaged DJW as the AV project manager and systems integrator. The company was responsible for the design, build and programming of the AV system throughout the site.

According to the company, one of the most challenging aspects of the project was that the building itself was delivered late. This compressed a 33 week installation programme into a gruelling 18 week time period and meant that the team were working in what was still a building site. Concrete floors were being poured only four weeks before the attraction was due to open to the first visitors.

The building and sheer number of people on the site in many cases became more challenging than the technology itself.

The most involved of the interactive exhibits is the Mythos Theatre, also titled Grüne Hölle. The ride captures the legend of the track taking visitors through its history. The audience is seated on a mechanised turntable, see the forest close in around them and smell pine scent as the show begins.

The trees them move and the turntable revolves to reveal the race track, before moving on through its history. Throughout the show, various sound effects are queued, along with other physical stimuli such as scent, and a spray of “champagne” at the end.

The set is a mix of tree trunks and gauzes in the foreground with 3D sets revealed around the perimeter as the show runs.  The disorientation that results amongst visitors is of course part of the attraction.

The pre-show area is equipped with six 42” NEC LCD displays, showing flavour content held on the main-shows SD video server. This is accompanied by synchronised audio played back via 20 Bose Freespace 16 ceiling speakers, these are driven in two lines via a dual-channel 100v amplifier. There’s also a visual count down to the start of the next show.

The main theatre is fitted with three arrays of six LCD displays,  three distinct rear-projection systems, two HD front projection systems and a 360 degree projection, as well as 16 spot audio sources for various sound effects.

The HD systems consist of Christie HD8K devices, projecting onto DNP screens, with content being served from a pair of Alcorn McBride HD Pro video servers. In the centre of the ceiling a cluster of nine Christie SD+650 projectors is suspended. These are soft edge-blended to provide the panorama for the show, and also to create the forest-like elements of the set. A final layer of video projection effects is provided by three Christie SD+650s being used for rear projection as part of a Paradigm AV package.

In addition to these are the three arrays of flat panel displays, each consisting of two 42”, two 50” and two 63” screens, can be flown in and out of the set mounted on a bespoke rig on moving tracks. This mobile rig helps to add to the sense of motion for the audience.

The 16 spot sound effects are served via a Tascam 24 track player, and reproduced through Bose ceiling speakers and end fire bass arrays. This delivered good focus for the audio, preventing it from spilling outside the theatre.

All this content is carefully controlled and edge blended using Dataton’s Watchout software, with all of the source and media synchronisation in both the pre-show and main theatre spaces governed using a Medialon show control solution. The theatre show is also clock synched with the end of the pre-show content. In the Mythos theatre and its pre-show area the Medialon Pro system is controlling a total of 24 individual computer sources as well as the mechanical aspects.

The F1 area consists of three zones – the Pits, the F1 laboratory and F1 car simulators. The simulator is a relatively simple computer game style attraction, with 57” NEC displays integrated into F1 car chassis. DJW integrated these simulators into a larger display unit to show standings and race results on a Panasonic projector.

The F1 laboratory is a learning experience including simple background audio playback from a sound store, via several Bose ceiling speakers. The content is a looping track from a sound store.

The F1 Pits features a live action exhibit, which demonstrates to visitors the various procedures that a pit crew carry out. It’s equipped with a Sennheiser Evolution wireless mircrophone system and a pair of Bose DS16 loudspeakers supplying voice reinforcement for presenters.

There is also a peppers ghost exhibit in one of the pit boxes. It’s created using a Christie DS+300W projector a DNP rear projection surface and Musion Eyeliner projection film. Content is looping and served with accompanying background audio from another Alcorn McBride HD Pro.

Another particularly challenging exhibit identified by DJW was the Nürbus ride. The company installed a cave around  motion base to create an immersive simulation ride in a CGI tour bus around the Nordschleife track. The screen configuration had to be designed to cover the simulation theatre, and take the best advantage possible of the projection that could be achieved in the limited space.

The projection cave uses more Christie projectors, and had to be specially designed to enable it to be relatively easily maintained as well as effective. The ceiling projection was the most tricky element of this, and it was necessary to mount the top projector on runners so that it can be pulled to one side for servicing and lamp replacement.

Guests enter a  replica 1950’s bus, which is mounted on to a motion platform. The projected images surround them on both sides and above, in  ride that careens around the course. The rear of the bus has no projection, and acts as the entrance / exit to the ride.

The Motor Mania ride, is a high speed shoot ‘em up attraction where guests shoot infrared targets on car components. The better the score at each stage of Chassis, Engine, Wheels and final Car, the better components each team receives.

DJW had to create a handshake between the ride and a display system to update scores and show the relevant stored media associated with each score. A further complication is that each car contains six players, and therefore the system has to average their score before displaying it. The IR targets themselves are linked to an audio store and a small point source active loudspeaker, triggered if the target is hit.

The final piece of this complex jigsaw from the point of view of DJW is the Ring Akademie. This gives visitors a chance to show of their reflexes and knowledge. They watch a video quiz and try to answer the questions as quickly as possible via a voting system.  At the end of the quiz the winner is highlighted in their seat by the dynamic lighting system.

The installers developed the voting system, which integrates with the scoring software. This then reports to the show control system picking out the winner’s seat on a video camera and with the lights to show them on the main projection screen.

A Christie DW3K projector front projects onto a 5m Paradigm Supernova infinity screen. The quiz is controlled via an AMX system operated by the moderator using a 17” touch panel integrated into a podium.

Alongside all these major exhibits are a number of other simulators and games, including truck races, kids play areas and further looping information points.

Apart from the aforementioned construction difficulties the major acheivement of DJW in the project has been to pull together the various disparate systems under a single show control solution. Many of the rides and attractions are not of their own design, making this process even more tricky and requiring some very careful programming and software integration.

Bose Freespace 16
Bose Freespace series amplifiers
Bose Panaray Base speakers
Tascam 24 ch audio store
Sennheiser Evolution wireless microphone systems

Alcorn McBride HD Pro video servers
Christie HD8K, SD+650 projection
Dataton Watchout software
DNP SuperNova Infinity
Kramer PT and VM series DAs
Musion Eyeliner film
NEC 42", 57" LCD displays
Panasonic PW5000EK projector
Premier mounts brackets (various)

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