Terracotta Warriors Exhibition
Case Study: National Museums Liverpool - Liverpool, UK
One of our greatest concerns was the failing of the technology, because the audio-visuals are such an important part of the visitor experience. What impressed us most, was the fact that Adlib could manage everything remotely. But also that they are just minutes away, so could guarantee to be here within half an hour if needed.
The brief was to make an immersive, experiential and fun exhibition space … to add to the educational and information aspects, with the additional aim of engaging a wide audience range including those who might not necessarily consider visiting exhibitions.
At the start, guests – around 40 at a time – enter the ‘Introduction to China’ area and immediately encounter a 15 metre wide by 3 metre tall geo-wall shaped like a stylised mountain range, custom built to fit the space.
The lights dim and there is a presentation onto the wall about the global superpower that China is today, complete with the scent of cherry blossom.
The images were created with two Panasonic PT-RZ970 10,000 lumen laser projectors mapped across the wall. The technically challenging brief was to keep viewing space to a maximum, whilst achieving high brightness and resolution. A WATCHPAX 4 media server served up the content to the duo of mapped and blended projectors; and also controlled the Crown amplifiers plus the Osborne Technologies scent generator.
The audio installation comprised of three Adlib AA61 speakers and AA12HL subs, run as a 3.1 surround system to give a rich 3D tone. Adlib’s proprietary speakers are a compact and highly reliable installation product.
When the presentation finishes the doors open at the end of the room – also controlled via the media server and Visual Productions IOCore Artnet relay system – giving visitors their first glimpse of a terracotta horse and warrior before they pass into the second space, where they confront the ‘Warring States’.
This featured two more Panasonic PT-RZ970 projectors and two 5.5 metre by 2 metre screens running down the length of the space above head height, driven by a WATCHPAX 2 and incorporating the same iPower IP-4 power control system found throughout the exhibition.
The audioscape was delivered via Adlib AA81 speakers built-in to the screen, and using quadraphonic audio the sounds of arrows whizzing overhead accompanied by drum beats and the sounds of battle, giving directional perspective to ramp up the atmosphere.
The next area detailed the Qin Dynasty, with terracotta warriors from this period – including a kneeling stable boy in a case – and seven warriors side-by-side in a row with an 8 x 3 metre projection screen immediately behind, which had content fed via another three Panasonic RZ970s.
Lead Video Technician Andrew Watts for the project comments, “This area was particularly challenging for us. The idea of having a large rear projection seemed a simple one, however less than 2 metres of projection throw distance could be allocated in a space that – at first look – shouldn’t allow enough distance for it to work at all”.
The trio of projectors were portrait mounted using Rigtec adapters, modified to attach directly to an upright truss base. Panasonic’s impressive ET-DLE030 lenses were then fitted giving a 0.36:1 throw ratio.
“Lining the projectors up and achieving a seamless blend was a meticulous task,” explains Andrew laughing. “We are incredibly pleased with the outcome of this centrepiece of the exhibition.”
The content includes stunning close ups of the warriors faces which have been digitally painted for the onscreen presentation in what would have been original colours.
“There are some beautiful moments with the warriors in front of the rolling green hills from the burial site in China” says Andy Cooper, director of Draw & Code. “Adlib’s installation experts did a perfect job with the screen material and really brought our concepts to life.”
Tom explains that it took a lot of brain-teasing to come up with an optimum solution for this area, and everyone is delighted with the results. “You can do all the pre-visualisation in the world, but it’s not until you actually get to site and see the content and the artefacts together for real … that you know if it’s all going to work!”
Next, visitors move into the Han Dynasty area where the focus is on showing the detail of the smaller warriors crafted during this era.
There was a HD screen fed by another Panasonic PT-RZ970 projector fed from the same WATCHPAX 4 media server which was running the projections in the Qin presentation.
Area 5 is the First Emperor’s Mausoleum; which to this day in real life, has never been opened. The tomb appears to be a hermetically sealed space roughly the size of a football pitch!
This required completely different treatment which is theatrically driven and, being the final space of the exhibition, it was vital to make a lasting impact.
The space included a projection mapped, false vanishing point room (yes; like Willy Wonka!). A Holo-gauze scrim created a pepper’s ghost effect to the front.
Five Panasonic PT-RZ670 projectors were utilised, four to beam the projections onto the floor, sides and roof of the mausoleum for the dramatic, high-drama show and one taking care of the scrim. Smoke effects appear on the front of the gauze, rivers of mercury are projected into the floor, climaxing with a booby trap, triggered by a bird flying through the space.
“This type of presentation is unusual for a museum” commented Tom, “just as the massive responsibility for creatively representing such an incredibly important world heritage site!”
Tom started work on the project back in August 2017 and the Adlib / Draw & Code installation team spent 3 months on site to make sure everything was tuned to perfection.
All of the show scheduling was tied into a Dataton WATCHNET server, which provided advanced show control of the WATCHPAX media servers and was the command centre for all the IP-controlled devices in the system. Some of the network infrastructure was built around a fibre backbone to accommodate the distances between areas.
A hardware-based VPN router was installed for fully remote network access, control and diagnostics of the entire system.
A secondary software-based VPN allowed redundant access to the network via a dedicated monitoring server, which ran a Linux-based instance of Zabbix for advanced logging, monitoring and diagnostics of the network.
Since opening its doors to visitors on 9 February 2018, the blockbuster exhibition was attended by over 600,000 visitors, a figure that far exceeded expectations of half a million, placing Liverpool once again on a worldwide stage.
When crunching down the numbers, National Museums Liverpool reports that the exhibition was visited by over 20,000 schoolchildren and 97,000 visitors on group tours, generating over £78m for the local economy.
Adlib’s head of video, Tom Edwards, who project managed the installation commented, “The incredible public reaction has confirmed the amazing depth of expertise and artistry that is available locally.”