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Dutch maritime museum brings ocean to life

Drawing large crowds in Amsterdam is the reopened Dutch Maritime Museum, which is using an array of video, audio, lighting and show control technology to bring its subject to life. Paddy Baker reports

October 2011 saw the reopening of the Dutch Maritime Museum – Het Scheepvaartsmuseum – following major renovation. Located in central Amsterdam, the museum is housed in a storehouse for the Dutch war fleet dating from 1656 – one of the city’s largest 17th century buildings.

As well as hosting one of the world’s biggest collections of nautical art and artefacts, the museum explores the Netherlands’ connection with the sea. It contains several themed exhibitions, object exhibitions and interactive exhibits that not only celebrate the romance and adventure of seafaring, but also mark the darker aspects of the country’s nautical past, such as colonisation and oppression.

Integrator Rapenburg Plaza has been responsible for the complete media and lighting control and the majority of the audiovisual installations in the museum: in three themed exhibitions, seven object exhibitions and the two interactive exhibits. There is a plethora of touchscreens and consoles, inviting the visitor to choose the areas that they want to find out more about.

Voyage at Sea
For instance, for the Voyage at Sea exhibit, the company carried out the lighting design, the AV and system design and the entire technical execution. Voyage at Sea is a 20-minute show, spread across five rooms, which takes visitors on a journey through 500 years of Dutch maritime history.

This attraction uses a variety of projections – including, in one room, a Pepper’s Ghost illusion – to take visitors out of the building into the harbour, and then on to the sea and even into battle. They even see themselves in a rowing boat on the ocean, having been video-recorded against a blue-screen background in the first room. The third room provides a fully immersive experience, using a Watchout system to control a total of 10 Sanyo projectors in an oval configuration to completely surround the audience. The projection is 15m in circumference and 3.4m high. The story takes the audience on different types of ship, ending up in a sea battle. Multichannel audio (12 Seeburg speakers plus two subs) enhance the experience by carrying the sounds of gunfire and other effects.

“This room was probably the hardest part of the whole installation,” comments Sierk Janszen, partner and technical director at Rapenburg Plaza. “The walls of the building are not straight, and we were restricted in where we could position the projectors. Also, Watchout requires the same number of pixels in all the overlap areas between projectors. We had to work around this by using theatrical foil to physically mask off parts of some images.”
Beyond the museum
One innovative attraction is ‘Mijn.Expo’, which extends the experience beyond the museum itself. Prior to coming to the museum, visitors can log on to an area of its website and design their own attraction. Then, during their visit, they can call up the results of their work using a sort of giant iPad – an interactive table built especially for the exhibition.

The underside of the tabletop is covered with an interactive foil from UK company Visual Planet, and a projector fires up from under the table. Once the results are called up, they are displayed on a Watchout-controlled projection.
The entire museum is show-controlled; there is a master control system, and each attraction has its own sub-system. Rapenburg Plaza designed, installed and programmed the show-control network using Medialon software, KissBox interfaces and industrial network hardware and software.

“Anything to do with AV had to be Ethernet controllable,” explains Janszen. As well as allowing museum personnel complete control over all lighting and AV equipment, this enables Rapenburg Plaza technicians to do on-site troubleshooting via iPhone or iPad, or to manage and monitor the entire installation remotely.

Lighting control
The company was also partly responsible for the ingenious lighting control system. An open DMX infrastructure was fitted to low-voltage rails in all the museum’s rooms and showcases, providing data to more than 4,000 individually addressable spotlights. This not only applies to all LED fittings in the showcases but also to all tunable-white and RGB spotlights on the ceiling rails.

Overall, there is a huge array of technologies and brands in the museum. For instance, there are no fewer than five manufacturers’ projectors across the installation. Janszen explains: “We’re not an AV distributor or dealer, so we can be brand independent. The projectors need to do different things: there are differences in resolution, in what they are showing and the way they’re mounted.”

The AV budget for the project – not including show control or lighting – was €800,000.

So far, says Janszen, the newly opened museum has proved very popular. The first two weekends (which were, admittedly, both rainy) saw 8,000 visitors through the doors by the middle of the day. “We’ve only heard good stuff about it,” he smiles.


Elo 19in, 22in and 26in touchscreens
Visual Planet touchfoil
NEC 42in MultiSync LCD displays
LG 55in LCD monitors
Eiki XSP2500, LC-XL200, LC-WUL100 and EIP-HDT20 projectors
projectiondesign F12SX and F22SX projectors
Sanyo PLC-ET30L, PLC-WXU300 and PLC-XU106 projectors
Canon XEED SX80 projectors
Dell 7609WU
BrightSign HD210 looping signage controllers
BrightSign HD1010 interactive signage controllers
SpinetiX HMP100 media players
Medialon Manager V6 Pro Server, V6 Lite Server and Backup Server
Rapenburg Navigator
Dataton Watchout Player V 4.3
Dataton Watchout Production V4.3
Dataton Watchout Player V5

Extron MPA152 and XPA1002 amplifiers
Audac Q4 4-channel 600W amplifiers
Audac DPA74 and DPA154 amplifiers
Ashly NE8250 8-channel 250W amplifiers
Behringer MA400 amplifiers
Panphonics 120 x 20 SoundShower speakers
JBL Control1 Pro speakers
Storz EH02 speakers
Visaton FRS8 and VC4.7 speakers
Seeburg Acoustic A1, A2 and A8 speakers
Richmond Sound Design SoundMan Server
MOTU 24I/O audio interface
Raapu 3d2 and 3d3 MP3 players

e:cue Enterprise Server 3HE, Enterprise Server 2HE and Butler MicroServer
e:cue DMX2DALI converter
PLS Split7/RJ45 DMX splitter
PLS Split7/RDM DMX splitter
TTL Flatpack DMX dimmer