Featuring a unique combination of globe and panoramic canvas projection, the Orbitarium at Switzerland’s Technorama science centre has specified projectiondesign hardware for both purposes, becoming one of the most innovative users of the manufacturer’s ReaLED light-source technology.
From its location in the town of Winterthur, Technorama offers a series of experimental spaces that gives visitors of all ages and backgrounds the chance to become acquainted with natural phenomena in an informal, hands-on and self-directed way. One such space is the Orbitarium, which first opened in 2008 as a way of giving visitors an ‘astronaut’s eye’ of Planet Earth and the natural events that take place around it such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and so on.
The exhibit used a projected globe as its centrepiece, and was considered a success. But, as Thomas Hofer, Visualization Director of Technorama explains, there was something missing.
“As important and interesting as natural phenomena may be, they appeared isolated and lacking in real-life relevance in the original Orbitarium design,” he said. “We decided we needed to develop a show that would highlight the uniqueness of our planet, and to put Earth in context of the space that surrounds it – the Moon, the Sun, the stars and so on.”
This show was given the title ‘Planet Earth – Cosmic Oasis’, and Technorama’s technical staff began working on ways in which the Orbitarium could be enhanced to make the show come to life.
“Life on Earth doesn’t rely on our planet alone,” continued Hofer. “It relies on its neighbourhood in the solar system, so what could be better than to expand the horizon of the Orbitarium with a huge, panoramic canvas in the background?”
While neither the curved, panoramic canvas nor the projected globe are new ideas in themselves, the combination of the two together to create a three-dimensional ‘Cosmic Theatre’ is what sets the Orbitarium project apart from any other installation. The creation of such a space created a number of technical issues, as Hofer explains.
“To completely illuminate the background canvas without the globe casting shadows in front was made possible only by a combination of specific short-throw projector lenses and significant use of lens shift,” he said. “Another challenge was to control the presence of unwanted light which might come from any of three sources: the background canvas projection, the globe projection, and the light from outside the Orbitarium. All of these are capable of casting unwanted diffuse light onto the wrong surfaces.”
Technorama staff carried out much of the AV system design and integration work themselves, and Thomas Hofer says projectiondesign was the obvious choice for the new-look Orbitarium. “We’re using two FL32 ReaLED projectors for the globe projection and two edge-blended cineo32 projectors for the panoramic canvas. Both pairs of projectors are running at full 1080p resolution.”
“We evaluated a lot of different projector combinations but only projectiondesign was able to meet our specific needs for performance, lens-throw ratio and reliability,” he concluded. “We also received wonderful support during installation from projectiondesign’s headquarters in Norway and from the company’s Swiss distributor, Visopta.”
A fully automated multimedia show that can be controlled via touchscreen by Technorama staff, ‘Planet Earth – Cosmic Oasis’ plays twice a day to capacity audiences of 60 at a time – though it is not uncommon for additional performances to be played at busy periods. The show appeals to all age ranges and has earned rave reviews from audiences.
“We are continually amazed at the way our end-customers keep finding new ways to use our projection technology, and the Orbitarium at Technorama is a great example of this,” said Anders Løkke, Marketing Director, projectiondesign. “The more unusual the application, the more our ability to offer bespoke lens combinations, proven reliability and class-leading levels of service comes to the fore. We’re delighted to be associated with this pioneering project and look forward to many more such installations in the future.”
Picture © Thomas Hofer, Technorama, Switzerland