The development of an attractive alternative programme that competes with the likes of television, video games, cinema, MP3 Players and the Internet, was the difficult task set for Peter Gaffert of the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park in the Land of Hessen at the heart of Germany. His raw material: a gigantic beech grove with an area of nearly 6,000 hectares that will soon be part of the UNESCO world natural heritage as today the range of beech trees has dwindled to a mere 7 per cent of its original size.
But it’s not only trees you can find, there are also a variety of endangered animals living in the national park such as rare species of woodpeckers and numerous species of shy bats that have found a new home in the spreading wilderness of the national park.
To assure that human visitors find their way within the park – as the focus here is not on promenades and comfortable public houses – the 'National Park Centre Kellerwald' has recently been opened to offer visitors a very special insight into this park.
Mr Gaffert, head of the National Park, explains the approach: “We tried to avoid showcases, stuffed animals and extensive explanations – we dropped the educational lecture and incorporated the virtual world as a medium instead. We would like to whet our visitors' appetite for more – namely for 'real' nature – here: the nature of the national park.”
This is why Gaffert brought the professionals of the Austrian company Kraftwerk Living Technologies on board and asked them to design an exposition unlike any seen before. The task for Christie partner Kraftwerk was to fill the building of the National Park Centre with life. The form of the building itself already offers something new in terms of architecture: Christian Decker, the architect, took his inspiration from looking at the crowns of the beech grove.
In the interior of the Centre, everything is grouped around the circular “FilmRoom”, appropriately subtitled '4D Senses Film'. In the movie 'Beech Views', a special in-house production, a national park ranger accompanies the visitor onto a walk through the wilderness – his only help: a pair of 3D glasses. With them the butterflies that flutter by seem so near that they appear to be within the viewer’s grasp, while the wind caresses his face, and he feels the tickling of passing beetles on his calves.
To make the magic of the circular theatre with its 56 seats and a diameter of about 15 metres work, Stefan Rozporka, project manager of Kraftwerk, had to dig deep into his bag of tricks, explains Katrin Schneider, the director of the Centre.
The concept and its contents as well as the implementation of the film were worked out by Rozporka in cooperation with Marcus Beyr and Bernd Aichberger, all from Kraftwerk Living Technologies. “Water, wood, stone – that were our only guidelines,” the project manager explains with pride.
As for the visualisation – 2 Christie HD7Kc projectors are at work transmitting their 3D images to a screen of about 6.5 m width in 16:9 format. Asked why he decided to use Christie HD7Kc projectors, he explains that the first determining factor was the size of the room. “I don't have to do much thinking, since we have sophisticated lists at Kraftwerk, where I can look up what’s needed depending on the size.”
Regarding the choice of the projector itself, one factor was the relatively low cost but in the end, quality was the primary criterion. “I was really thrilled by the image quality. A 3D expert from Germany who attended a presentation was also thoroughly impressed. We had seen the movie on another system before, yet with the Christie HD7Kc there were clearly much stronger colours, and it was all in all much better,” Rozporka says.
The reason for this astonishing brilliance is indicated by the ‘c’ in the projector’s name: this 3 -Chip DLP projector with its brightness of 6,500 ANSI lumens has special colour-corrected optics which permit improved contrast and thus brighter colours.
Apart from projection via a 1.4-1.8:1 HD optical engine, and the sound system, there are six wind machines and four stroboscopes involved in producing the illusion. Other components include a compressor with a 1,000 litre tank in the basement, a 19 inch rack in an air-conditioned installations room, and three more cabinets for all the technical devices.
Each of the projectors is mounted on a rack fastened to the ceiling. In front of these units, filters are mounted for polarising the optical signal in such a way that a three-dimensional effect is created for the viewer by his 3D glasses.
Rozporka puts major emphasis on the 3D movie produced by Lukas Sturm. It uses a mix of animation and real-life representation. A 3D HD server provided by Kraftwerk Living Technologies transmits the film to the projectors. The 5.1 sound is processed by an ADAT soundcard and fed into a sophisticated sound system developed by Meyer Sound. The Kraftwerk team spent two years developing and realising the whole project, worth round about two million Euros.
And if something doesn’t work the way it should? In such cases, Rozporka has remote maintenance access to the system. Apart from that, there's always Stefan Ufers, the technical supervisor on site who, apart from having been present during the installation, has been trained and knows what to do in case of a problem.