State-of-the-art AV installation for ‘Canon of the Netherlands’ exhibition

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 13:32

Canon of the Netherlands exhibition, Arnhem

Since first opening its gates in 1912, the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem has given visitors a unique and quirky view of the country’s history. Its slightly whimsical collection of more than 80 actual buildings transported to the Museum park, together with living examples of workplaces and lifestyles drawn from all periods and all places in Dutch history, has long made it a favourite place to visit.

Opened on September 23, the Museum’s latest, and most adventurous exhibition to date, is the ‘Canon of The Netherlands’. Billed as covering the highlights and low lights of Dutch history from the Stone Age to the present, the exhibits combine historical objects on loan from collections throughout the Netherlands with innovative deployments of the latest audiovisual and display technologies.

Working in intimate collaboration with exhibition architects Kossmann.dejong and a multi-disciplinary team of film, animation and interactive designers, Rapenburg Plaza of Amsterdam were engaged to implement the lighting, show control and audiovisual technologies for the exhibition.

“We work in parallel with Rapenburg Plaza in most of our projects, and they help bring our ideas to life. They have an expert, specialist team who work to bring all exhibition elements together in a holistic and creative way. At the Canon of The Netherlands, there is something for everyone. It’s designed to be as interactive and proactive as possible for visitors to discover so much about Dutch history and the Netherlands as an ever-changing and evolving country,” said Robert van der Linde, project leader and spatial designer at Kossmann.dejong.

Unlike some of the museum’s outdoor exhibits which work best in mild weather, Canon of The Netherlands located away from the elements: inside buildings, in a partially-subterranean dome, and in an underground tunnel. Divided into four sections, the exhibition consists of 50 ‘windows’ into Dutch history arranged in ten broad periods.

According to art director, Pieter van der Heijden, the Canon of The Netherlands promises to be the “Most engaging and best Dutch experience for local and international visitors yet. The common theme is innovation, creativity and learning and Rapenburg Plaza has presented us with lots of cool ways to achieve that.” Stijn van Bruggen, project manager at Rapenburg Plaza enthused: “After 18 months of engineering, consulting, technical design and brainstorming, the Canon of The Netherlands is finally ready. Our team of experts have applied a design-thinking approach which is a very disciplined way of knowing what technologies to integrate into an exhibit and to meet all client and stakeholder expectations.”

The first, pre-show section, consists of an entry tunnel adorned with enormous, abstract-shaped, suspended screens, that take the audience travelling backwards into the distant past, seeing people busy at their daily routines like preparing food, lighting fires, and children at play. Next, located inside a giant partially-underground dome structure, is a series of ten ‘movie set’ exhibits that mix historical objects and interactive learning through gaming, using every possible surface and space as a multimedia canvas.

This is followed by a panoramic presentation area with surrounding interactives that provide a cinematic and learning experience. Finally, an interactive learning room, with vast walls of touchscreens enables visitors to participate in a learning game while finding out more about the history of The Netherlands.

In the semi-subterranean dome, originally built in 1999 for an attraction named HollandRama and renovated for the Canon, the structure was designed to flex in response to changing weather loadings. This presented some interesting problems for the accuracy and stability of lighting and projection rigs that are focussed on exhibit elements that are attached to the building structure. Rapenburg Plaza’s solution was to use rigid glass rear projection screens to prevent distortion and to fix the projection equipment onto rigid floor mounts that are isolated from the walls of the dome. The building may move with the wind, but the projections are rock-solid. While the projectors do not move, the eight horizontal ‘cloud’ screens that hang from the dome’s ceiling are suspended thus move together as the building flexes.

In the subterranean cinema, ‘A Bird’s Eye View of Holland’, features different topics (climate, population, borders, land, water and traffic) on its impressive 3m (10ft) x 15.3m (50ft) panoramic screen. Each movie is about 4 minutes long. The projected image is covered by three Canon XEED WUX6010 6000 lumen WUXGA (1920 x 1200) projectors blended through Showlogix software and replayed from a Showlogix media server. There was 5,760 by 1,200 pixels to reproduce the content at 25fps and constant bit rate. The huge panoramic images are accompanied by custom-made sound. The film soundscape was created by composer Eric Hense and audio and sound design in cooperation with IJsfontein and Redrum.

“To give the effect of audio being behind the audience, here we used six different multitrack channels sent out to 8 speakers Xilica DSPs and 7.1 surround sound,” explained audio and show control engineer Wilfred de Zoete at Rapenburg Plaza.

The interactive learning room is completely dominated by a monolithic 36 square meter wall of touchscreen panels which provide visitors with in-depth coverage of the 50 topics featured throughout the exhibition. By using the unique RFID tag supplied to each visitor, their enquiries and additional reference material is emailed to the visitor at the conclusion of their visit. This is facilitated by 50 KissBox Networked RFID Readers, five for each screen. Each treasure hunt consoles utilised a further 3 KissBox RFID Readers. The Canon tabletop 32-inch browsers used a website overlay with Google maps and points of interest where subjects are displayed ensuring that visitors can zoom in, type in their own area code.

IJsfontein Interactive Media was the company who designed all interactive, playful learning and gaming elements at the Canon. Raimond Reijmers, strategist and designer of interactive spaces at IJsfontein Interactive Media, said: “We recognise Rapenburg Plaza in their unique approach in using technology not for making things novelty but to make the visitor experience better. They integrate light, projection, screens, real objects and décor into one living element. The Canon is made for everyone!”

To give a sense of the scale of Rapenburg Plaza’s contribution to this project, it has specified, installed, configured and commissioned, 67 projectors, 66 touch screens, 46 video players, 103 loudspeakers and 59 audiovisual computers, using some 177 data and video extenders and 33 network switches, over 45km of power and data cables and a capacity of 80,000KWH. Rapenburg Plaza’s created all computers, media players and processors in housed dedicated machine rooms to preserve valuable exhibition floor space and to provide central access for maintenance.

The Rapenburg Plaza technical team and client can control every aspect the system using a custom-made app incorporating Alcorn McBride technology. “Remote monitoring and maintenance will be integrated into the entire park through a centralised system in the future,” said de Zoete.