Multimedia specialist, Scenomedia recently completed an install at the Salzwelten salt mine experience, which now boasts a new Bronze Age Cinema located 400m below the Earth’s surface embedded within the natural Dachstein limestone bedrock of Austria’s Hallstatt Mountain Salt Mines.

The Bronze Age Cinema was created in a specially blasted 1,000-cubic-meter cavern in the Rose Chamber of the experience.

The eight-minute cinematic experience ends to reveal Europe’s oldest wooden staircase, lovingly restored and documented over a 10-year period by Vienna’s Natural History Museum.

“The Bronze Age Cinema showcases over 7,000 years of the historical site and welcomes over 420,000 guests who visit the salt mines each year,” explains Kurt Thomanek, general manager, Salinen Tourismus GmbH. “For this project, we wanted to restore the 3,000 year-old Bronze Age stairs. We called upon Scenomedia to integrate them into a cinematic experience as part of the regular tour of the museum.”

The Bronze Age Cinema seats up to 70 visitors for each performance and at the end of the presentation they can view prehistoric artefacts in custom made cases using LED lighting.

Scenomedia installed AV Stumpfl show control, multimedia and screens as core technology throughout.

“Scenomedia has worked at Salzwelten for the past 20 years,” Scenomedia founder and managing director, Andreas Scheucher tells CIE. “We were invited with some other companies to make a presentation for the Bronze Age Cinema and we got the project.

“AV Stumpfl has a great reputation for being used in caves and mines,” he continues. “It’s also excellent for show control technology, no other company can offer this portfolio: our client likes to have only one technical partner.”

“First it was planned to present this unique artefact in the famous Vienna natural history museum because it is one of the most important historic finds of the last 20 years. But then they decided that the original place would be the best for this 3,500 year-old piece of wooden architecture. So they wanted to have a cave in the Hallstatt mountain where they could present it.”

Inside the cavern and in front of the ancient staircase, the AV Stumpfl Magnum motorised projection screen measures 10m wide by 3m.

This is now used to show a five-minute film documenting the painstaking staircase restoration process and latest 3D scanning results.

Installing a 10m screen in the snow

“During installation, the screen was flown in by helicopter to the tunnel entrance and through narrow passageways with considerable skill,” comments Tobias Stumpfl, CEO at AV Stumpfl.

“We installed this in the winter, working around about 2m of snow and icy temperatures,” nods Andreas. “We had to use helicopter transportation.”

AV Stumpfl FHD Players drive content to three Canon XEED WUX400ST short throw projectors that are edge blended. The projectors are installed at a distance of 2.5m in front of the Magnum motorised screen to eliminate projected light on to the visitors.

The motorised screen then reveals the staircase and a two-minute holographic projection show using a fourth projector onto the rock wall creating a three-dimensional effect. This tells the story of Uldo and Erie, Bronze Age children, showing how salt was mined and transported using the stairs.

“The project was really challenging because it was the first time using a unique original artefact as a projection object,” Andreas reflects. “So we had a lot of problems to solve: no change of humidity and no UV interfering with the lightning and projectors.”

In addition to this, the soft salt rock and surrounding limestone causes a shift of several centimetres each year.

As such, all projectors were installed on a truss traverse and changes are compensated using adjusting screws and screens re-stretched. 

Ensuring preservation for future generations, the ancient staircase sits behind a large transparent screen. Due to the preservation, extremely tight space and climatic conditions that the salt mine presents, Scenomedia worked with the Fraunhofer Institute, Munich to specially develop the see-through transparent protective screen materials. These were also certified by the German Technical Inspection Association (TÜV SÜD).

Avio show control system

“Using RED EPIC Dragon cameras, we recorded footage in 6K resolution (6,144 x 3,072 pixels),” Andreas explains.

Video content is managed using the AV Stumpfl Wings Vioso toolkit with its simple to use timeline-based workflow.

Show control of DMX, Artnet, triggers and lighting and sound effects is achieved using the AV Stumpfl modular Avio show control system.

“Instead of using a central server or master components, Avio ensures all hardware communicates directly and independently ensuring reliability, system robustness and efficiency,” Tobias points out.

All components of the control network are visually connected or ‘wired’ using the AV Stumpfl new Avio Manager 2D interface.

AV Stumpfl IOBox media control modules store timeline and device control data on SD cards and operate independently, removing the need for any programming computers.

“Our robust IOBox solid-state hardware is able to withstand extreme conditions such as high humidity, salt and temperatures that the mines present,” Tobias states.

Content is reproduced for each projector using frame-accurate AV Stumpfl solid-state FHD Players.

Ensuring that wiring is kept to a minimum as well as guaranteeing power supply for programming and control, the FHD Players and IOBox are powered by Power over Ethernet (PoE). Scenomedia also designed the lighting, using Bose sound system for the audio.

“All show components are connected via a network and the installation is designed to operate during opening hours, seven days a week so operational staff don’t have to worry about a thing,” Andreas smiles.

Andreas comments that his favourite part is the unique projection design which moves up, behind which viewers can see the old staircase which appears to show animated characters walking down.

“It’s like a time ride 3,500 years back,” he enthuses. “It was a challenging project because when we started there were a lot of open questions and during the installation the museum people, the people from the government representing the preservation of historic sites and the TUV controlled every step. But in the end everything worked really well, also the climate around the staircase is good and our clients are very happy too.”

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