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DJW AV for HMS Alliance and The National Museum of the Royal Navy

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DJW has completed work on HMS Alliance and The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. 

HMS Alliance is one of DJW’s most unusual projects to date. The vessel is the only British surviving Second World War-era submarine and has undergone a £7m restoration project to bring it to life as a visitor attraction. 

DJW was briefed to install the AV hardware and provide overall show control throughout the 218ft submarine; this also included reanimating elements of the original instrumentation and dials. The solution needed to help bring the submarine ‘back to life’, submersing visitors in the feel of a working vessel. 

DJW Provide AV for HMS Alliance and The National Museum of the Royal Navy Among the highlights is the engine room, where DJW placed actuators under the floorboards and linked them to heavy bass speakers to make the floor shake under visitors’ feet as it would have on the working vessel.

DJW has also recreated an ‘attack’ scene in the control room. Suddenly red lights begin to flash, the deafening sound of an alarm rings through the Visaton loudspeakers and a seaman’s voice is played out, warning the captain of depth charges being used by the frigate above.

Audio cones create the sound illusion that a boat has gone over the top of the submarine and, just at the right time, DJW’s programming sets the lights to flash brightly, as if the depth charges have gone off.

Project lead, John Doe, said it was no straightforward project due to the nature of working on a submarine. He said: “It was a very small, claustrophobic space to work in, which made getting equipment in and out, let alone installed, quite difficult. It meant liaising even more closely with the other contractors to ensure we could all complete our tasks to schedule. 

“It was also tough finding enough nooks and crannies to hide 51 speakers throughout the sub. We wanted to make the experience as real as possible so it was important to us to hide as much of the equipment as we could.” 

In some cases DJW made feature points of its AV hardware, sourcing vintage speakers such as 1960s Tannoy systems and displaying them as they would have appeared on the working submarine. The vintage speakers served a dual purpose, helping DJW to ensure the audio sounded how it would have on board, rather than a modern and crystal clear version of a captain’s call.

Chris Munns, Director at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, said: “A visit on board HMS Alliance assaults all the senses and really brings to life what it is like to work and live on a submarine.

“We are very proud of HMS Alliance, and delighted that she has been saved for future generations.”

HMS Alliance opened on April 3, the same day as the new section of The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, for which DJW also carried out the AV hardware installation for. 

The new £4.5m set of galleries recount the remarkable experiences of more than 1, 000 servicemen and women in the Royal Navy over the last 100 years. 

Among the AV highlights are soundscapes, interactives, touch tables, listening posts and clever use of sound cones.

Matthew Sheldon, project director, said: 'Through the exhibitions, we are now able to tell the undiscovered stories from the ordinary men, women and ships which have shaped the Royal Navy's astonishing history over the century of greatest change.

“Housed in the country's most significant naval storehouse from the Georgian period, the state-of-the-art AV interactive displays and exhibitions installed by DJW bring the collections alive and into the 21st century for everyone to discover.”

DJW Provide AV for HMS Alliance and The National Museum of the Royal Navy

Photos © The National Museum of the Royal Navy

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