Incredible Florence: the fascinating history of Florence in 50 minutes


Within the splendid setting of the church of Santo Stefano al Ponte in Florence, Incredible Florence comes to life, an exhibition born from the synergic participation of Crossmedia, Art media Studio and Tecnoconference, to introduce the general public to the history of the city of Florence. Thanks to the use of 16 Nec P502HL laser projectors and an integrated sound and lighting system, the experience takes on a highly innovative tone, where the educational content stands out thanks to an immersive effect. The possibility of freely placing the projectors, being able to rotate them at will on the horizontal and vertical planes, guarantees a non-invasive result with respect to the context; producer, director and integrator were able to work with a good margin of flexibility, respecting the structure and the context, defining a light and not bulky technological installation.

The power of images


Federico Dalgas of Crossmedia, producer and commissioner of the exhibition, is quick to point out: 'The desire to produce the exhibition stemmed from the desire to give the city of Florence an innovative museum space. The main intention was to create an experience that was both educational and entertaining. A space that would be able to guarantee a quick and effective understanding of Florence's vast history'.

Incredible Florence outlines, in 50 minutes (a very short time, a real challenge for the producer), a historical overview of the city of Florencefrom the earliest days of the foundation to the present day, through an immersive path designed to bring to life a sort of journey through time. The projections, constructed in computer graphics, have been integrated with videos created through the acting of real actors, who take on the roles of illustrious personalities from Florentine history.

"To achieve this," explains Federico Dalgas, "it was necessary to resort to a technology capable of great agilityto build a multimedia that can be adapted to the needs of visitors and tourists. The latter often only have a weekend to visit the city: a very limited time to enjoy a museum and to understand in depth the various particularities of the exhibits. Reading and documenting oneself to fully understand the historical fascination of a city like Florence becomes an almost impossible task. It goes without saying that in this way the tourist is left with very little of the place he or she has visited, having distractedly seen a bit of everything and nothing. We therefore conceived Incredible Florence as an exhibition that would meet the needs of the general public and succeed in conveying a clear, precise and timely message in a short time. An experience conceived as a means to re-evaluate the artistic heritage and to effectively introduce the history of the city of Florence and its wonders. Thus, the predilection for laser projectors was emphasised when we were able to count on an excellent technical installation, which guaranteed great quality and flexibility of application".

Laser projectors were a key element in the realisation of the Incredible Florence project. As Lorenzo Grotti, system integrator at Tecnoconference, says in this regard, "the use of Nec P502HL projectors allowed us to overcome considerable criticalities during the design process. One among them, solving the problem generated by the large distances and the forced position of some projectors that assume a very pronounced inclination with respect to the projection plane. In addition, the content projected on the ten screens arranged on the sides has a 'portrait' type proportion, i.e. rotated 90° from the standard horizontal configuration. Being able to rotate the projectors in a vertical position made it possible to preserve the original proportion of the images'.
An important result for a successful installation.

A non-invasive immersive experience


The space in which the installation was realised is the Auditorium of Santo Stefano al Ponte in Florence, a deconsecrated church that provides the perfect setting. Sixteen 3,000-lumen laser projectors were placed on a total area of approximately 25×15 metres.

Along the two side walls, five projectors were installed on each side: they project onto 7×4 metre sheets arranged on the opposite wall. The projectors are hidden between one sheet and the other, well camouflaged. More complex was the realisation of the short side, the front side, on which a large 12×15 metre wall screen was placed.

"In order to be able to construct a single image, covering such a large space, it was necessary to resort to a sophisticated edge blending configuration," explains Lorenzo Grotti, "consisting of six projectors, arranged on the sides of the screen: three on the left and three on the right, one above the other. In this way we were able to compose a single large image. The projectors are mounted on dedicated brackets, anchored to a well camouflaged structure to reduce the impact on the audience as much as possible. The initial objective, well supported by the realisation, was to make everything as inconspicuous as possible".
Great attention was also paid to the quality of the images, all in high definition. Especially for the central screen, formed by six full HD projections, you reach a overall resolution of 3840 x 3240 pixels, capable of incredible detail.

"To recreate an immersive effect," explains Vincenzo Capalbo, director together with Marilena Bertozzi of Art Media Studio's artistic realisation, "that would put the spectator at the centre, we tried to play not only with images but also with other devices. In particular, we installed ten vertical audio speakers around the entire perimeter of the church, generating an enveloping effect thanks to Dolby surround, reconstructing background sounds and ambient noises to make Incredible Florence a 360° emotional experience. With these devices, we wanted to create much more than an exhibition, that is, to propose an all-round multimedia show. So we thought of combining the care of research and historical documentation with the creativity of technological integration'.
Thanks to the combined use of projectors, sound and integrated lighting, all coordinated by Watchout software, the integration is well compatible and balanced with the overall context of the exhibition.

Laser: simplify and save

A phase of geometric alignment of the projectors on their respective screens. The installation comprises a total of 16 Nec P502HL laser projectors: along the two side walls, five are installed on each side, projecting onto 7x4 metre screens arranged on the opposite wall. The front projection, on the other hand, involves six projectors in edge blenging, composing a 12x15 metre image.
A geometric alignment phase of the projectors on their respective screens. The installation comprises a total of 16 Nec P502HL laser projectors: along the two side walls, five are installed on each side, projecting onto 7×4 metre screens arranged on the opposite wall. The front projection, on the other hand, involves six projectors in edge blenging, composing a 12×15 metre image.

An essential and decisive factor in the staging of the Incredible Florence exhibition was the choice of laser projection technology. As Vincenzo Capalbo says, 'the exhibition was conceived as a permanent event: that is, we wanted to create an exhibition space in which there was no precise deadline. That is, to give the project a long duration, if you like, indefinite. Closely related to this intention, it seemed a decisive strength to think of content that could change over time, selecting special elements to be included from time to time. In short, something that moved and renewed cyclically and never exhausted its attractive potential. Of course, this also applies to technology and the technical apparatus: to propose a constant update, an exhibition that always stimulates interest and curiosity, that can never be said to be definitively finished. In a case like this, laser technology has been of great support to us, solving many of the problems that emerged as we set about the work. Firstly, the projectors have very compact dimensionsThis is an important aspect that facilitates positioning at the design stage and simplifies the construction work. The possibility of rotating the projectors in the vertical and horizontal plane at will and with easewithout compromising the image quality level. In comparison then with the traditional incandescent lamp, laser projectors present an important technical improvement with regard to theenergy efficiency and operational flexibility.a".

Lorenzo Grotti echoes him: 'The luminaire's service life of around 20,000 hours is far superior to traditional technology. In this time span, you would have to replace the lamp at least seven times in a traditional projector, not to mention the fact that the brightness of each lamp drops considerably after a few hundred hours of operation. Secondly, the laser projector switches on and off instantly, and operates at lower temperatures than classic incandescent models. Therefore, no warm-up/cool-down time is needed. Finally, laser diodes are an adjustable light source: they generate maximum brightness only when the image is completely white. In this way, the brightness produced depends only on the projected image and is not preset in the machine's operation - as is the case with conventional projectors.

These are all elements that contribute to significantly lowering the TCO and ensuring a strong ROI in the long run. The maintenance work is almost zeroas well as reducing unforeseen events that can compromise the normal running of the exhibition or the temporary closure of rooms, which result in inconvenience for the organiser and visitors. Federico Dalgas says in this regard that "the absence of maintenance means that the projector can be positioned in places that are more inconvenient to reach because no maintenance work has to be carried out. The enormous possibilities provided by laser technology have therefore allowed considerable freedom in the design phase. Being able to rely on a flexible and adaptable technology, we were able to think first about the content of the exhibition, and then about the installation space. This allowed us exceptional freedom of movement and created no distractions that would take us away from the project as we had it in mind.
Ultimately, a further benefit of laser technology, emphasised by Lorenzo Grotti, should be noted: 'whereas incandescent lamp projectors show a regressive decay during the first hours of operation, losing a significant and uneven amount of brightness from machine to machine, a laser light source, on the other hand, is subject to a progressive and homogeneous decay.

A globetrotting exhibition


"The final product of Incredible Florence showed a decidedly interesting interweaving of flexibility and stability," Lorenzo Grotti tells us. "As a whole, the exhibition makes use of a solid fixed structure, but at the same time it is all designed to be removable and streamlined as a whole. This is not only with a view to constantly modelling the content, but also with the intention of making the exhibition a format suitable for easy export to other European cities or other continents'.
Federico Dalgas continues along the same lines of argument: 'This is always thanks to the technology used, also with regard to the content sharing system: a highly dynamic system capable of modulating the message for different targets. For example, with a view to the possible planning of future exhibitions abroad, the content can easily be adapted and adapted to the local culture. In this way, the exhibition can be enjoyed without major difficulties. In fact, the management of the palimpsest and edge blending projection is carried out by the Watchout software, a sophisticated multi-display software designed for the organisation of multimedia events. In addition, the USB input on the Nec P502HL projectors makes it possible to play back content stored on the connected memory stick or in a folder on the network server to which the projector is connected. It therefore becomes easy to intervene to modify content, scenic and technical variables, adjust parts, replace and update others. It is a multimedia set-up born to last, but at the same time it is fully customisable, created to be exported and to tour the world".

Case Study by Sistemi Integrati

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