How Moonraker VFX is using audiovisual technology to enhance socially distanced exhibits

In a world where we can’t touch but we crave shared experiences more than ever, AV immersive technologies are providing the perfect solution for museums and attractions

Collectively, Moonraker VFX has been working in the audiovisual space for over 20 years – delivering projects for some of the biggest attractions around the globe. Located in Bristol, alongside the big players in natural history programming, their expertise is founded in using these immersive technologies to tell incredible stories about our planet.

For the post-Covid attraction world, enhancing the stories and spaces of these landmarks in a way that is both safe and spectacular will be key to the future of the industry. From augmented reality to holographic imaging and large screen formats, audiovisual technology is enabling attractions to create storytelling experiences that inspire and amaze – while removing the touch from our interaction with these spaces.

VR and AR

Back in January, everyone was singing the praises of VR. It was set to revolutionise the museum and attraction space. However, Covid turned everyone’s predictions on their head.

While we were locked down in our homes, VR was instrumental to keeping us connected with museums – enabling us to insert ourselves into their worlds and engage with these spaces despite restrictions. As more of us eventually start to return to attractions in person, however, santised headsets will become an increasing challenge for the industry.

Augmented reality technologies are nevertheless providing a solution. While using our own devices, AR enables us to experience a deeper immersive experience by digitally layering images over the physical world, helping us to visualise environments as they were before.

This time last year, the team at Moonraker were set with the objective to transform Carrickfergus Castle in Northern Ireland​ into a highly immersive experience, ​making it possible for visitors to use AR technology to create immersive, 360-scenes and step back in time ​to iconic moments of​ the Castle’s rich history. Visitors have the opportunity to fire an ancient cannon, to walk a historical path from the 12th century to present day and to see behind closed walls into the Castle’s Keep.

Increasingly, attractions are looking to incorporate similar AR formats to diversify their offering, stay relevant and enhance the spectacle and overall experience for visitors.

Projection mapping

Projection mapping is also revitalising revenue streams for museums and attractions, while sidestepping the issue of sanitisation. Available in 2D or 3D formats, the technology is bringing buildings and designs sets to life, transforming physical spaces and objects into spectacular and immersive experiences.

The hidden value is that projections also have the capacity to be integrated with other formats. Last month, Moonraker finished collaborating with Sarner International on the Bodmin Jail redevelopment project​. Their task was to deliver over 20 different bespoke formats, including large-scale projections and holograms that were blended seamlessly into the scenic background of the design set. These projections were key to retelling the criminal stories of its eerie past as well as creating an atmospheric and memorable journey through the Jail’s labyrinth of walkways.

By changing the way people see and interact with these spaces through immersive projections, you are able to enhance the emotional and physical response to the history that visitors are being presented with.

Holographic imaging 

A popular choice for museums, holographic imaging is also an effective way to draw customers in while abiding to socially distanced guidelines. The technology enables you to incorporate actors and objects into sets and spaces dramatically enhancing the visitors’ experiences. Just this year, ​Moonraker collaborated with 3D visualisation consultants​ Animmersion to develop a beautiful 3D imagery that can be projected using their ‘Deep Frame’ technology.

The finished visual brings real scientific data to life and allows visitors to see and interact with a stunning, high quality and three-dimensional image right before their eyes. Holograms can also be used to create effective ghostly images that can retell the histories of museums and old landmarks – a feature incorporated into the Bodmin Jail experience.

Beyond the spectacle, too, its educational potential – created by using raw scientific data to create 3D images of human biology, such as a foetus in the womb or the Moon – makes it a popular choice. On its own, these spaces exist purely as a physical entity, however, holographic imaging is a fantastic way to bring exhibitions and design sets to life, capturing and immersing audiences on a whole new level.

Large screen formats 

Last but not least, large screen formats – whether that be interactive screens or 4K, 60-foot half-dome screens – are an incredible way to transform a space visually. These screens can be integrated into museum exhibitions or form the attraction alone.

Moonraker was ​tasked with refreshing the dramatic exhibit at the Fram Museum in Oslo. The aim was to expand and enrich the history of the Fram Ship for those experiencing the exhibition by creating an epic storm sequence and photoreal ice fields for the 18k, 280-degree field of view projection space viewed from the deck of the ship.

The huge benefit of large screens is that they can be adapted to the scale and size of the space, creating a truly unique and fully immersive and sensory perspective on the environment. The key is finding the most suitable screen which can be seamlessly integrated into the experience.

Overcoming restrictions 

Today, museums directors and attraction management teams face bigger challenges than ever – tasked with the dilemma of getting customers through the door while also ensuring their safety.

That being said, with the right audiovisual implementation the possibilities are endless. Scale and spectacle do not have to be impacted by our post-pandemic world; museums can still adapt to changing customer expectations and diversify their offering with immersive and audiovisual technology.

If you’re considering incorporating audiovisual technology, it’s a good idea to get a specialist onboard as soon as possible who can advise you on what is best for your space and budget. What works in one place won’t necessarily work in another. Plus, be subtle with it – the best audiovisual experiences are those which are seamlessly integrated into the existing environment.