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Case Studies

Melinda Golden Theatre creates ‘incredible reality’

Italy’s Melinda consortium has opened a multimedia theatre promoting its unique apple storage facilities. Mike Clark reports

The Melinda apple consortium recently inaugurated Melinda Golden Theatre – a multimedia venue that takes visitors on a high-impact 4D virtual visit to the company’s cold storage apple warehouses in the northern Italian mountains.

The system integrator and producer of the theatre’s AV content was Senso Immersive. The integrator adhered to a brief that was two-fold: highlighting the combination of agriculture and tourism, strategic mainstays of the area, and increasing awareness of the sustainable processes involved in the harvest and storage of the company’s apples, fully respecting the environment.

The continually evolving story of the 4,000 families forming the Melinda consortium is rooted in hundreds of years of history dating back to fruit cultivation at the end of the 17th century in northern Italy’s Non Valley. Apples, introduced after WWI, became the valley’s most important agricultural activity and the first co-operatives were founded in the 70s. The market grew, quality rose and in 1989 the Consortium for the Enhancement of the Val di Non Apple and the Melinda brand were created. In 2003, Mela della Val di Non became a Protected Designation of Origin product. The Golden, Red and Renetta Canada varieties – about 95% of Melinda’s production – were awarded Protected Designation of Origin classification by the European Community.

Development and diversification
Continuing its on-going development, product diversification and promotion of brand awareness, Melinda recently inaugurated Melinda Golden Theatre (named after one of the most popular apples), a multimedia  experience highlighting one of the company’s high-profile projects: its huge underground cold storage facilities.

To be enjoyed all year round, apples must be stored correctly, so Melinda’s idea was simple – storing apples underground instead of building above ground facilities.

Built at a cost of approximately €16 million in the Rio Maggiore mine, the 34 underground cells form the world’s first and only underground fruit cold storage in controlled atmosphere conditions, with a capacity of 200 million apples. Each cell, approximately 900ft below the roots of the trees on which the apples grow, is 25m-long, 11m-high and 12m-wide and can contain approximately 2,800 300kg bins, (900,000kg).

An eco-friendly alternative where peak energy saving reaches as much as 80%, water arrives from the surrounding soil, no artificial insulating is used, thanks to the Dolomitic rock’s natural insulation characteristics, and there is no impact on the surrounding landscape. A small ‘sustainable’ revolution that continues to receive positive feedback from the international scientific world, thanks to its distinctive characteristics, the project has met with worldwide recognition and awards such as the Good Energy Award and Sodalitas Social Award, assigned to initiatives generating sustainable corporate growth.

Golden Theatre
The theatre, in the park in front of the MondoMelinda visitor centre in Mollaro di Predaia cost roughly €150,000 and was inaugurated in August 2018. The project is the result of a collaboration between Melinda, Val di Non tourist board and the Association of Apple and Flavour Routes of the Noce Valleys, and Melinda’s desire to attract adults’ and children’s attention to the grottos excavated in the rock of the Rio Maggiore mine to host the apple storage facilities.

Inside the theatre, two large virtual doors (reproducing an industrial-style goods elevator) open on to an underground track in semi-darkness. Spectators’ simulated trip speeds along the track until roots of the apple trees are seen hanging all around, then runs across a reservoir of water filtering through the rocks and continues through caves filled with huge crystals, symbolising the formation of the local Dolomite rock through thousands of years.

Four huge rock drills are used to bore holes for the explosives placed to remove the last diaphragm of rock and, when the dust clears, visitors enter the huge cold store, passing between countless stacked apple bins. A short documentary of the apple chain from the harvest to the packaging follows, then the travellers fly upwards to ground level and higher, soaring over the apple trees and the spectacular countryside.

Tech deployment
Realistically producing the journey on the walls in front of and alongside the visitors, three Epson 6,000-lumen WUXGA laser projectors featuring 4K Enhancement, ensure  images’ exceptional sharpness and clarity. Their built-in cameras give accurate image calibration and ultra-short lenses allow the projectors to be installed inches from the screen, but still give clear, crisp projection. Three BrightSign players offer powerful 4K video engines capable of dual decoding two full-HD videos simultaneously and an advanced HTML5 engine.

Sound is reproduced courtesy of four K-Array Tornado miniature aluminium enclosures and a KU210 subwoofer. The single 1,000W (2RU) K-Array KA14 amplifier features two GPIO for external analogue controls, integrated DSP with processing, matrix and delays, on-board touchscreen and Mic In and 48V option on all inputs for mixer applications.

An incredible reality
“The theatre’s 16 DMX-controlled Egoluce LED spots are recessed in the ceiling, in a 4×4 format,” explains Senso Immersive’s technical director Marco Chinello. “As well as reproducing the AV content, by exploiting the GPIO and UDP controls, the venue’s BrightSign players are able to interface and sync the theatre’s other equipment (spotlights, solenoid valves controlling the jets of compressed air used to create the sense of speed in some of the video’s scenes, DMX lighting control, show start button and a remote control panel for the choice of commentary language. The show is launched by spectators pressing a button to ‘call’ the elevator.”

After recently visiting the underground storage facilities, Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini was one of the numerous visitors who have flocked to theatre since its inauguration and congratulated Melinda on what he called “an incredible reality.”