The World of Beatrix Potter wanted to reinvigorate the attraction with stunning new displays that were not only beautiful works of art in themselves but also help visitors navigate through the attraction on the self-guided tour of the exhibition.
The World of Beatrix Potter is set in Bowness on Windermere in the heart of The Lake District, where the natural beauty and abundant wildlife inspired Beatrix Potter to write her much-loved stories. Beatrix Potter was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist best known for her children's books featuring animals, such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
The Beatrix Potter experience begins with a five-minute film introducing the author and her stories and illustrations. The doors from the film room then open to the main exhibition in which the sights and sounds of Beatrix Potter's much-loved characters are brought to life.
Most of the exhibits in this popular attraction are at head height with the ceiling above painted black. The creative team at the attraction wanted to use the space above the exhibits and developed the idea of creating six collages made up from thousands of artificial maple leaves that would float like clouds above the main displays and provide a contrast against the stark black ceiling. The leaves would provide a 3D surface upon which moving content would be projected.
The attraction is organised into zones, with each area bringing to life a different tale from this iconic English writer. As well as the 'leaf' clouds described above, the team designed large leaf-shaped displays to hang from the ceiling that would show projected imagery with illustrations and text from the books to tie in with each zone.
As well as projectors for the new displays in the main visitor centre, the attraction also needed a new powerful projector for its musical adventure Where is Peter Rabbit? which is performed during the summer months in the Old Laundry Theatre.
The attraction brought in highly-respected video designer Tim Reid to create a series of scenes using Beatrix Potter's original artwork from her books that would be projected onto the leaves accompanied with music by Steve Edis.
Cumbia-based AV experts Soundsmith, which supports the visitor centre throughout the year, was the natural choice to realise the team’s vision for the attraction. The team at Soundsmith chose six Optoma ZU660 laser projectors with short ultra short throw lenses for the 3D leaf collage displays and six ZU500T laser projectors to rear project onto the single leaf displays in each zone.
Tom Elleray from Soundsmith Limited, said: “We chose laser projectors for the installation as the attraction needs absolute reliability and 24/7 functionality. The venue is moving from lamp-based projectors to laser to reduce its carbon footprint as well as minimising the maintenance and costs associated with replacing lamps.
“We chose these particular projectors based on their brightness and the throw that we needed. The ZU500T are fairly small units for the powerful image they project. We could install these to rear project onto the leaves for the zones and they are barely visible to visitors. The black chassis blends perfectly into the background.”
The team had limited space between where the projectors needed to be installed and the 3D collage displays, so needed ultra short throw lenses with the ZU660 projectors. These have a throw ratio of 0.36:1 and can project a 100” diagonal image from just 79cm away.
Tim Reid created the content for the 3D leaf collages and large leaf displays, drawing customised masks for each projection surfaces to allow the content to be fitted to the various clouds of maple leaves. Tim said: “The Optoma projectors supplied by Soundsmith were of excellent quality and crucially had the flexibility needed to be rigged in the tight spaces over the exhibit. They’ve provided a strong and high quality image to best showcase the wonderful illustrations of Beatrix Potter and add this extra layer of visuals to the attraction.”
A further two ZU650 projectors were installed in the attraction foyer to improve the visitor welcome experience with supersize digital signage as they enter the attraction.
All equipment is networked and managed through the attraction’s QLab control system. This centrally controls all AV elements so that as visitors walk through the attraction, imagery, sound and lighting is triggered accordingly. The system switches on and off at the start and end of the day and also cleverly responds to fluctuations in visitor numbers – so if there is a greater footfall on a wet Lakeland day, the cues last longer.
A powerful ZU1050 projector was also installed in the Old Laundry Theatre to rear project onto a screen in the musical adventure Where is Peter Rabbit? theatre show, with video design also by Tim Reid. This 10,000 lumens MultiColor Laser WUXGA projector has seven interchangeable lens options, a built-in edge-blending and warping processor and offers portrait and 360-degree orientation support for maximum installation flexibility. It also has HDBaseT to simplify cabling requirements.
Tom said: “We were asked to provide a 4m wide image, with very little throw distance, that could be rear projected and compete with the bright stage lighting. The Optoma ZU1050 was the brightest solution possible that we could combine with the ultra-short throw lens to achieve this.”
Where is Peter Rabbit? combines live performance with beautifully handcrafted puppets, projection and original songs in a magical musical, entirely based on the tales by Beatrix Potter. This innovative production made its West End debut at the Theatre Royal Haymarket earlier this year. Soundsmith rigged two Optoma ZH420UST laser ultra short throw projectors for the London production.
Soundsmith’s team were able to install the networking infrastructure overnight before the main installation commenced during a two week shutdown at the end of January. Tom said: “The attraction closed down for a fortnight for the works but even this was a tight timescale for the installation with our teams working late into the night to get the job done.”
But the main challenge was the inaccessibility of the equipment to be installed. Tom said: “Getting access over the exhibits, when almost every inch of space is used, meant we had to think creatively when we were mounting the equipment.”
The World of Beatrix Potter attraction reopened at the start of February with its new displays ‘floating’ above the exhibits. The content on the 3D leaf collages has a shimmering effect that gives the illusion the leaves are moving and adds atmosphere to the attraction.
Tom said: “The new displays really ‘lift’ the experience to another dimension and reinvigorate what was already a brilliant attraction. Although this project was incredibly challenging in terms of its timescales and the logistics of actually installing the equipment above the exhibits, we are thrilled with the final results. It worked perfectly right from the opening on 1 February and the effect from these projections is simply stunning – even better than we expected!”
The ZU1050 projector installed in the Old Laundry Theatre for the Where is Peter Rabbit? theatre production has made a huge difference to the show. Tom said: “The vibrancy of the images and video is just stunning. It is especially impressive when you consider the environment in which the projection is taking place. The actors use the projection as an ever changing backdrop to the performance. It enables the scene to be set in seconds, rather than the minutes it would take using traditional theatre scenery.”
Sarah Melhuish, Marketing Manager from The World of Beatrix Potter attraction said: “We are delighted with the new installations at the attraction which have significantly enhanced the exhibition and created an even more immersive experience for our visitors. The projections are enriched by innovative new lighting and a dramatic new sound track, which guide visitors through the different scenes. This is the biggest addition to the attraction in recent years and reaction from our visitors has been outstanding We are thrilled with the visual effects that have been created by the Optoma projectors.
The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction
Set in the heart of The Lake District, where the natural beauty and abundant wildlife inspired Beatrix Potter to write her much-loved stories, The World of Beatrix Potter attraction brings to life this iconic English writer’s classic tales.
The World of Beatrix Potter
The Old Laundry, Crag Brow
Tel: 015394 88444
Soundsmith Audio Visual Services
Based in Kendal, on the edge of the English Lake District, Soundsmith Audio Visual Services provides professional AV installation and rental services across the UK.
Tel: 01539 737728
Tim Reid Video Design
Based near Glasgow, Tim has designed video effects and playback systems for shows from experimental small scale works up to full scale theatre, opera and dance productions.
Tel: 07941 032 646