Projection Mapping Rejuvenates St. Louis Union Station

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The “Grand Hall Experience” at St. Louis Union Station is the largest permanently installed indoor immersive projection mapping show in the U.S. It features full 12K+ imagery spanning the original 1894 barrel ceiling, a 10.1 surround sound system, LED accent lighting, an automated control system and all new media, transforming the iconic space.

Nominating Company: Technomedia Solutions, Orlando, Florida
Venue: St. Louis, Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri
Project: The “Grand Hall Experience” at St. Louis Union Station
Category: Public Spaces

BACKGROUND
In the heart of downtown St. Louis, the Grand Hall Experience at Union Station transforms a 120-year-old historic space, leaving the architectural details essentially untouched, but creating a new destination attraction with a state-of-the-art multimedia show emphasizing projection mapping. Working within the restrictions of architectural preservation ordinances, the show is part of a renovation by Lodging Hospitality Management.

Guests experience a dynamic range of shows. The space is first activated with pop music performed with classical instruments while the lighting sets the mood. Several “sprites” are projected around the room at random intervals, bringing the walls to life. Each show consists of three to 10 “vignettes,” all custom-produced for the show and ranging from local historical facts (narrated by natives John Hamm and John Goodman), to the local sports teams, the Mississippi River and to “visual wonder” pieces that exploit what projection mapping can do to the space.

CHALLENGES
One of the most important restrictions was preserving the historic space without a hint of modern manipulation. Creating an environment without seeing the technology proved tricky. The Grand Hall had many acoustic and physical challenges. The space is highly reflective with a barrel ceiling and stone flooring that produces long reverb and parabolic effects. Technomedia could not use traditional methods of sound dampening to improve sound quality.

The building had such a strong existing character that finding content that worked was an evolving process. The full-size plate that was worked with was 8K, meaning that things that typically worked and in a smaller frame weren’t an option.

Bringing ideas to life required some trial and error. Due to intricate details on the ceiling, some images worked better than others. Likewise, all of the images’ colors were manipulated with more reds and blues balancing the green paint of the ceiling.

Projection mapping of stars on St. Louis Union Station ceilingSOLUTIONS
A lot of moving parts made it difficult. A laser-scanning team came in and took a virtual survey of the space to build accurate content that would line up with the system when it got re-projected onto the space. More than six million point cloud was taken from the survey and simplified down to figure out where more detail was needed.

Once the laser scan was complete, there were photographs that were mapped to the geography of the scan, ending in a model that had both the geometry and the color and detail of the space.

Not being able to incorporate any acoustical treatment, absorption, mitigation or other items that are typically used proved challenging. An acoustical analysis was done to see how sound behaved in the space. The team then developed positions to place the speakers that would provide excellent coverage for the audience but remain unobtrusive from an aesthetic standpoint.

RESULTS
This renovation project has rejuvenated this historic downtown St. Louis space, bringing wonder back to Union Station. As a permanent installation, the new Grand Hall Experience helps draw international visitation and enhances guests’ stay at the adjoining DoubleTree Hotel. Technomedia reported its client stating that the show has produced increases in visitation and revenue, in addition to being celebrated for aesthetic achievement. In honoring the project with a 2015 Thea Award, the Themed Entertainment Association stated that the project “…has rejuvenated a National Historic Landmark with an engaging dynamic space that allows the audience to see the architecture in a whole new way.”

Technomedia Solutions won the DSE 2016 Bronze Apex Award in the Public Spaces category.

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