National Portrait Gallery reopens with added digital dimension powered by Epson projectors

National Portrait Gallery reopens with added digital dimension powered by Epson projectors
Epson projectors have been deployed at the reopened National Portrait Gallery in London that is welcoming visitors again after extensive redevelopment that started in March 2020.

The gallery’s redevelopment project, named ‘Inspiring People’, was designed to make the gallery as welcoming as possible to all visitors. HRH The Princess of Wales, Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, reopened the gallery on June 20, 2023.

AV company Sysco Productions worked with Epson, the gallery’s projection partner, to install several Epson units.

A 15m x 8m wall behind the gallery’s new visitor information desk is now a central welcoming attraction at the National Portrait Gallery, where art is brought to life powered by six Epson EB-PU2120W laser projectors complete with ELPLU04 short-throw lenses. The projection displays a carousel of digitised portraits from the gallery’s collection and can also be used to show special displays. The digitised portraits have been given subtle animation effects to make the most of the display technology.

An additional EB-PU1007W is also installed on the first floor providing a separate, interchangeable digital art installation, and a 16k-lumen EB-PU2216B with ELPLM10 mid-throw lens is installed in the Ondaatje Wing Theatre.

Katherine Biggs, head of digital at National Portrait Gallery, said: “We wanted to use projection technology to give a snapshot of portraits from our collection and a taste of what’s in store for their visit.

“This is a really amazing way for us to provide a unique and impactful introduction to visitors and show that we are a forward-facing institution The hope is that in the future we can use this system to work with contemporary artists and partners to create media and new installations.

“In the beginning when we were exploring how we could use this wall, the main obstacles were the sheer amount of space that we wanted to use, along with the natural light projecting from the window above. We were fortunate with timing in that we were able to work with Epson and their new devices. Their previous generation of 20k-lumen projector were roughly double the size, so rigging those was going to be a lot harder, whereas the ones installed are smaller and white so blend in with the surroundings.

“It’s going to be amazing to see how visitors are interacting with changes that we’ve been so involved in for the last few years. For the projection, staff and contractors have been impressed by the displays as we’ve prepared for launch, so we know the public are really going to love it.”

Will Spence, site services manager from Sysco Productions, took the lead on AV installations at the National Portrait Gallery. He said: “The brief was straightforward in that they wanted to fill the wall space with a feature piece that they could use every day or could be used for events and changing media.

“Early on we did a few tests with different projector brands, and we looked at LED at one point, but the power consumption on that was too high and with projection we could cover a wider space while consuming much less power.

“We’re using edge-blending on the projectors to achieve the image size. We can darken the edges. We haven’t had to use any physical masking; it’s done purely through the projector. We did a lot of the alignment in the projector because of the geometry correction in the Epson devices, which meant the gallery team didn’t need to be trained in and the video servers could be realigned using the remote control. We’ve used the Epson Projector Professional Tool (EPPT), which gives us control over all projectors in the building and this helps us with geometry correction and managing all the blends as well.

“The biggest challenge we faced was installing the projectors on the first floor, which because of the overhang was quite scary, but the Epson devices are very small, so this was perfectly manageable.”

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