A ship runs into a storm, the sea roars, the skies darken and the audience sinks with the ship
Imagine recreating the awesome sounds, sensations and feelings of a ship sunk by a typhoon, then taking the audience to a watery end surrounded by marine life — all in one compact theater. That’s the experience visitors have when they’re seated in the Typhoon Theater at Singapore’s Maritime Experiential Museum. It’s one amazing historical journey and just part of a museum that celebrates the final voyage of the ‘Jewel of Muscat’. This famous Arab dhow sailed the Far East trade routes over 1100 years ago and was shipwrecked near Java. Visitors can see a replica of the ‘Jewel’ along with 60,000 artefacts salvaged from the site of the wreckage.
This is immersive experience at its best with audiovisual and special effects surrounding the audience to recreate eerie light, spectacular color, terrifying sounds and vibrations and the raw power of wind and waves. The dramatic experience then plunges into darkness before literally sinking the audience into an underwater grave with its more tranquil marine landscape. That’s a memorable experience with a real WOW factor— ‘chilling’ as one visitor described it. It engages all the senses and helps visitors understand the triumphs - and the perils - of the early maritime history of Asia and the Middle East. The storm and the shipwreck are part of a seamless experience in the museum. Visitors enter a virtual harbour where they see a crew loading the precious cargo and hear an astrologer predicting a terrible fate for the ‘Jewel of Muscat’. Then onboard for the fateful voyage. When they emerge from the underwater shipwreck site, visitors come to a full size replica of the dhow with many interactive exhibits to learn more about the vessel and the great trading routes. The organizers wanted an experience that encourages imagination and creativity. They certainly have that.
Creating such an immersive experience created significant technical challenges. The sound and the imagery had to create a sense of realism. Audio quality and 360⁰ degree projection would be essential to recreate the sensations of a storm. The opening show in the virtual harbour offered its own challenges – a compact space that required special short-throw projection to reach the audience. In the main theater, a 6-meter high curved projection wall surrounds the audience. The wall had to be treated with a special Screen Goo coating to achieve the ultra-smooth Level 5 finish required for high-quality projection.
Positioning of the projector was critical. Although the vibration of the storm was to be an integral part of the experience, the projection system had to be isolated from movement to maintain image quality. While the audience experience the fury of the typhoon in the immersive theater, the producers wanted to complete the story by literally taking the audience down with the ship. That meant moving the audience down to a different level while they remained seated — and maintaining the atmospheric conditions as the dhow sinks.
Visitors experience the sound, sensations and emotions of a shipwreck in a typhoon.
Working with museum designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Electrosonic fused architecture, storytelling and technology to create a truly immersive experience throughout. Special customized video projection coupled with moving-head special effects projection surrounds the audience with realistic sensations of typhoon conditions. Powerful 13-channel audio recreates the power of wind and waves before a hydraulic lift takes the audience down with seamless giant screen imagery maintaining realistic continuity.
The Typhoon Theater has proved a popular attraction, creating a sense of exploration and adventure through imagination and creativity. It provides valuable educational opportunities and is a fitting celebration of the area’s proud maritime trading tradition. Although the original projection proposal was complex, Electrosonic engineered a simpler solution that reduced complexity and cost of ownership. The system is also engineered for expansion and flexibility.
"We want the museum to be a place where everyone in the community can come together to learn and experience. A lot of effort has gone into the planning of the museum to create a sense of exploration and to have interactive exhibits that encourage imagination and creativity." - Jason Horkin, Director of Attractions, RWS