An upgrade to a museum originally inaugurated in 1936 uses immersive audio and projection to put visitors right at the heart of an artic mission. Anna Mitchell explores.
Fram, the ship used by Norwegian adventurers to explore Arctic and Antarctic regions between 1893 and 1912, found its final resting place in 1936 when it docked in the now famous eponymous Oslo museum.
It’s a ship that has seen some action, perhaps most notably as the vessel used by Roald Amundsen when he was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911. Understandably it’s a huge tourist attraction on its own so the challenge was how to add AV, lighting and multimedia technology, while not detracting from the main lure and focus of the museum.
That was a task that fell to InAVation Awards 2019 visitor attraction finalist Sarner, a UK headquartered AV integrator specialising in visitor attraction.
The Fram vessel is housed in a distinctive triangular building surrounded by tiers of walkways offering views on to three sides of the ship. Mike Ross, director of BlueBox Technology Solutions and an independent AV consultant was brought on board to work for Sarner and design a system that would use the interior walls of the building as a canvas for projections depicting artic conditions.
“The crown jewel of the museum upgrade is the multichannel projection system that goes all the way around the boat,” notes Ross.
To achieve this ten Digital Projection E-Vision 10k laser projectors fire on to three walls so when visitors are on the deck of the ship they feel completely surrounded by sea, glaciers, icebergs and pack ice. Installing the projectors was tricky. After deciding to mount the units on board the Fram, Ross had the painstaking job of positioning and aligning each one to project out at the perfect angle, while avoiding blocking the projection beam with any of many ropes used for rigging on the ship.
Projectors are mostly mounted with semi- customised Unicol brackets with the exception of the unit mounted at the front of the ship where a fully customised mount had to be used.
A 15-minute sequence plays out, taking visitors on a journey through artic conditions that culminates in a violent storm and the boat’s eventual halt as it freezes into the pack ice. The 270-degree content is fed by a 7thSense Delta Infinity III media server and Lindy extenders are used to send signals over fibre to each projector. Ross manually programmed blending and geometry into the 7thSense server.
Visual content is supported by immersive audio that wraps round the ship using 12 Community DS8 white loudspeakers mounted off the vessel in the surrounding walkway. Symetrix DSP is used with a Prism 12×12 digital signal processor and expander housed in the rack alongside the 7thSense server.
Sarner’s scope even extended to a mechanical moving bench on board the Fram that gives visitors the feeling they are gently rocking on the deck as the boat moves through the ice.
For many years the museum has been available to hire for external events and the addition of projection has proved to be a bonus draw. A second sequence that removes the storm was created specifically for this purpose.
Technology was installed in a number of other areas to bring certain aspects of the ship to life. Pigs were carried on board the Fram and housed in a sty on its deck. Audio is used here to simulate the presence of the animals with Sarner opting for two Audica Micropoint speakers supported by an Audica Microsub3 subwoofer. They’re fed by an Ecler CA120 amplifier and Ecler ePlayer1 audio player.
Inside the ship great attention was paid to recreating how the hold would have looked, “right down to matching and sourcing the right style of lightbulb,” notes Ross. Even smells were recreated using scent machines. Extensive use of Chauvet Colordash Par-Hex 12 LED lights delivers versatile and atmospheric wash lighting with Ross noting the selection was driven by the product’s small backcan.
In many areas sensors are used to trigger content as visitors enter. In the Aft Saloon a 32-in LG LCD mounted in a frame fires up when the first threshold is crossed. Two K-Array Lyzard KZ12 mini line array speakers are embedded into the frame. Elsewhere, targeted sound, that appears as if it’s coming from a music box, is delivered by a hidden Audica Micropoint speaker that is fed by an Ecler CA120 amplifier and ePlayer1 audio player.
In the engine room, a Digital Projection E-Vision 6500 laser projector, installed with a Unicol mount and fed by a Brightsign HD223 media player, shows video to demonstrate how the engine worked. “The museum wanted to make the engine work again which wasn’t possible in this setting so we’ve used projection and light to bring it to life,” notes Ross.
Smells, lighting, audio and even movement complete the simulation with three Buttkicker Advance Transducers installed under the platform overlooking the engine room to shake visitors as the engine rumbles. Four Ohm BRT-6 loudspeakers and an Ohm TRS-218 Subwoofer create that background engine rumble noise.
There are small touches throughout the main hold that subtly use AV to enrich the visitor experience and deliver more information on the ship, its crew and its missions. Five Samsung Galaxy tablets are integrated in wooden barrels while a periscope uses a PC with a webcam to allow visitors to see above the ship. The live feed is shown on a 7-in WaveShare LCD screen.
In a seated area visitors can watch a projected informative video that shows old footage already held by the museum. This display is created by two Digital Projection E-Vision 6500 laser projectors, flanked by two Ohm BRT-6 loudspeakers and uses a 7thSense Delta Nano media server and two Aten HDMI over Cat5 Receivers.
The front hold of the ship has been opened up for the first time and here Ross decided to use four Ohm BRT-6 loudspeakers and a BRS-12 subwoofer to simulate the ship cracking into ice.
Where artefacts are shown around the ship they are cleverly highlighted with LED-lit boxes and audio played out by Audica speakers, fed by Ecler amps and players, adds clever effects such as simulating a piano playing in the dining room. These are all carefully EQ’d so one area doesn’t leak into another.
“The experience of being on board the Fram has added an even more exciting element with the dramatic storm sequence, and the additional areas that have been opened up and ‘dressed’ on board,” notes Geir O.Kløver, Fram Museum’s managing director.
“Sarner have helped us add value and excitement to the visitors’ experience at the museum for every visitor, young and old. These ambitious upgrades demonstrate the museum’s continued commitment to renew the experience and maintain its status as one of Norway’s must- see attractions.”
Outside the ship an igloo has been constructed with a focus on entertaining younger visitors. Chanting sounds are created inside using RSF MicroAmps and MicroSpeakers. A Brightsign fed 22-in LG display is installed inside, while a second LG display (installed outside) and CCTV equipment allows parents to keep an eye on children playing in the igloo.
An additional building was constructed in 2012 to house the Gjøa (the first ship to be sailed through the entire Northwest Passage) and linked to the Fram museum by an underground walkway. Sarner was also contracted to add an interactive projection table to this area that uses a Brightsign HD223 media player and Digital Projection E-Vision 6500 laser projector with three Apple iPads for control.
This part of the museum complex also includes a theatre which Sarner updated with a countdown timer– using an LG 32DE3KD 32in display and Brightsign HD223 media player – to indicate when the current presentation is scheduled to end.
Visitor attractions are often tasked with having to turn to technology to bring dry artefacts or abstract concepts to life. But it’s tough to use technology to enrich a museum when its main and overarching exhibit can be clambered upon, explored and holds fascinating and legendry tales of action and exploration.
What’s clever about Sarner and Ross’s solution is the delivery of an installation that adds life and context to the vessel but that leaves it to still stand out as the main focus of the museum.
Audica Micropoint speakers and Microsub3 subwoofers
Buttkicker advance transducers
Community DS8 white loudspeakers
Ecler CA120 amplifier and ePlayer1 audio players
K-Array Lyzard KZ12 mini line array speakers
Ohm TK-475 and TK-25 amplifiers; BRT-6 loudspeakers; and TRS-218 and BRS-12 subwoofers
RSF MicroAmps and MicroSpeakers
Symetrix Prism 12×12 DSP and expander and SymNet Express Cobra 4×12 DSP
American DJ H2O IR water effect light
Chauvet Colordash Par- Hex 12 LED lights
7thSense Delta Infinity III and Nano media servers
Aten HDMI over Cat5 transmitters and receivers
Brightsign HD223 media players
Digital Projection E-Vision 6500 and 10k laser projectors
LG 22SM3B 22-in HD displays and 32DE3KD 32-in displays
Lindy multimode fibre optic transmitters and receivers and HDMI splitter
Samsung Galaxy tablets
Unicol custom projector mounts
WaveShare 7-in LCDs
Photo credit: T. Storm Halvorsen