Solutions: 'marvel' cruise ship installs curved LED ceiling

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MSC Meraviglia, Galleria Meraviglia

The largest cruise liner launched in 2017 is also home to the largest LED screen at sea. Mike Clark reports on how a curved ceiling is drawing passengers to the social hub of the MSC Meraviglia.

MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately owned cruise line, recently took delivery of its new flagship, the MSC Meraviglia (‘marvel’), at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. At 315m long, 43m wide and 65m high, the Meraviglia, with its gross register tonnage of 171,598 and guest capacity of 5,714, is the largest ship ever built by a European ship owner.

MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago says: “MSC Meraviglia’s coming into service marks a key milestone in the history and future of our company. New ships coming into service over the next 10 years will be purpose-built connected ships, featuring innovation in both product and design.”

Mediterranean promenade

Two features set this ship apart. One is world-class entertainment in two exclusive Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows. The other is a curved LED ceiling featuring stunning 16K content, set within a Mediterranean-style promenade that is designed to become the social hub of the ship. At 80m, this is the longest LED screen on any sea vessel.

Novara-based CM Srl was contracted as consultant for all entertainment AV systems aboard the Meraviglia and also MSC Seaside. Discussing the promenade, CM’s Claudio Mazzucchelli says: “We designed the solution based on the owner’s requests; selected the LED screen supplier (Leading Technologies of Monza) and the installer (VIDELIO-HMS); engineered rigging aspects with VIDELIO-HMS, Leading Technologies and STX France; designed the audio system with Fohhn’s R&D department; and selected the content provider (4DODO). We were also responsible for work supervision and promenade technology start-up tests.”

4DODO was responsible for the 16K video content and its management system. A creative studio headquartered in Udine and specialising in visual and immersive communication, 4DODO developed the necessary hardware and software entirely in house. Founded by Federico Cautero and Stefano Vidoz, the company includes programmers and interactive designers Marco Godeas and Giulia Totis, responsible for product development.

MSC’s brief for the ceiling was for a system that could handle a wide variety of content and if necessary support any last-minute personalisation work. From preliminary analyses, 4DODO realised there was no technology on the market that could create and play out 16K content; so the team designed, developed and built an integrated system that distributed processing power over several units, kept in sync to play the same single visual content across the entire dome surface.

Totis explains: “A server cluster was created with components appropriately selected to ensure 24/7 operation and an integrated system constructed, based on various self-diagnosis algorithms, able to detect any faults and if necessary transfer processing power from one unit to another extremely rapidly.”

As well as a scale model of a portion of the promenade to simulate content playout, a virtual 3D model was produced and viewed using an Oculus Rift device. By observing the dome’s contents from on-board points of view, the team could decide how to screen and position the visual elements.

She continues: “MSC gave indications regarding the themes to be developed for the various events during the day and content was divided into two main categories: ceiling and static images, realised using perspective and anamorphosis techniques. A series of ‘Dome Shows’ was also produced: from outer space to the Jurassic era, from the world’s most beautiful ceilings to journeys through the abysses, the four seasons to cartoons for the kids.”

Multi-channel soundtracks

The shows use multi-channel soundtracks and 32 16K templates to handle images, videos and entire folders of multimedia files in real time.

The audio for the Dome Shows is a combination of effects produced in house by 4DODO and music by Vivaldi, Samuel Barber and Ennio Morricone (who composed music specifically for MSC). These were produced on 16 separate tracks and played by a multi-channel player – also developed in house – which is interfaced with a Biamp Tesira system.

With the exception of 30 Apart ceiling subs, sound reinforcement is courtesy of Fohhn’s speaker systems: 109 ceiling speakers, 12 passive 300W bass systems, four beam-steering active line arrays and 24 two-way promenade speakers.

The audio powerhouse consists of three 16-channel digital Apart power amplifiers (16 x 100W output) and 10 KPL four-channel amps. Control is based on a Biamp Tesira I/O AVB digital audio platform, and includes a Tesira EX-MOD modular expander, Dante network card and RDL audio converters. Apart from an RF Venue UHF antenna, the microphones, IEM and earphones for events along the promenade are all from Shure.

Ceiling statistics

The huge dome screen is formed from 26 segments of Leading Technologies 3.91mm pitch Lightbeam modules: 1,144 1,500mm x 250mm panels and 156 500mm x 250mm panels. Control is via 37 Novastar DVI cards, 149 Leading Technologies multimodal optical fibre to Cat5 converters and 124 fibre optic cables from the control set-up to the screen.

The video server cluster has seven 4U custom media servers created by 4DODO. One server is used as an interface with external devices, four are active and two are on active dynamic backup duty.

As well as the 4DODO content created, live video of events on the promenade can also be played on the overhead screen, thanks to a pair of Panasonic PTZ cameras and a PureLink matrix switcher.

‘Show’ lighting is provided by 40 Elation single-beam moving heads, which feature a 90W RGBW LED and a new collimator optic lens. Such a complex system had to be user-friendly, so 4DODO also developed a control interface that is accessible from any on-board device.

Following the success of this dome, CM’s collaboration with MSC Cruises will continue with the same type of LED ‘sky’ on the Bellissima, the Meraviglia’s sister ship, scheduled for 2019.

Picture: MSC Cruises

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