April 2016

InAvate APAC editor, Hurrairah Bin Sohail, interviewed connectCAD client Marc Simpson - lighting designer & managing director of Toulouse Group, New Zealand,

Gallipolis exhibition audiovisual design

Extracts from story printed in April'16 issue of InAvate Apac magazine

The Museum of New Zealand or ‘Te Papa Tongarewa’ [Te Papa] as it is also known is a national museum and art gallery located in the city of Wellington. One of its most interesting exhibitions is ‘Gallipoli: The scale of our war’ which takes a look at New Zealand’s involvement in World War I. The exhibition focuses on individual and human experiences to bring rigour and accuracy to this part of the country’s history. [...]

To accomplish this the Museum of New Zealand engaged the services of Toulouse Group, a company that specialises in providing technical solutions to support creative concepts and has worked extensively both throughout New Zealand and internationally.

Marc Simpson, managing director at Toulouse Group, talks in more detail about the different parties involved with the project: “It’s a collaboration between the Museum of Wellington and a Wellington-based but international special effects company called Weta Workshop which produced all the content for ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘King Kong’ and all those sort of block buster, Peter Jackson movies that were produced here in Wellington. [...]

Collaborating with a film development company was one of the unique challenges of the project. Simpson elaborates: “Working with film people who are not good at building a new set if things are to last was a challenge. They build it, throw it in a skip and three hours later the set is gone. But we are dealing constantly with trying equipment in spaces that last 10 years and they try to build it as quickly as they possibly can because they think they’re going to be thrown out. So that is always a challenge.”

Simpson also details the scope of the project for Toulouse Group: “Technology-wise we were the lighting designers, we also did the technical integration of all of the AV equipment and ended up doing a lot of the design of the AV installation using Vectorworks and various CAD packages as you can imagine!” [...]

With the limitations imposed by time and the historical nature of the building, the design process for the technology to be deployed became even more crucial. The design tool of choice for Simpson was connectCAD. He states: “In this instance we used connectCAD extensively. So every cable for the AV installation was detailed. There’s 27 odd 5.1 channel amplifiers. So we designed all source which is streamed into the amplifier, then the amplifier breaks out signal and sends it out to six Speakers so every single one of those cables links amplifiers, speakers were all documented in connectCAD, right through to rack layouts, and labelling was taken from those drawings for the final installation.”

Gallipolis exhibition AV design - racksThere are more than 120 discrete channels of audio at the Gallipoli exhibition. A number of Soundcone parabolic speakers, Sonnace VP42R loudspeakers, Turbosound Impact 50 ceiling speakers and JBL Control 19CS subwoofers are deployed around Te Papa to provide sound. These are supported by Tascam PA-R200 surround amplifiers and Brightsign AU320 media players. [...]

Toulouse Group’s work all ties in with the aims and intention of the Museum of New Zealand and the purpose behind staging the ‘Gallipoli: The scale of our war’ exhibition. Simpson says: “Normally exhibitions about war are about the ‘glory’ and that was all wonderful and now aren’t we fabulous and all that sorts of things depending on where you come from. But this [‘Gallipoli: The scale of our war’ exhibition] is very much telling the Kiwi story, telling about New Zealand’s role. It’s telling how it really was in the real war.”

The same thought and care that went into choosing the AV systems was applied to designing the lighting for the exhibition as well. Simpson explains: “All of the rooms in the space are round, so each of the giants [the six characters on which the exhibition is based] - which are 2.4 times the size of normal human beings - they are in what we call ‘belljars’. Circular rooms, if you can imagine, you enter and then you traverse around them and then you see all the sides of these characters and then you exit again. Then you exit into a kind of a linking space which we call the annexes and of course all of the walls of those annexes are mostly round because they link round rooms. So the traditional lighting style and audio and video and everything else had to kind of be tamed because they wanted these incredible complicated round rooms. So there were a lot of challenges in that respect.”

The task was made harder by the short time frame Toulouse Group had in which to deliver. Simpson says: “Time or lack of time was the probably the biggest single challenge. I’ve lit most of the exhibitions at Te Papa over the last 16 years. This exhibition is not lit in any traditional museum way I’ve ever done before. So we broke a lot of the moulds, a lot of the traditions of exhibition lighting – museums and art galleries need to be done ABCD, we know we do 1234 – we completely changed the way we did it, the way it was integrated, the way the lighting was done. We threw out everything you’d ever need to know about exhibition lighting and started again. It all happened in five to six months from trials and testing and things like that. It was a pretty substantial challenge in that respect.”

Read the full story

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