An ambitious multi-year project culminating with the opening in 2019, the nAtional Museum contains nearly a mile long loop of galleries.The architecture is inspired by the Desert Rose, a crystalline rock formation found in the salt basins of Qatar's inland sea. The Museum wraps around an open caravanserai area which is used for events and incorporates the original royal palace located on the site. There are 11 Galleries including natural history, geology, wildlife, archeology, cultural traditions, pearl fishing and the discovery of oil and gas. A large temporary gallery is available for touring and special exhibitions.
The interior walls of the galleries follow and mimic the complex curves and geometries of the buildings exterior disc structure. Walls curve and slope in departure from the traditional provision of vertical display and hanging surfaces typical of a museum. The interior gallery spaces range from cavernous to intimate with their walls providing a complex and immersive series of projection surfaces.
Projecting on the curved walls of the National Museum comes with a set of complex design problems. The surfaces are projection mapped at extremely high resolutions placing a large burden on the media servers in terms of their ability to play jitter free smooth images to multiple 4K projectors edge blended to form the overall picture. Edge blending leads to raised black levels reducing further the dynamic range of the projected images, the contrast of which is already strictly limited by the immersive front projection environment where light or cross talk from adjacent projected walls bounces around the galleries lowering the contrast of the projected images. To mitigate this effect ceiling colours were darkened to absorb some of the stray light and arrive at an acceptable level of contrast for the images while not turning the galleries into black caves.
Aligning so many projectors to form a single image on the side of a building or when viewed from a distance outdoors requires some skill, but when these images are to be viewed from one or two meters away the level accuracy required is an order of magnitude more. Specially rigid projector mounts were employed to maintain relative alignment between projectors and the building structure, often projectors producing parts of the same image might be up to 25 meters away and relative movement of much less than a millimeter would cause image blend regions to look soft.
The galleries are relatively confined spaces and the projectors often for several walls must be located within, demanding a diverse range of lenses to accommodate the mounting positions. The choice of ultra wide angle lenses versus higher quality prime lenses must be considered carefully. UST lenses will reduce the possibility of shadowing caused by the public and create flexibility for display case placement, but UST lenses come with greater distortion and are significantly softer at the edges compounding issues at the blend regions of an image.
Museum galleries should be free of disturbance, enhancing the visitor experience. Projector Noise was throughly investigated and numerous models discounted whilst detailed calculations were undertaken to ensure that such large numbers of projector would be with acceptable limits.
Art Films presented a number of significant challenges in several cases requiring the development of new production techniques and hardware to make a successful implementation possible. Perhaps the largest challenge came from the unique and complex geometric environment in which the images would be projected. Factors such as the interaction of the light from adjacent images, floor and ceiling colour become significant influencers of picture quality especially for image contrast. Equally image resolution was a critical factor for success. Extremely short viewing distances combined with towering images mean that a fixed number of pixels must be spread across a large are consequently reducing resolution whilst viewers close to the images need high resolution in order to see sharp images full of detail. These opposing constraints must be address with the technology of the day and without resorting to extreme numbers of projectors with the associated space and cost impact. A careful and considered balance is required, with each projection surface of each gallery being considered individually and in detail.
Testing for attainable image quality was undertaken and as an outcome decisions determining display surface colour, ceiling colour, media server and projection technology, gallery lighting and host of other criteria informed the project design team and directly result in the excellent visitor experience delivered.
Some of these tests and investigations can be seen in the images below.