Natural history museum of Berlin

Institution:Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science
Products:XJ-A257 (Green Slim Series), XJ-UT310WN (Ultra Short Throw Series)

CASIO projectors put T. rex in the spotlight

"Tristan" has been drawing crowds to the Museum für Naturkunde—Berlin's natural history museum—since December 2015. The museum staff have developed a sophisticated media concept that teaches visitors everything they need to know about the T. rex skeleton, including the latest research findings. The concept uses eleven projectors from CASIO.

Bathed in a silvery-black light, Tristan lurks between the museum's nineteenth-century pillars. The skeleton of Europe's only Tyrannosaurus rex measures twelve metres from nose to tail. Above visitors' heads, Tristan stretches wide his mighty jaws. The long, pointed fangs were probably the last thing that a lot of Cretaceous creatures ever saw. This predator is so old that his actual age could be estimated a few million years either way. All that is left of his enormous body are fossilised bones. Nevertheless, he remains an intimidating and fascinating specimen.

You cannot miss Tristan — everyone is awed by the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex when they first enter the 350 square meter exhibition area. It is only when visitors take a second glance that they notice the slim information panels in the room.

Even though it is just a fossil, the Tyrannosaurus rex still exudes a threatening presence. This is largely due to its big, sharp teeth. However, when it was alive, the dinosaur probably suffered from some severe toothache. This is suggested by a type of bone tumour on the lower jaw of the T. rex.

500,000 extra visitors have come thanks to Tristan

It was around 65 million years ago that Tristan roamed the once flourishing landscape of the modern-day American state of Montana. The T. rex has been the biggest attraction at Berlin's natural history museum since December 2015, after being discovered five years earlier. Some 500,000 visitors have gazed in awe at Tristan in the first half of 2016 alone. The museum would normally expect to see this many visitors across a whole year. The museum staff have spent almost a year working to ensure that this exceptional exhibit is given the platform it deserves. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into designing the original media concept for Tristan's exhibition.

A T. rex with two heads? No way! The skull on the skeleton is a cast. The original skull was given its own display cabinet in the exhibition room. This is not just because it would have been difficult to fix the 180 kilogram skull in place. Another reason behind using a cast on the real skeleton was to provide scientists with easier access to the original skull.

In comparison to Tristan's skull, the Green Slim XJ-A257 below the ceiling looks quite tiny. With its slim design, the projector is ideal for exhibitions. An additional advantage is its long-lasting light source, which lasts for an average of 20,000 hours without the need to change the lamp.

Animations that appear to be floating

Compared to the enormous skeleton, the five slimline information screens in the grand hall appear quite modest. Tiny lights glisten at the sides of the black podiums. The text on the front of the podiums provides answers to the key questions about Tristan. The real eye-catchers, however, are the tall, frosted glass screens on each podium. Dinosaurs dart ghost-like across a screen. A giant, shining version of the unusual tumour on Tristan's jaw hovers in the air. In other animations, visitors discover what it is that scientists find so interesting about Tristan.

The position of each podium has been carefully chosen, so that it is still possible to see the dinosaur through the screens whilst watching the animations. You can hardly spot the source of the animations: Five Green Slim XJ-A257 projectors from CASIO are suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition hall, projecting the silent footage onto the frosted screens on a continuous loop.

The original and the animation: Thanks to projection screens that are almost transparent, Tristan is always in sight — even when visitors are reading information about the T. rex on the information screens.

What do Tristan's fossilised bones tell us around 65 million years after his death? Visitors can read answers to this and many other questions on the animated information screens. These ghost-like blue films are shown using five projectors from the Green Slim series from Casio — each of which is suspended discreetly from the ceiling.

Displays surprise visitors with animated features

The six other projectors—XJ-UT310WN models from the Ultra Short Throw series, donated to the exhibition by CASIO—are even harder to find. They are hidden inside the rock-effect concrete podium that serves as Tristan's throne. Their job is to bring the display cases embedded in the concrete podium to life — a surprise that visitors are supposed to discover for themselves. At first glance, the display cases seem quite empty — a replica of a single hollow bone, for example, lies forlorn in one of the spacious glass boxes. But when a visitor discovers and triggers the inconspicuous sensor on the case, the reason for the empty space next to the exhibits becomes clear: Light suddenly streams through the glass cases, revealing the previously hidden explanatory text. Blue dots light up next to each individual text box and short films accompany the highlighted passages.

There is just a single bone to see in this glass display cabinet — or so it seems at first glance. At the push of a button a sensor starts a projector underneath the display cabinet and the free space in the glass cabinet is filled with texts and informational films.

The hidden animations are part of the museum's philosophy. Uwe Moldrzyk, head of the Tristan exhibition, explains: "We use media to create an atmosphere that makes everything even more exciting than it already is. So at first glance, it shouldn't look like media at all." He adds that this is why the museum likes to come up with its own ideas, rather than choose the "standard option". "Firstly, we always consider what's relevant to the exhibition topic. Then in some cases, it becomes apparent that we can achieve our goal by using media."

CASIO quality was selected for the display cabinet concept

Both the projector-animated display cases and the glass information screens are the collective brainchild of the twelve-person team behind the exhibition. Valentin Henning, media technician at the museum, worked with his colleagues to test out a single CASIO projector in order to see what effects could be achieved using different glass screens. "It had to have a certain lightness to it. That was important to us", explains Henning. "The projection screens are perfect, because the visitors can continue looking at the original exhibit whilst also taking in additional information."

Valentin Henning is a Media Engineer at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. Although—or more precisely because— media is used in a very discreet and targeted manner in the museum, the expertise of a media expert is a valuable addition to the team.

Setting up the display cases required some experimentation — with just one day to go before the opening, Henning added extra film to the glass cases to ensure that the text only became visible once visitors activated the sensors. By contrast, it was obvious from a very early stage that CASIO projectors would be used for the Tristan exhibition. "The light sources should not require extra time to switch on. They should be there as soon as we switch the power on. That was really important to us", explains Henning. "The fact that their lamps can last for around 20,000 hours without needing to be changed was also one of the reasons why we asked the company to support our exhibition". As for CASIO, it was an easy decision. Mario Fellhölter, project co-ordinator at CASIO, was immediately blown away by the request: "This was a case of someone working closely with our projectors and then asking for us specifically. And we were thrilled by the project itself too!"

Informational signs are easily updated via WLAN

The special exhibition is set to run for at least three years, but Henning doubts that he will ever have to climb a ladder and fiddle with the projectors during that time. If new research findings concerning Tristan come to light and need to be displayed on the information screens, all the media technician has to do is take a seat at his computer. If required, he can simply access all eleven projectors via WLAN and upload new footage into the devices' memory — for example, if the scientists involved in the project discover how Tristan died.

The animation shows images of Tristan's computer tomography performed at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Uwe Moldrzyk manages the Tristan exhibition. Uwe and his team have worked on the exhibition concept for almost a year. This also included a trip to the excavation site in the US state of Montana.

A pioneering implementation

Visitor feedback has shown that the museum made the right choice with its subtle media concept. And the entire museum industry is impressed by the glass information screens and animated display cases. "We've already been asked multiple times how we achieved it from a technical perspective", head of the exhibition Uwe Moldrzyk is happy to report.

There is real excitement over the creative media concept at CASIO too. "Our collaboration with the Tristan exhibition has shown us that there are some entirely new application possibilities for our projectors", says a delighted Mario Fellhölter. "We're also very proud that our projectors have helped to make the exhibition team's vision possible in such an impressive way".

The products

The museum had already decided that CASIO projectors would be used in the Tristan exhibition at the very start of the planning process. This is because the exhibition required light sources that could deliver high performance as soon as the power was switched on. Thanks to the direct On/Off function, with a single push of a button the XJ-A257 is ready to start and has reached its full brightness after no more than five seconds. This high level of efficiency ensures that operations in the museum run smoothly. The second argument for using CASIO projectors in the T. rex showroom: the long operating time without the need to change the lamp


Six of the XJ-UT310WN models from the Ultra Short Throw series are integrated into the exhibit. The devices are hidden in the concrete pedestal underneath the dinosaur. These hidden projectors provide the animated features for the exhibition with brilliant colour reproduction from a short distance. The moment a sensor is triggered, texts, markings and short films appear in the glass cases, which are lit up from below. The clear, vivid images with rich colours appear within a very short time thanks to the special CASIO light source — making these projectors ideal for the exhibition concept.

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