On Heritage Day of 2018, the !Khwa ttu San Heritage Centre was launched in order to preserve the history, acknowledge the challenges and celebrate the successes of all San cultural groups in southern Africa. This award-winning facility, located on the R27 near Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, contracted Digital Fabric to install the technologies that would provide a truly immersive experience for visitors.

In this feature, AV Integration chats to Gavin Olivier, founding member of Digital Fabric, and Michael Daiber, CEO of !Khwa ttu San Heritage Centre, to learn more about the installation and the Epson EB-L1105U projectors that lie at the heart of the centre’s cutting-edge immersive displays.

“A FULLY IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE”

Johannesburg-based Digital Fabric is an internationally-acclaimed audio/visual design and integration company celebrated for its work on, among other projects, the Apartheid Museum and The Springbok Experience.

As Gavin Olivier explains, “The !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre approached us to get involved with a fully immersive visual experience. Together with the museum team and its stake holders, Digital Fabric designed a fully-automated projection and audio solution to be integrated into the architecture.”

Michael Daiber elucidates that the immersive nature of the centre – which presents displays on “hunting, gathering, healing, village life and music” – is about far more than technology for technology’s sake.

“Rather than represent these themes in a Western style of cataloguing knowledge,” he explains, “we reflect San ways of thinking by using quotations – plus film images, sounds and smells – to knit the various topics together in ‘clouds of sensory association.’ To immerse people in a San world, we wanted to use a world-class 270° film and a specially-commissioned soundscape of 24 hours in the Kalahari.”

EXPERT INSTALLATION

In order to achieve this complex projection setup, “we simulated the space in 3D, allowing for pixel accurate calculations,” Olivier explains. “This allowed the content creators to shoot in the best possible format and camera combination for the intended outcome. Our reputation for delivering highly technical AV solutions and interactive experiences is why Digital Fabric was chosen to deliver this project,” he says, and provides some more information about the specific technical requirements demanded by the !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre.

“Various design challenges arose due to the curvature of the roof and floor-to-ceiling heights in relation to the desired screen height in the venue. To combat this, the Epson EB-L1105U projector was chosen along with the ultra-short throw lens, making it possible to place the projectors within the tight space relative to the image size. The EB-L1105U also delivers excellent brightness and stability over time, and this suits the museum’s intended operational requirements. It’s a workhorse that simply delivers for us without fail.”

Olivier goes on to explain that “Digital Fabric recommends the use of EB-L1105U projectors in permanent installations where long duty-cycles and stable operation is required. In addition, these projectors have proven versatile when interfacing with specialised warping servers and museum automation systems developed by our company.”

In addition to installing seven of these cutting-edge projectors in the venue, Digital Fabric provided video server playback, multichannel audio and lighting elements.

“The team installed custom-engineered projector brackets, also modelled in fine detail within the 3D model. Museum operators have access to a simplified user interface panel, allowing the daily operation of the system to be as simple as turning a key. The fully-automated system allows for the remote monitoring and control of the server rack components, as well as checking operating temperatures in the system.”

TELLING IMPORTANT STORIES

From Daiber’s perspective, not only does the Epson projector provide “superior vision, outstanding image quality and great clarity,” but the Centre has been delighted with the “reliability and service” it has received from Digital Fabric.

Welcoming more than 20,000 visitors every week – and already honoured with the Best Heritage Experience prize at the Africa World Travel Market Responsible Tourism Awards – the !Khwa ttu San Heritage Centre is a fantastic example of how immersive technologies can be harnessed for social gains.

“The vision of !Khwa ttu is to empower and support the San through heritage and education initiatives. Our San partners, additionally, wish to engage visitors around issues of climate change and environmental responsibility, as living sustainably lies at the heart of ‘traditional’ San lifestyles. Building our museum addresses our core purpose by providing a platform for the San to tell their story.”

As Daiber says, “it remains remarkable just how little visitors know about the San and how their genetic story places them at the heart of human origin stories. Our presentation of San heritage introduces questions about real needs, environmental knowledge and sustainability. This fulfils our multiple visions of telling a San story and an environmentally-relevant story about the relationship between a healthy environment and healthy communities,” he concludes.