Uni of Wollongong rebuilds its planetarium.
The University of Wollongong (UoW) Planetarium had a long life since initially opening in 1989 and being rebuilt in 2000. Once more than serviceable, by 2018 the associated AV installation was showing both its age and proximity to salt air.
The university initiated a major refit and rebrand as Science Space in 2019. In the first phase, global planetarium specialists Evans & Sutherland (E&S) installed their Digistar six dome projection system, consisting of 2x 4K laser projectors mounted opposite each other at the base of the 10m dome. E&S supplied five custom PCs to handle blending, alignment, video and audio pre-processing, and Digistar system management.
When the Digistar 6 system was wired to output audio into the original rusty system, it was patently obvious that the extant audio gear needed upgrading to match the slick new video. UoW Senior AV Designer Dave Rigter came in to manage the audio upgrade process.
SKIES THE LIMIT
Much is written about the integration of technologies but of equal importance is the integration of the various people and companies that implement these technologies. Large institutions (such as UoW) have ongoing technical supply and support needs, requiring similar ongoing relationships with suppliers and integrators.
Dave drew from his pool of trusted local installers and engaged Michael Fagan of Connect AVI to find a solution that would leverage the design knowledge and product range of UoW strategic partners avt.
Michael designed a new 5.1 surround system based around a BSS BLU 806 processor. This DSP takes Dante inputs from the Digistar PCs and routes it over Blu-Link to a Crown DCi 8|600N amplifier. 5x JBL AM 5212 Surround speakers and a JBL ASB6118 Sub deliver this sumptuous sound to the public. A Williams IR loop is also installed for assisted listening. Everything was pre-cabled out of hours and the switchover went seamlessly, carefully prepared contingency plans were not required.
Normally integrated over their networks by UoW, Dante is on a closed loop here due to the relative distance from ICT support staff. Dave is able to monitor the system remotely from his desk and finds it both easy and reliable.
SCIENCE SPACE IN ACTION
All this cool technology is nowhere as cool as sitting under a dome, immersed in a high resolution, bright, seamless image and engulfed by, in Dave’s words, “a cracking sound system”. This facility allows the classic planetarium experience of star gazing from inside but ever so much more. Digistar’s interactive content library is extensive and user made presentations can be shared with other domes worldwide – even in real time!
As a dedicated STEM space for students or a high definition modelling display for researchers, this installation is world class and the upgrades should give it a long life. Science Space now even hosts movie nights and tours, providing a valuable secondary income stream for the venue.
For the client, designer, suppliers and integrator, everything went smoothly and everyone came out smiling. It is best summed up by Dave Rigter: “This was a landmark project for the university and the end result is brilliant. It was a real success for us.” – John O’Brien