Archaeology Meets Technology
March 9, 2016

Archaeology Meets Technology

An installation by multimedia specialist Scenomedia, at Austria’s famous Salzwelten salt mine experience, includes the new Bronze Age Cinema located 400 meters below the Earth’s surface in natural Dachstein limestone bedrock of the Hallstatt Mountain Salt Mines in Austria.

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

Archaeology Meets Technology

The Bronze Age Cinema was created in a specially blasted 1,000-cubic-meter cavern in the Rose Chamber of the experience. The 8-minute cinematic experience ends to reveal Europe’s oldest wooden staircase, lovingly restored and documented over a ten-year period by Vienna’s Natural History Museum. The Bronze Age Cinema seats up to 70 visitors for each performance, and at the end of the presentation, they can view prehistoric artifacts in custom-made cases using LED lighting.

Inside the cavern and in front of the ancient staircase, the AV Stumpfl Magnum motorized projection screen measures 10 meter wide by 3 meters. This is used to show a five-minute film documenting the painstaking staircase restoration process and latest 3D scanning results. 

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

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 2.5 meters in front of the Magnum motorized screen to eliminate projected light on to the visitors. 

The motorized screen then reveals the staircase and a 2-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 natural surfaces of the mine add visual interest to the film.  

The soft salt rock and surrounding limestone causes a shift of several centimeters each year. All projectors are installed on a truss traverse and changes are compensated via adjusting screws and screens that are 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 in Munich to specially develop the transparent protective screen materials. These were also certified by the German Technical Inspection Association (TÜV SÜD).

Telling the Story of the Bronze Age Using Avio 

In creating the content, Andreas Scheucher, founder and managing director at Scenomedia, says: “Using RED EPIC Dragon cameras, we recorded footage in 6K resolution (6,144 x 3,072 pixels).”

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,” explains Stumpfl. 

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. This removes 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,” adds Stumpfl.

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 designed lighting and audio using a Bose sound system. 

“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,” adds Scheucher.

“The deployment of AV Stumpfl and their support throughout the design and installation phases was invaluable. It allowed me to focus my time on the creative elements of the experience and together we have achieved truly unique result of technology interacting with ancient archaeology.”

“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. For this project, we wanted to restore the 3,000 years-old Bronze Age stairs. We called upon Scenomedia to integrate them into a cinematic experience as part of the regular tour of the museum. Since opening in May 2015, it’s been a tremendous success and the cinema is enjoyed by audiences of all ages,” says Kurt Thomanek, general manager, Salinen Tourismus GmbH.

Scenomedia is no stranger to the Salzwelten, having installed the multimedia to its three locations in Altaussee, Hallein and Hallstat since 2002. 

“We’ve enjoyed working with AV Stumpfl since it’s inception and there’s an incredible story of success and challenges over the years. As well as Hallstatt, all of our installations are equipped with AV Stumpfl technology!” concludes Andreas Scheucher.