The beautiful and aptly named Porto, a city located in northern Portugal, is rich in history: the coastal region has undergone numerous changes through the centuries. This period was certainly the most prosperous for the city, thanks to the wine trade that drove urban and administrative development. The extraordinary evolution of the city’s Baroque and neoclassical architecture is directly linked to the success of the wine trade. To enrich the area and the industry, a district called The New Cultural District (World of Wine) was chosen, with a total investment exceeding 100 million euros. It includes a group of museums, restaurants and bars that are part of the immersive journey into the region that is the port’s production heritage.
A GRAND PROJECT: MORE THAN 400 GENELEC SPEAKERS
The total size of the attraction is impressive-it is a district full of new and exciting things to do, discover and learn. The management team decided they wanted to install a comprehensive, quality sound system to take people through the various exhibits and provide immersive soundscapes to make the venue unique. The choice of Genelec speakers was immediate because of their combination of studio-quality sound, flexibility, and reliability-the result of decades of precision engineering.
The project is truly extensive, with more than 400 Genelec loudspeakers used throughout the spaces. The information was very clear; offering an interactive experience capable of attracting, entertaining and educating tourists on different aspects of Portuguese cultural history. Genelec’s local distributor Garrett Audiovisuals-a company experienced in supplying complete AV systems-was awarded the contract and drew up an extensive list specifically for Genelec products, and GemaDigital handled most of the museum experience, from the initial phase, through to overall project management, encompassing storytelling, multimedia content production, AV installation, commissioning and maintenance. Gema Digital’s professionals are experts in the development of immersive and interactive experiences at events, new company launches, and museums, with a portfolio of more than 2,000 projects in 14 different countries. This portfolio is as broad as it is rich and includes virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms, interactive installations, multitouch apps, video mapping and 4D rooms. In this case, sound played a key role in creating an immersive experience that propels the visitor into the future.
As Francisco Brandão of Gema Digital notes: “There was a clear need to use the sound system to reflect and convey certain emotions and settings throughout the experiences. Completely different environments are presented in each space, and it was necessary for the sound design to reflect these changes in dynamics.” Brandão emphasizes the importance of sound as an immersive element and its direct effect on room characteristics. As one walks through the World of Wine (WOW), specially created sounds envelop visitors all around, giving clarity and definition, aspects that set Genelec apart.
GENELEC WAS CHOSEN BECAUSE OF ITS STUDIO SOUND QUALITY, FLEXIBILITY AND RELIABILITY
One of the wonderful things about WOW is the variety of experiences offered. It includes 7 different museum experiences and numerous restaurants, bars, and stores where visitors can purchase some of the items they saw just before. Gema Digital was responsible for the design and development of four museum experiences-The Wine Experience, Planet Cork, Porto Region Across the Ages, and The Chocolate Story-all of which are different in size and shape, meaning that Genelec had to provide a wide range of models that could fit each space, both from an acoustics and aesthetic standpoint. Nine different models were used throughout the project, including variants of the 4000 series depending on the room’s capacity. Genelec loudspeakers were chosen mainly in those performances highlight their intelligibility and details of excellence. For example, the 7.1 sorround sound systems located in the “Porto Region Across the Ages” and “The Wine Experience” auditoriums consist exclusively of Genelec loudspeakers.
Raul Fernandes, Sales Director at Garrett Audiovisuais further explains the decision: “When Gema Digital consulted us on this project, they specified that they needed a speaker that would suit different room types and applications, but look very unobtrusive. Genelec’s characteristic crystal clear sound is a trait present in all models, but there are subtle differences in the choices made for each room.” He continues, “That’s why we suggested a combination of Architectural series models and 4000 series models, as they simply fit the acoustics of the room, obviating issues that are usually present in other older buildings or with materials that create too much reverberation-which is useful on large-scale installations.”
Beyond the sonic performance, it was critical that the speakers integrate seamlessly within their environment. For this, ceiling-mounted Genelec AIC25 models were predominant in the installation; they were chosen for their finesse and versatility, Gema Digital installed 192 of them throughout the site. Amplification for each AIC25 comes with an external remote amplifier module that allowed technicians to adjust the frequency response of the speakers and thus facilitate the integration of the AIC25 models within their space.
In other cases, slightly larger models required more thoughtful and creative positioning and camouflage. Brandão explains that in the section “In the Civil War of ‘Porto Region Across the Ages,’ we made the decision to hide the Genelec 5041A in-wall active subwoofers in the set, in the fireplace. Similarly, in the jungle of ‘The Chocolate Story,’ we made the creative decision to place the speakers behind the wall of vegetation to give the impression that there are animals hidden behind it, thus simulating the thriving wildlife that characterizes a real jungle and creating a 360-degree full-immersion.”
WOW is a clear example of how museums and other similar attractions can make use of AV technology to enhance the interactivity and immersive factor of their exhibits-bringing educational and cultural experiences to life.