Burbank, CA--Its arc structure resembling the keel of a ship, the China State Shipbuilding Pavilion at Expo 2010 Shanghai China showcases the nation's time-honored history of shipbuilding and is one of the few pavilions that will remain as a museum after the Expo concludes. Electrosonic provided the extensive audio, video and show-control systems for the pavilion that enable visitors to explore the role of shipping in China's past, investigate exciting concepts for future floating cities and farms, and simulate navigation. Electrosonic was challenged to deliver multi-image and edge-blended displays onto unusual surfaces; and furnish immersive interactive experiences for visitors.
Expo 2010 Shanghai China, which runs from May 1 to October 31, is expected to draw 70 million visitors to its theme of Better City, Better Life. Cross-cultural dialogues on the future of urban life include new approaches to human habitation, lifestyle and working conditions in the new century.
Electrosonic project manager Marcelo Videla describes the challenges presented by the project. "A project the size and scope of the China State Shipbuilding Pavilion typically has a life cycle of 18 months, but we had just seven months to complete our work from beginning to end. For much of the time we were working out of sequence with various phases of the process overlapping. Adding to the challenge was the fact that this is one of the few pavilions that will remain after the Expo so much effort went into ensuring that installed elements were easily expandable in the future." It will continue to operate as a permanent museum and exhibit long after the Expo is over.
Overall, Electrosonic furnished front, rear, and fog projection screens with the majority of surfaces edge-blended and/or warped to accommodate unusual screen geometry. More than 100 projectors were installed, as well as a videowall and 23 plasma and LCD displays - nine of them with built-in touch-sensitivity - ranging from 21 to 103 inches. In addition, 72 individual audio inputs and 94 individual audio outputs feed approximately 150 speakers.
From the Outside In
Visitors get a feel for the scope of Electrosonic's work before they even enter the pavilion. A Christie Roadie HD+35K video projector located outside the building in an enclosed projection booth displays giant Chinese and English text on the pavilion's exterior to welcome guests. As visitors approach the doorway, two Panasonic PT-FD600 video projectors display full-motion video, including sea-themed images, onto a four-meter wide fog screen they must walk through to gain entry. The fog screen is a curtain-like screen of fine water mist that acts as a projection surface and serves as a portal into the pavilion. Once inside, visitors find information on the pavilion's attractions on a large, seven-projector wide, edge-blended and curved wall.
The huge, four-story lobby area, known as the Central Business District (CBD), features the mast, or conning tower, of a modern ship. Around it are three storefront-style windows showcasing the current and future business of the shipyard. Two of the windows, displaying client meetings and futuristic ship design, are fed by Panasonic PT-FD600 rear-screen projectors. In another window, two vertically-stacked projectors show imagery of giant ship components. Fifteen 50-inch DLP video projection cubes comprise a fourth window, and 11 additional LED screens spotlight shipyard activities.
The CBD's Aqua Nook features a domed projection system displaying footage of the shipyard's vessels and the launch of a new ship. "The challenge with the dome," says Videla, "is that given the time constraints and the brightness requirements we couldn't use a fish-eye lens. So we used two standard lenses in two Christie DS+750 projectors heavily warped to map the shape of the dome."
Visitors next pass through five 2.3 meter-wide fog screens, with more motion video projections, into an area highlighting cruise ships. A 103-inch Gesturetek plasma interactive set on a 90º angle lets visitors navigate the ship from a high-end passenger cabin while three side-by-side 103-inch plasma screens show off the cruise ship's interior as well as a view as though visitors are looking out from a yacht.
Ramping Up the Future
Four ramps lead visitors up through the pavilion and serve as transitions from one gallery to the next where exhibits highlight current and future ship-based science and technology concepts.
The first ramp leads to the Energy Park gallery where five Christie DS+750 video projectors show edge-blended imagery of offshore oil rig operations across two walls; external geometry hardware adjusts the video to the curves and corners of the walls. In front of the wall are two models of oil-drilling platforms and two support columns fitted with RGB LED panels depicting the oil output of the platforms built by the shipyard.
The second ramp leads to the Eco-Lab, designed to resemble the control center of a research ship, and a Media Wall comprised of 21- and 24-inch LCD monitors and three 42-inch plasmas. An aquarium gallery gives visitors a unique, interactive take on the underwater world. A Panasonic PT-FDW630 combines with a Gesturetek system to display cartoon balloon dialogue as if the fish were addressing visitors. The dialogue is triggered by the movements of the fish and projected onto the aquarium's glass tank.
The third ramp takes visitors to the Food Production gallery where an interactive wall and infrared lasers permit guests to explore food preparation onboard ship. Ten Floating Farm ship models, placed on glass tables with projection surfaces, feature Electrosonic lighting control that triggers gobos and descriptions of the ships. Panasonic FD600s project water textures under the ship models. A generic Harbor View wall, approximately 80 feet wide, shows off the shipyard's vessels via 10 edge-blended video projectors adjusted to the shape of the wall. It leads to the transportation gallery where three 24-inch interactive touchscreens allow guests to pick a destination and a ship to get there. A starry-sky projection, displayed via a DMX-controlled, moving-mirror assembly, demonstrates satellite navigation systems.
The fourth ramp leads to the Sailing City Forum that introduces visitors to the concept of permanent floating cities. Ten video projectors in five interactive stations combine with Gesturetek systems to enable visitors to investigate the idea of airports, shopping centers and theme parks at sea.
The pavilion's main show, which depicts the past, present and future of the shipyard in an all-animated presentation, is housed in the City Hall Theater-in-the-round. Seven HD video projectors display images on a 310º curved and slightly-tilted Oray screen. "The big challenge here was installing a screen 150 feet wide," Videla reports. "It was big, heavy and delicate." The theater's audio system consists of eight 3-way loudspeaker arrays located behind the projection screen. The imagery was fed by Extron JMP9600 JPEG2000 video players.
VIPs Treated to Special Venue
VIP visitors to the pavilion have access to a balcony area, outfitted with lounge and conference spaces, overlooking the City Hall Theater. From there, they can watch the main show or try their hands at simulated interactive ship steering.
The balcony's glass window enclosures contain LCD elements that permit them to change from clear to opaque via external control. The opaque setting allows the windows to be used as interactive projection surfaces while the clear setting enables guests to view the screens in the City Hall Theater.
When the glass is in its opaque mode, five projectors display a simulation of an actual ship's console with steering wheel, throttle and bearing indicator. Three 24-inch touchscreens give VIPs a chance to pilot a ship on Shanghai's Huangpu River; show-control elements send appropriate video signals to the projection system, giving guests the illusion of the ships responding to their commands. A wireless control touchscreen for the Theater and VIP area also allows for shows on demand.
System Control and Signal Distribution
Due to the pavilion's size and the long cable runs it would have required, Electrosonic employed a fibre distribution system to send all video and control signals to the equipment in the facility. The fibre distribution system is easily upgradeable when the pavilion moves into museum mode. In addition, a dozen programming ports located throughout the pavilion enable easy access to the AV network for reprogramming specific exhibits.
Due to the extremely tight schedule, Electrosonic converted the control room into a fabrication facility and configured the pavilion's control room with four rows of six equipment enclosures. This effort was led by Electrosonic's Edman Lopez, a long time veteran of Expo work. All show control is performed with a Medialon system.
"Since the pavilion is designed to be a permanent installation we made expansion ports easily available," notes senior project manager Thursby Pierce. "Early on, system engineer Gary Belshaw (who also served as show-control programmer) and I worked closely with the facility architect and engineers to minimize the hanging and rigging points for each unit and construct a sub-ceiling with a steel-grid system so we didn't have to disturb air ducts and piping in the ceiling. It's second nature for us to think about ease of access for maintenance during shows or at off-hours." Andrew Rutkin served as project engineer working closely with Gary to create a truly integrated audiovisual system.
Electrosonic has been working in mainland China for more than 5 years and has established a prestigious reputation and strong working partnerships with like-minded technology companies. On the Shipbuilding Pavilion, Electrosonic subcontracted Sky Market Technology Co., LTD and Joint Information System Engineering Co., LTD to provide additional engineering and installation services on this important project. Chinese engineering and project management services were provided by Wang Jinqing and Xu Gengfei.
In addition to being the integrator, Electrosonic provides operational and maintenance service during the run of the Expo.