Visit to Fraunhofer’s Time Lab

March 15, 2010

180 degree display in the Time Lab fed by 7 HD projectors

Great visit on Friday to Fraunhofer’s Time Lab at the Heinrich Hertz Institute in Berlin. The installation only opened a week ago and I got to experience it during a research meeting as a break from discussions. The Time Lab is a showcase for next generation video and cinema systems and, in particular, for HHI’s Omnicam (more on that in a mo).

The display in the Time Lab is a very wide screen lit by seven HD projectors, the display covers 180 degrees and is an extremely immersive experience – look either side of you and it’s still there with a wider angle view of the scene. The projector images overlap slightly but there’s some luminance compensation at the join so once the system is calibrated there’s a completely seamless display.

Audio in the Time Lab is provided by a 128 loudspeaker wavefield synthesis system – we have developed one of these at Salford and it allows accurate placing of any sound source inside or outside the boundary of the loudspeakers. One of the main benefits is that there is no ‘sweet spot’, the sound sources remain consistent almost regardless of where you are in the room, pretty processor intensive compared to ambisonics or 5.1 but much wider area where the sound field is effective.

Many of the demos have been captured using HHI’s Omnicam. The Omnicam is another HHI creation – an omnidirectional camera which captures a 360 degree panorama in HD resolution. It uses 6 HD cameras with mirrors and smart electronics to enable them to operate as a single unit.

The HHI Omnicam

The first demo I saw was captured at a Bundesliga game, the whole pitch stretched out in front of us on the screen and everything in crystal clear high definition meant it was easy to keep up with play. The weirdest thing though was looking away from the pitch and standing beside me were a German family out watching the football, drinking coffee and groaning when Dortmund missed a sitter. Still on the screen of course but it really feels like you are at the game.

Surprisingly little sound from the projectors too, I wasn’t too aware of it once the sound system kicked in which is pretty impressive bearing in mind there were six of them with little evidence of acoustic treatment apart from a semi randomly perforated ceiling that looked like it had it’s base in number series. Well worth the trip for the demos alone though the research project I’m working on involves the Time Lab so I’m looking forward to being at some events to shoot material. I’ll be busily working with the Eigenmic by then, a 32 capsule high order ambisonic microphone, so may be a bit busy.



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