The lobby at the Northeastern University Visitor Center is in a league of its own. Allowing visitors to come up to each glass screen and interact with its content using all ten fingers, pull up videos, still images and information, choosing data on particular education programs and read news feeds coming from Twitter and RSS, is indeed something different. All while the static banners atop the two main walls display different content in keeping with the time of day and complementing the lobby’s LED lighting system.
“Here we’re bringing the students in and allowing them to interact with us from the moment they walk in the door. When we bring them here it is about maximizing their time, whereas some collage visits you go, you sit in the lobby – you wait, you’re not really doing anything, says Kurt P. Heissenbuttel, at the Northeastern University.
The Boston architecture firm of William Rawn Associates was commissioned by the University to design the Visitor Center, with Cavanaugh Tocci Associates acting as consultants for the AV system design throughout, and Downstream Technologies designing AV content and interactivity.
“For this project at the Northeastern University Visitor Center we decided to use projection because of the desire to hide the technology as much as possible and to be able to turn off the video, to have lights come on in other times, when they are not using it. The university saw this as an evolving space, and they wanted the projection glass to blend seamlessly with the architectural glass of the lobby walls”, explains Matthew J. Moore, Principal Consultant, Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, Inc.
This imposed significant constraints. “There were extreme physical limitations in the existing building and we had to fit in the projectors into a small depth area for our rear projection. So the mirrors had to fit, and we needed to physically fit everything in”, continues Moore.
“Each of the three ‘touch experience’ areas was unique and each one represented an optical challenge,” explains Randy Pagnan further, President of RP Visuals, the company tasked with designing the mounts for the projectors. “Most obviously, each design called for edge-blending of multiple projected images, and in no instance were we able to use multi-point mirrors, six-axis mounts, or the ideal lens optics for blending.
“With projectiondesign’s range of lens options and WB2560 multi-image processor, together with ProNet.precision software and Stewart Filmscreen projection surfaces, we were able to engineer solutions that did not compromise the results in any way – despite almost all of our ‘golden rules for blending’ being broken!”
“With great teamwork, careful component and software selection, a dedicated installation team from Whitlock and valuable technical support from projectiondesign throughout the intensive planning, design and project completion phases, we were able to achieve extremely high-quality seamless images in a very constrained space”, continues Moore.
So, while one part of the brief appeared to impose significant constraints, another part of it provided a free rein for the Center’s systems design.
Heissenbuttel explains: “Through the usage of technology and through the actual content of the technologies delivering we are able to articulate the experiences that our students have and allow prospective students and families that are visiting campus to really see themselves in some of those experiences with the way that they can interact with that technology.
“The number one thing that we hear from our families is WOW! That’s probably the first reaction”.
The end result sees four projectiondesign F32 SXGA+ DLP projectors in a 2 x 2 blended configuration driving one touchscreen measuring around 7.5ft high by 9.25ft wide, while a pair of F32 1080p projectors mounted side-by-side powers a 2.5ft by 9.25ft banner area above.
On the opposite wall is an almost identical configuration – the same height but slightly wider to fit with the space available between the architectural glass wall and the lobby entrance.
The ‘Spinning Globe’ screen sees two projectiondesign F32 SXGA+ resolution projectors throwing onto a surface 6.5ft high by 5ft wide, with a 4ft banner area above powered by a single F32 1080p.