Titled simply ‘Earthquake’, a new attraction in San Francisco occupies the entire west hall of the Academy. Designed to take visitors on a kinetic journey toward understanding super-seismic phenomena and how they fit into the larger story of our ever-changing planet, ‘Earthquake’ comprises a number of installations, including a walk-through model of the Earth, an interactive space designed to teach earthquake preparedness, and a quake simulator resembling an old Victorian house.
Prior to entering the simulator, visitors enter an immersive ‘mini-dome’ to watch a three-minute introductory film. Produced by the California Academy of Sciences’ Visualization Studio, the film links the concepts of geological time (plate movements over millions of years) and human time (earthquake activity, specifically in the San Francisco Bay Area). It is this ‘mini-dome’ experience that the Visual Acuity consultancy has made a key contribution to, as Blair Parkin, company founder and managing director, explains: “The mini-dome is a 20ft-diameter hemisphere tilted 30-degrees which represents our planet using immersive video projection and is designed to help visitors understand the science behind seismic shifts and the events they bring about.’’
“The film contextualizes earthquakes as a small part of much larger processes, while all around them the ‘surface’ of the planet appears to shift in a time-accelerated version of what happens in real life over millions of years.”
To create the immersive mini-dome, the exhibit uses digital dome technologies from a range of suppliers including immersive audio from Meyer Sound. Projectiondesign FL32 LED-based projectors are seamlessly edge-blended onto a domed projection surface, with content being derived from 7thSense Design’s Delta media servers, and image processing and calibration from Scalable Display Technologies. Visual Acuity acted as the independent technology consultant for the project, effectively reprising the role the company performed in the original design of the Academy’s planetarium.
“It is fantastic to be back at this wonderful building, working with a fantastic group of professionals and seeing the Academy continue to use projection-based exhibits as a way of bringing science to life. Seeing as the Academy is now the world’s largest building to have Double Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, it is very important for the Academy to deploy technology that is energy-efficient and environmentally responsible, ” Blair Parkin adds.