Projection Mapping Converts Space Shuttle Endeavour into King Tut’s Tomb


The California Science Center engaged BARTKRESA studio to use projections to visually transform the space shuttle Endeavour. The shuttle became King Tut’s sarcophagus, surrounded by projections of glowing hieroglyphics. The museum chose this theme for their fundraising gala to recognize the world premiere of “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh,” the largest King Tut exhibition ever toured. The projections celebrated the Boy King on a majestic scale. This was the first time that projection mapping was used on the Endeavour.

Nominating Company: BARTKRESA studio, Santa Monica, California
Venue: The California Science Center Discovery Ball, Santa Monica, California
Project: The California Science Center Discovery Ball
Category: Entertainment & Recreation

The client requested a centerpiece that would engage and motivate donors, in addition to highlighting two centerpieces of the museum—the world premiere of the “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh” exhibit and the iconic space shuttle Endeavour. The California Science Center had incorporated projection mapping into previous events and asked BARTKRESA to develop a concept around projecting on the shuttle.

BARTKRESA studio proposed using projections to light and immerse the audience in a whimsical interpretation of King Tut’s tomb. We created an aesthetic that blended photorealism with painterly textures. The highly saturated projections were captivating and transformative, from flickering torch lighting revealing hieroglyphics on the walls to glittering jewels transforming the shuttle. Our studio managed the design and implementation of the projections. The overall effect gave a dynamic digital environment, allowing guests to experience the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in a uniquely 21st-century way.

This event marked the first time that the Space Shuttle Endeavour, a symbol of the USA space program, had been projection-mapped. The space shuttle is representative of the prestige of the California Science Center as well. As a result, they were protective of the image of the shuttle.

In designing the projections, our studio considered not only designs that would transform the shuttle, but also understood the importance of representing an Egyptian icon—King Tut’s tomb—on an American icon—the shuttle—in a respectful and harmonious way. We created an aesthetic that blended photorealism with painterly textures. The designs transformed the shuttle, while incorporating the words “United States” and “Endeavour,” which are printed on the body of the shuttle, into the Egyptian-themed images. The event guests, including both the Mayor of Los Angeles and Egyptian dignitaries, marveled at the union of the two important emblems.

The theme, treasures of King Tut, told the story of precious possessions that were hidden for centuries. The use of projections gave guests the illusion that they were discovering an unknown place. Our studio used the Watchout media server and 28 Panasonic laser projectors to create the projections on the shuttle, pavilion, and habitation pod. However, an element that the audience did not see made this show distinct.

We used a custom mobile studio to support this show, building design workstations, render farms, video servers, and system controls into a 40-foot trailer. Not only did this allow for efficient design adjustments and rendering onsite, but it also allowed us to remove the server technology from the event space. This gave a seamless guest experience, and a venue that was projected so naturally that they felt like they were really dining in a torch-lit tomb with a giant, glittering sarcophagus.

Discovery Ball pic

The California Science Center is a public museum that offers free general admission. While they receive some public funds and private donations, the annual Discovery Ball is the only fundraising event that the museum foundation hosts. The client requested projections that would engage and motivate donors, in addition to highlighting both the world premiere of the King Tut exhibit and the space shuttle Endeavour.

After the event, the museum’s teams congratulated our studio for helping to create the most successful fundraiser in their history. The event was sold out, with guests clamoring to get a seat near the space shuttle. The event raised $1.6 million, which will fund the development of new programs and will grant underprivileged populations free access to museum summer camps. The projections were one of many spotlights throughout the event that highlighted the museum’s dedication to incorporating new technology to stimulate, inspire, and enrich people’s lives.

Event Director – Chris Sion, CSC VP of Food & Event Services
Décor – Rrivre Works Inc.
Floral – Motsumoto Flowers
Projection Design – BARTKRESA studio
Lighting Design – Images by Lighting
Photos by Nadine Froger Photography

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