XYZ Technologie Culturelle, in collaboration with the American firm Sky-Skan, which specializes in designing planetarium shows, has created the two immersive domes in the new Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, which opened on April 6 of this year. Forty-six years after the advent of the first planetarium in Montreal, this new facility provides the city with exclusive, unprecedented technology. “The combination of traditional optical technology for projection of a starry sky and video offers viewers the only immersive experience of its kind in Quebec,” confirms Jacques Larue, partner at XYZ.
Unique Expertise The move of the Montreal planetarium to the Espace pour la vie site, near the Biodôme, is the crowning achievement for the largest Canadian complex of museums devoted to the natural sciences. With this in mind, the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium and the team at Go multimédia, designer and project manager for technological and scenographic integration, chose a unique hybrid multimedia technology combining high-definition video and opto-mechanical projection. This makes it possible to project an image on a hemispheric screen that offers a very realistic and immersive experience of the heavens.
Given the specific nature of the project, Sky-Skan and XYZ were chosen following a call for tenders by the Ville de Montréal and the planetarium. XYZ is known for its expertise in multimedia systems for museums and theatres, and especially for its design of immersive environments. By partnering with Sky-Skan, XYZ broadens its field of expertise, becoming the only Quebec company to have produced a project of this nature.
Precise metalwork The XYZ team was exclusively responsible for assembling the structures of the two domes above the planetarium’s new immersive theatres. It is the precision with which the domes were constructed that makes it possible to have 360° projections of stars and very accurate cosmic animations. For example, both domes, each one 18 metres in diameter and more than 9 metres high, were completely covered with 502 aluminum panels that were perforated and riveted every 5 cm in a spiral pattern – a task that took more than two months!
Instead of the 9,000 stars that the old opto-mechanical projector could show, the new equipment reveals more than 300,000. It is so precise that viewers can observe stars invisible to the naked eye with binoculars! At the same time, the video projectors, synchronized with the opto-mechanical projector, highlight the constellations of the Milky Way and take viewers on space voyages with a striking degree of realism.
In addition to building the domes and integrating the multimedia systems, XYZ supplied, installed, and programmed the multimedia infrastructure for the exhibition Exo, sur les traces de la vie dans l’Univers. The Montreal firm also equipped all of the planetarium’s public areas with audiovisual systems.
XYZ: technology dedicated to culture Created by two multimedia technology experts, Eric Cyr and Jacques Larue, XYZ Cultural Technology has taken on the mission of offering designers of all kinds the technological means to realize their creative ambitions. “We want to help creators surpass their limits,” explains Larue, “whether it is an international artist who asks us to produce a giant dynamic fresco, a curator who wants to make her exhibition an immersive experience, or a hospital director who wants to create an event around one of his departments.”
XYZ is known for its capacity to design innovative overall solutions that respond to specific creative needs. For example, to create a total immersion in the world of the travelling exhibition Hockey-it's in our DNA, XYZ designed a completely automated environment that reacts to the visitor’s presence and movements. Along the same lines, to bring the new interpretive experience at the Air Defence Museum to life, XYZ designed an augmented reality system proposing to give visitors an iPad which they can use to superimpose 3D animated virtual images of National Defence planes and equipment onto the museum site.
Always seeking to further develop the creative dimension of their expertise, Cyr and Larue naturally turned towards the design of immersive environments. Thus, they are responsible for numerous productions of this type. Notably, the real estate developer Lodha Group recently commissioned Cyr and Larue to design the interactive presentation model for its residential development project in India. With XYZ, immersion involves combining visual, sound, and physical elements. For instance, in Aquavolt, visitors go up the inside of an old water tower transformed into a 360° projection screen that plunges them into the industrial origins of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Rain, wind, snow, and flocks of wild geese complete this multisensory experience!
The diversity of XYZ’s mandates and clients testifies to the firm’s expertise and the quality of its services. These competencies have enabled XYZ to gain the confidence of prestigious institutions such as the Musée Pointe-à-Callière, for which it has executed a number of mandates in recent years, including the multimedia infrastructure for the new La Maison-des-Marins pavilion, the design of the exhibition Les Beatles à Montréal, and maintenance of all of the museum’s audiovisual equipment. Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde sought out XYZ to install its new sound and video system. More recently, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta mandated XYZ to create a multimedia show designed to raise public awareness of this provincial institution.