That resurgence of interest continues with our involvement in Lincoln’s prestigious new International Bomber Command Centre, which remembers more than 58,000 RAF personnel – men and women both – who lost their lives serving with the Command. Working with Redman Design, we’re developing a range of audio, film and interactive experiences that will share and honour their story.
It’s an enthralling project, with a focus not on the military hardware but on human side of this controversial, even hidden, aspect of the Second World War. And the stories told by the people involved – on both sides, in the air and on the ground – are powerful and affecting.
For instance, one core element of the interpretation will be a large-scale immersive experience that brings vividly to life an attack on a German city, seen from the perspectives of bomber crews and German military and civilian witnesses.
Given the physical and emotional scale of the experience we are creating, with massive multi-surface projections, gobos, lighting effects and ‘hit-you-in-the-stomach’ surround sound, our production team have been experimenting with all sorts of visual and audio techniques.
And the release of Christopher Nolan’s epic war film ‘Dunkirk’ presented an ideal opportunity to immerse ourselves in an afternoon at the cinema and experience the film on a massive IMAX screen. Nolan’s film shares our immersive’s narrative approach: to show war from the perspective of those who were in the thick of it – making this a fantastic opportunity to learn from a master film-maker.
The bar has been set high as we move from war on the beaches to war in the air… No pressure, then!
The Postal Museum, located near to the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre in central London, is now open to the public. As part of this exciting new exhibition, visitors will be able to ride through underground tunnels in purpose-built trains and uncover the rich history of the Mail Rail. The immersive ride uses onboard audio commentary and large-scale projections, bringing the London Postal Railway to life in glorious, panoramic colour.
The Postal Railway, known as Mail Rail, is a six-and-a-half mile long network that runs under the capital’s streets from Paddington in the West to Whitechapel in the East. It opened in 1927 and, at its peak, carried some four million letters a day. In 2003, though, Mail Rail’s narrow-gauge electric trains pulled into the sidings for the last time, and the railway went dark… until now.
As part of an exhibition that includes the cavernous engineering depot, a replica Travelling Post Office train and stories of real-life Mail Rail staff, visitors can take an immersive ride, deep beneath the Mount Pleasant sorting office. Key to this ride are two giant, panoramic projections: part of a suite of audiovisual pieces created by Centre Screen during an 18-month collaboration with The Postal Museum.
“Platform One” takes visitors back through the railway’s history to its 1930s heyday. Along the way, passengers witness not just postal history like the introduction of postcodes and the bombing of the sorting office in WWII, but the development of modern society. It also includes the 1966 World Cup and Bruce Willis filming Hudson Hawk on the Railway. Authenticity was the watchword; for instance, the locker room backgrounds were shot on location to ensure accuracy. Blending archive, motion graphics and character voice performance to create a truly immersive journey, this 18-metre projection captures Mail Rail’s unique sense of place and personality as well as its story.
“Platform Two” integrates newly shot characters into 1930s backdrops. It follows three letters from writer through the postal service to recipient, bringing to life the Mail Rail platform at its peak. Filmed over four days against a green screen backdrop 18m square, it called for hundreds of authentic period props, a cast of over twenty people, a genuine 1930s Austin car and a cat (modeled on the Post Office’s own Tibs, making his cinematic debut). The result is a 22-metre, life-size, projection-mapped extravaganza, filmed at twice the resolution of an IMAX movie and occupying over 300GB of data storage.
For the team at The Postal Museum and exhibition designers Haley Sharpe, this marks the exciting and successful end of a long journey to reveal a fascinating part of London’s rich history. We have been proud to part of the team that has made this a reality.
With production well under way on our collaboration with Redman Design for the new International Bomber Command Centre, the team went down to Lincoln to catch up with the client team, present the latest work, and take a first look at the building.
And quite a building it is, too, from the imposing black-box space of Operation Bomber Command – where our 7m projections will dominate one wall – to the airy mezzanine gallery dedicated to post-war remembrance.
There’s more to it than sightseeing, of course; seeing the space where the exhibits will run provides essential confirmation of technical and sometimes conceptual decisions. And we do like to keep talking to our clients (in this case, Project Director Nicky Barr and Curator Dr. Dan Ellin) to make sure we’re all on the same page.
For the first time, too, we were able to get a close look at the memorial spire – 102 feet tall, the same as the wingspan of an Avro Lancaster bomber – and gardens… and if any part of the physical structure drives home the scale of Bomber Command’s sacrifice, it’s this. Over 57,000 RAF personnel died waging this controversial part of the war; to see their names carved into the patinated panels in the shadow of the spire… even on a warm day, we felt a chill.
Telling this story well and honestly, commemorating “those who served and those who suffered,” is a responsibility we all feel keenly, not least because some of us have personal connections to Bomber Command. And we’re all looking forward to seeing our films and interactives up and running in situ, when the Centre opens later this year.
Centre Screen where were proud to work alongside the Newbiggin-by-the-sea Maritime Visitor centre and the local people of the town to create a passionate and emotive film about the vital role of the Mary Joicey lifeboat in saving the lives of many people along the Northumberland coastline.The immersive film was designed to connect the lifeboat, not just with the immediate imperative of saving life lives, but also with a way of life that has shaped this community over centuries.
Local stories helped not only to guide the AV’s narrative, but also the content production where local poetry, photography and voices where were featured in the final film.
Thanks to their local involvement, the film presented a truly unique and personal story, which honoured the role of the lifeboat crew in a sensitive and inspirational way.
Please support the vital work of lifeboat stations such as Newbiggin-by-the-sea by supporting the RNLI SOS week.
Centre Screen have been blown away by the feedback received from visitors and critics in regards to our most recent project at the National Maritime Museum’s exhibition “Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity”. She was one of the most iconic women of her time, her life was said to be a real costume drama and so being involved in retelling her extraordinary story through immersive projections and newly created musical scores has not been without its challenges.
We worked with exhibition designers Hara Clark and National Maritime Museum’s internal hardware specialists to produce a number of AV installations that help tell Emma’s story for the artist, politician and pioneer that history has often forgotten and we feel that our actress, Amelia captured the tone of the exhibition perfectly.
We have been speaking to Interpretation Curator, Sarah Wood about how it was to work on the project along side us, her own views on some of the challenges we faced in creating this exhibition and of course her favourite aspects of working on Seduction and Celebrity…
What was your favourite part of the production experience?
Attending the filming and audio recordings were my favourite aspects of developing AV content. It really felt like a huge turning point in an ambitious project and a moment where ideas started to become a reality. It was exciting working with some fabulous actors who skilfully brought characters to life for audio extracts of key letters in the exhibition. Above all it was great finding and working with ‘our Emma’. The lovely Amelia starred as Emma in two major audio visual interventions for the show: an extensive and artistic performances of The Attitudes, and a dramatic imagining of the love letters written between Emma and Nelson. Being present at the filming of these aspects of the show was great fun.
Which exhibit did you most enjoy working on?
I loved working on all aspects of the AV for ‘Seduction and Celebrity’ but developing ‘The Attitudes’ was the most challenging but also rewarding – we’ve had a really positive response from visitors and staff about the final product.
At the museum, we extensively researched the attitudes. We looked at first-hand accounts of how the Attitudes were received by 18th century audiences; we studied prints and drawings of the different gestures, props, costume and poses required to piece together an interpretation of what this (then) new and radical form of performance art would have been like. Then, working with Centre Screen we embarked on a series of technical challenges about how to make this an immersive experience as a centrepiece for the exhibition experiences in a large circular space in the centre of the exhibition space.
What were the technical challenges of the project?
There were quite a few technical challenges for the project that were fun to work through.
Working out how to make Emma’s performance feel intimate yet dramatic for our audiences was key. This took a lot of technical wizardry, a lot of time and conversations and testing. We went through several iterations of how we would construct, film and project the experience, experimenting with different projection spaces and styles before arriving on our final scheme.
What surprised you the most about the filming process?
I hadn’t ever worked with green screen technology before and it was really interesting to see how that process worked on the shoot and how the magic of post-production brought it to life. The sheer scale of the set up needed to film in green screen and also to create the simple but dramatic lighting and staging for the Attitudes was really interesting.
What did you learn from the experience?
I learnt just how much technical skill is involved, from the filming process to post production to on site-installation. Large-scale audio visual elements of exhibitions require a huge group effort and expertise from across the museum and everyone at Centre Screen too: photography, choreography, digital and graphic design, costume, hair and make-up etc.
It also surprised me how much maths was involved in trying to map digital elements into physical spaces We had to plan a lot for projecting the attitudes in to and on to a circular wall, and on site installation was a complex job to fine tune. We also had to plan how a digital projection of Emma reading love letters could feel like a realistically scaled extension of the physical gallery space. There was a lot of discussion and technical planning about angles and spatial reasoning.
To mark the UN’s International Week for Science and Peace (first observed as part of the Year for International Science and Peace in 1986) we’ve been looking back at our past projects – in particular, the London Science Museum’s ‘Information Age’ exhibition. We installed our contribution to this project back in 2014, and it made us wonder about the role of Science and Technology as a force for good in modern society, especially whether advances in communications technology have been for the better.
All in all, we’d say: yes. Connected digital devices have made us faster and more efficient as a society; we’ve made good use of the endless information at our fingertips; and, as technology brings global integration, it brings us closer to a global civilisation. At first, tying this exhibition into Science for Peace seemed a bit of a reach but, after taking the time to explore the exhibition and its stories, I found that the whole place is about bridging the gaps in communication between countries and continents. That’s quite literally the case with the story of transatlantic cable-laying, an attempt to connect America and the United Kingdom.
The Exhibition tells a winning tale of the ambition, audacity and ingenuity of inventors and inventions. Each of its six zones represents a different technology network: The Cable, The Telephone Exchange, Broadcast, The Constellation, The Cell and The Web. The gallery explores the key events that shaped the development of these networks, from the growth of the worldwide telegraph network in the 19th century to the influence of mobile phones on our lives today. Each section takes an engaging approach to a facet of the “Information Age”, presenting both an overview of its own contents and part of a grand, overarching narrative – a fascinating take on the socio-cultural history of technology from the 1840’s onward.
Most of the challenges we faced on this project came from translating abstract ideas (like the theories published in Alan Turing’s 1936 paper ‘On Computable Numbers’ – a stepping stone to later technologies to be found in the exhibit) into a family-friendly, physical exhibition. The interactive pods and matching app, with its tasks and games based on the gallery’s content, are specifically designed to engage a family audience. Without this approach, I personally believe the exhibition would be lost on younger visitors. Indeed, at first, the sentimentality and nostalgia of this vast exhibition might seem aimed at an older audience – but once you delve in to the content, nostalgia is replaced by inspiration. It’s a pleasure to lose yourself in the stories of the pioneering men and women who created the communication technology we now take for granted.
The Manchester Science Festival has drawn to a close once again and, as promised, it was a delight of innovative and artistic scientific movement; it seems the organisers were keen to ensure that it made its mark in Manchester’s year as European City of Science – and it did. 10 days of thought-provoking and inspiring science events, across the whole of the City Centre, upheld its reputation as one of the largest and best festivals of its kind in England. Produced and hosted by the Museum of Science and Industry, it was a real celebration for the festival’s 10th anniversary, including a party at the MOSI with a silent disco, cake decorating and scientific magic.
We were excited to see some of the events on offer this year, and managed to get down to the Chronarium Sleep Laboratory created by Loop.pH – a London-based spatial laboratory that experiments across the fields of design, architecture and science. The Chronarium Sleep Laboratory is a completely immersive audiovisual haven of relaxation… so, of course, it was right up our street. It’s a dome filled with hammocks, bathed in ambient lighting and lavender scented mist, designed to enhance your well-being, promote healthy sleep and reset your circadian rhythm.
When preparing yourself and slipping off your shoes it feels odd to be doing so in the middle of Manchester’s Arndale, knowing in a short while you will be completely segregated from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Once you enter the Chronarium you are transported into a hive of environmental stimuli – an audiovisual program created to give you a restorative, calm and contemplative experience. The soundtrack, swinging hammocks and colour-changing walls leave you feeling as though you have just been on a journey through time and space; the ambient music eases you into a hammock designed to support your body weight perfectly and relax your entire body for what feels like a very long 15-minute power nap, intended purely to give your pressurised batteries a full recharge. It really is quite a blissful experience of sound and light, perfectly balanced to leave you feeling as though you have been cleansed and refreshed. I just wish we could all have a Chronarium in our studios!
During four days at Malcolm Ryan Studios in Wimbledon, we filmed over 20 actors in period costume – and of course Tibs the cat made his on-screen debut. The entire 1930s background of the film will be created and brought to life in post-production using authentic props, CGI imagery, and original archive photography. At the same time we will develop the music – using a variety of period instrumentation to evoke 1930s London – and enhance it with authentic street sounds and recorded location dialogue, giving the whole piece a rhythmic, industrial sound.
Featuring clever choreography, and a different experience depending on whereabouts on the train visitors sit, the show will be projected onto the walls of the train platform. This means a projection 22 metres in length, using 7 x 16:10 HD projectors to create an image size of nearly 9000 pixels – over double the resolution length of an IMAX cinema film!
We spoke to Andy Richmond (Access and Learning Manager) and Emma Harper (Exhibition Officer) from The Postal Museum about their experiences on set…
What was your favourite part of the week?
Emma: Meeting all of the actors, I think, and chatting to them about what they thought of the filming – the way they transformed once their costume and make-up were on, and how enthusiastic they were about the project. Sometimes when you’ve been working on a project for a long time you forget to get excited about it.
Andy: I liked the choreography [of the platform workers]. It was really good to see Richard’s [Director] vision come to reality right in front of me. That was pretty cool!
What surprised you the most?
Andy: The time it took to do all the different shots, all the different sequences and different cuts. You forget the amount of time that goes into preparation, setting the camera up and so on.
Emma: It also surprised me how quickly you got through everything given that that’s what you had to do for about every shot and it all went so smoothly.
What did you learn from the experience?
Emma: I think I learnt a lot about camera shots and how everything matches together. It was interesting to see all the different techniques especially the flexibility green screen gives you.
Andy: The many varied roles of the team. Everyone had an innate understanding of what needed to be done and when so it all worked very smoothly and efficiently.
What about seeing your objects being utilised?
Emma: When I collected the replica post box for filming I thought – oh this looks a bit the worse for wear and needed a good dust, but as soon as it was on set and the actors were using it it really brought the objects back to life.
What was your favourite costume and why?
Andy: I think Kathleen’s because she just looked like she stepped out of history!
Emma: Yes, all the costumes and the make-up were really good, because they did just transform them. Their faces just looked like they came from 1930s.
Andy: Especially the ladies that were shopping – they definitely didn’t look like they are from the 21st century.
Who was your favourite character and why?
Andy: The Colonel. He was my favourite! His mannerisms and the way he handles himself was excellent– he brought it to life and made the role quite funny!
Emma: Obviously Hector [Tibs the cat]! Also, the old woman, because she was literally in character from the minute she stepped through the door. When she came in and I was taking photos she gave me this piercing stare like she does with Kathleen.
Was there enough cake to eat?
Emma: The food was really good! It does make a difference!
Andy: We always have loads of cake in the office.
Emma: It was up to office standard I think.
Andy: Our nickname should be Educaketion…!
The Postal Museum is a museum and this is an educational experience. Can you tell us a bit more about that in terms of your feeling about this platform and how you have seen this project progress?
Emma: One of the main things we want to do is to inspire people and make them realise how important the postal service was in connecting people – like social media today. It really was a part of everyone’s lives and I think this shoot and the film do that really well. The personal connection really comes across. It was really great that all the people on set were really excited to come and see it next year.
Andy: It’s putting the letters and the objects into the context of history. They weren’t just isolated items; they were studied and looked at and they were part of everyday lives, so it is bringing them back to what they were originally created for. I think it does bring it to life – and we tried very hard to make it fun. You know, it was fun on the set and everyone did a good job and they enjoyed it.