Room At The Top – Dataton’s WATCHOUT powers London’s The View From The Shard

Linköping June 04, 2013

Event Communications and DJ Willrich combine to give unique flavour to tallest viewing platform from any building in Western Europe

Deploying multimedia technology in way that enhances a naturally stunning visual experience is no easy task. Yet that is exactly what Event Communications and systems integrator DJ Willrich (DJW) have done at London’s The View from The Shard – utilising the features of Dataton WATCHOUT™multi-image display and presentation software. For this project, WATCHOUT was provided by Dataton’s UK Premium Partner, Mirage Associates.

At a height of 1,016ft (310m), Renzo Piano’s Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and has redefined the London skyline. Conceived by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect as a ‘vertical town’ incorporating offices, restaurants, residences, shops and the prestigious five-star Shangri-La Hotel, The Shard is the centrepiece of a £2bn regeneration project at London Bridge Quarter on the south side of the River Thames.

The ‘View from The Shard’ visitor attraction – the first part of the building to open - enables Londoners and tourists to enjoy the 360-degree vistas from the highest public levels 69 and 72 which, at up to 800ft (244m), are almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in the capital.

The design of the visitor experience was carried out by Event Communications, working in collaboration with Renzo Piano, the architect for The Shard. Renzo Piano explains: “London is a city of inspiration and imagination. We wanted to create a public space where people could visit the building to experience London in a different way and also feel that they have discovered the spirit of the building. On top of the city, but also within it.”

On arrival at Level 00 and 01, visitors are drawn into the tapestry of London with glimpses of the city laid out before them. Travelling skyward in two high-speed ‘kaleidoscopic’ lifts, they then swiftly reach Level 68, from where Guest Ambassadors guide them to Level 69, a comfortable enclosed 360 degree viewing gallery, and Level 72, a semi-open space that surrounds visitors in the sights and sound of the city, with shards of glass that form the top of the skyscraper offering a breathtaking translucent ‘roof.’

Event Communications were responsible for the experiential design of the whole The View from The Shard attraction, including the foyer and pre-show area at the dedicated entrance in Joiner Street, the ticket area and retail installation on Level 01, experiences on level 33 and 68 and a retail boutique on Level 68. The spaces on Level 00 and 01 utilise Dataton WATCHOUT to integrate multiple HD video images into a single whole image, along with synchronised multimedia content playout.

The foyer and pre-show area feature a 5 wide by 3 high flat-panel videowall showing filmic content designed to put The Shard into a historical and geographical context, while a four-by-one videowall, with the screens arranged to form a single portrait-mode column, provides up-to-date information for visitors regarding the schedule of their trip.

“This is the one place from which you can see the whole of London, so in many ways The View from The Shard can be positioned as the first stop on any visitor’s itinerary,” says Kevin Murphy, development director of Event Communications.

“It is all about taking visitors on a journey, and the ground-floor galleries offer a witty approach to that journey, giving visitors filmic and graphic images of London and famous Londoners – some of whom you might not associate with the city at all.”

Between Levels 68 and 72, a series of a dozen ‘Tell:scopes’ act as digital telescopes, identifying places of interest in the user’s sight line and offering information on 200 London landmarks in a choice of 10 different languages.

Throughout the visitor spaces, the role of images is matched by that of the sound, which was crafted for the Event Communications team by composer David Mitcham. The site-specific soundtrack was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and London choir the Joyful Company of Singers.

Explaining the role played by visual technology in the visitor-experience concept, Kevin Murphy says: “What we have here is a combination of a show system with digital signage. We were very restricted in terms of space, and we knew the system had to be flexible because with signage, you never know what the customer is going to do with it once the operation has started.

“Using WATCHOUT allows the content to be dynamic and updated as necessary. We can even insert 4K video files without any loss of quality or flexibility. Content is king, and with WATCHOUT, we’re delighted with the quality of that content.”

David Willrich of DJW is similarly effusive in his praise for WATCHOUT, which offers the ability to blend and merge images from any source, and then synchronise their playback along with audio, lighting control and other show data, according to a pre-programmed schedule.

“For this project, DJW wrote a digital signage element around WATCHOUT and added additional features for this system to enable the results that we wanted, that a conventional digital signage solution could not provide us.”

“Past experience has taught us that WATCHOUT is a rock-solid platform,” says Willrich. “What we particularly like about it is that it scales very well while maintaining image quality. The software simply embraces the data you feed it with, processes it, and then gets the job done.”

Dataton’s UK Premium Partner Mirage Associates supplied the WATCHOUT software to The View from The Shard project, and Mirage’s Steve Selwyn admits the spectacular nature of the setting made this “a fantastic project to be involved in.”

For Dataton, Fredrik Svahnberg, marketing director, adds: “The latest version of WATCHOUT incorporates flexible features that can be added, depending on the event. This is particularly useful for a project such as this one, where the basic timeline of the multimedia content in the shows is fixed, but alternative content may have to be brought in at short notice.

“WATCHOUT is really well-prepared for this type of application and we are delighted that our technology plays such a pivotal role in an attraction that is set to become as big and important a global landmark as The Shard itself.”

About Dataton

Founded in 1973, renowned Swedish show control developer and manufacturer, Dataton serves its core markets in multi-media entertainment, visitor attractions, digital signage scenography, event production and corporate AV. The company's flagship products include award-winning Dataton WATCHOUT multi-display production and presentation system, the WATCHPAX media server, as well as the intuitive Dataton PICKUP audio guide. The entire range is supported by Dataton’s established global distribution and reseller network.

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Jacquie McHale Sjödin
Dataton AB
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