Being Brunel

Bristol’s ss Great Britain , an award-winning visitor attraction and museum ship, has been augmented with a new attraction. Located alongside the iconic steamship, ‘Being Brunel’ is a celebration and exploration of the life and work of extraordinary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Centre Screen were commissioned to produce two key AV exhibits for this engaging new attraction, working closely with the ss Great Britain client team.


The Mind is a bespoke cinematic experience, realised through immersive 180º dome and 4k wraparound projections. Visitors move through a recreation of Brunel’s head, along an ear canal, and into an interpretation of the great engineer’s mind itself. The six and half minute journey is an imaginative attempt to show visitors Brunel’s Victorian world through his own eyes.


The client identified key scenes from Brunel’s life that could be featured, and requested an unpredictable, engaging, and even disorientating experience. More than a chronological biography of Brunel, the end result is an exploration of the engineer’s character, of his strengths and weaknesses, of his motivations and ambitions. Visitors are presented with Brunel’s struggles, triumphs and disasters from a first-person point of view, while associated memories and thoughts unfold above the audience on a dome projection, creating a genuinely immersive experience.



Today, Brunel’s visions of steamships and iron bridges seem like common sense. But at the time, he was considered a radical. Brunel had to fight for his place in engineering history – and the second Centre Screen AV, The Boardroom, is an interpretation of one such fight.

Visitors progress into an original dock office building, and are invited to participate in a board meeting. The Boardroom AV is a bespoke, five minute HD film featuring Brunel presenting his new and controversial screw propeller design to a sceptical board. The audience interacts with the film, joining the vote that will decide the future of marine transport.


To achieve this historical transformation, Centre Screen virtually re-created a historically-accurate dock office interior from the period of the ss Great Britain’s construction. The cast members were filmed in a large green screen studio, and then blended into a CGI set, creating a virtual extension of the actual dock office.


After two years of consultation and production, Centre Screen’s AV exhibits opened to the public in March 2018. For admission details, check the SS Great Britain website –