Skip to main content

Projectiondesign goes green for California Academy of Sciences


Norwegian projector manufacturer, projectiondesign has supplied its F10, F20 and F30 series projectors to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.  The Academy is the only place in the world to have a planetarium, a natural history museum and an aquarium all under one roof, and is one of the most environmentally friendly museums on the planet.  The Academy has also formally recognised projectiondesign as one of its corporate supporters with the installation of its products inside Morrison Planetarium, Hohfeld Hall pre-show area, the Water Planet exhibit and the scientific Visualization Studio for creating visual and audio content.

The new Academy is in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, on the site of the old museum, aquarium, and planetarium and will open to the public on Saturday 27 September.  The building is expected to receive a LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum rating from the US Green Building Council.

The media and technology backbone of the project was coordinated by technical visualization design consultants, Visual Acuity, who worked directly for the Academy and who were responsible for designing the technology and systems alongside the internationally renowned Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy, in conjunction with local San Francisco architects Stantec Architecture (formerly Chong Partners).   They were also responsible for specifying the equipment as well as working with contractors such as BBI, global immersion and Sky-Skan.  At the start of the project, Visual Acuity looked into the market to find projection systems that could both meet the specialist requirements of each area within the Academy which included blending, warping and colour matching combined with a good ‘power in light out’ ratio. 

“The high environmental standards we set affect both the construction and how we plan technically” says  Blair Parkin, Founder and Managing Director at Visual Acuity.   “In simple terms, projectiondesign was the only major manufacturer who cooperated on giving us detailed heat load and environmental information combined with technology that exceeded our expectations in doing the various jobs around the Academy.  projectiondesign had professional projection displays that met both the demanding needs of our blended display surfaces and our criteria for use in a green building.  They were extremely helpful in providing input and advice during the last few years of design.  Their installation and integration partners have all been great to work with and the two-way communication that we have between companies continues long after the work is completed.”

Founded in 1853, the California Academy of Sciences has grown to be one of the world’s pre-eminent natural history museums, with important exhibitions on natural sciences as well as scientific education programmes.  It is an important centre for research, with over 20 million specimens and 100 scientific staff in 11 different fields of study.  

In 2004, the Academy embarked on a major new initiative which was a comprehensive and unprecedented rebuilding project.  Once completed, the new Academy promises to be a symbol of excellence architecturally, educationally, and scientifically.   Exhibitions in the new building will keep pace with the changing nature of science and a new emphasis will be placed on the Academy’s scientific research and its role in protecting life on Earth.  With greater access to research and collection areas, visitors will share the excitement of scientific exploration and discovery.  With improved educational facilities, the Academy will excite and inspire young people about the natural world and train the next generation of scientists.  

“We’ve used the best quality technology to ensure that audiences are able to experience an immersive and virtual environment in an exceedingly visceral way and which actually enables them to become part of the action – and part of the science, ” says Ryan Wyatt, the Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visulization at the Academy.  

Science visitors are immersed in one of the world’s largest planetariums

Morrison Planetarium mimics the tilt of planet Earth and is cantilevered out over the Academy’s 212, 000-gallon Philippine Coral Reef tank and takes visitors to the edge of the known universe and back.   The real-time digital environment has been created using a 78 ft diameter seamless projection screen, which is tilted at 30 degrees and immerses an audience of 290 viewers in scientifically accurate imagery.  The dome screen is seamlessly covered in real time and pre-rendered computer graphics by a Global Immersion Fidelity Bright™ digital fulldome display and theater management system.  This uses six F30 sx+ projectors connected to a Global Immersion Media Server and playback solution, a Uniview cluster as well as a Sky-Skan Definiti graphics cluster to provide stunning imagery.  

It produces the most accurate and interactive digital universe ever created, giving visitors the opportunity to visit Mars, explore extra-solar planets, or embark on other space adventures.   The dome has been designed for a diverse range of uses and audiences for now and in the future and will be used by scientists to broadcast live NASA feeds related to content from missions, eclipses, as well as to connect visitors to Academy research expeditions around the world, and host other special events.  Morrison Planetarium matches the size of the Griffith observatory in Los Angeles as the largest planetarium screen in North America.  

A pair of F10 1080 HD projectors are located on the level three bridge, which are used to guide visitors between the planetarium and the rest of the Academy.

Hohfeld Hall pre-show visitor area 

6 projectiondesign F20 sx+ projectors are integrated and seamlessly edge-blended together and warped by Sky-Skan to provide a canvas for imagery of space sciences. 

Into the deep with Water Planet

Flanked by a 100, 000-gallon California Cost exhibit and a 212, 000-gallon Philippine Coral Reef display (which will house 2, 000 saltwater fish when complete), Water Planet forms the heart of the Academy’s lower level.   Showing the critical relationship between life and water in an immersive and interactive space, once an hour, the lights go down inside the water tanks and the room transforms into a 360-degree projection theatre for a five-minute video about the importance of water on the planet.   This stunning display uses 10 projectiondesign F20 sx+ model projectors which are projected on to silvery, sculptured walls using a new kind of moulded projection surface that seemingly flows into each other to create an immersive watery setting.  The space is also projected on when it is not is show use – the graphics labelling the tanks are animated and projected as headers over them.  In this area there are also three ‘wet interactives’ where aquarium exhibits, interactive projected touch sensitive images and running water are combined.  The projections are presented straight down to a horizontal surface and are provided by 3 F10 sx+ projectors. 
The exhibit was designed by Thinc Design from New York in collaboration with Urban A&O, with the projection, sound and control systems installed by BBI of San Francisco.   A F20 sx+ reference projector can also be found in the Visualization Studio at the Academy which is the prime resource for creating high resolution visual and audio content based on the Academy’s research data and information collected from partner institutions from around the world.

“All this has been made possible by the high quality features of the projectors and their ability to be colour matched and blended.  They use low power, making them easier to accommodate in a green building.  The entire Academy audio and picture infrastructure is digital, and uses fibre connections into the DVI inputs on all projectors.  The lens shift for short throw applications and projecting up into a dome is an optical characteristic of the F20 and the F30 series and has been critical to good image coverage of the projection surface” adds Parkin.

Anders Løkke, International Marketing & Communications Manager at projectiondesign adds, “This installation is truly the most sophisticated and diverse use of our projection system and technology within a single venue that we’ve been involved in.  It clearly demonstrates how our projectors are designed for optimum efficiency and operational flexibility of the Academy.  We look forward to contributing to their vision of educating the public, displaying the most outstanding exhibits and pioneering research in science.”

DLP is a registered trademark of Texas Instruments

About projectiondesign

projectiondesign is a Norwegian company that designs, manufactures and markets a range of high performance projectors for professional, business and consumer applications.  Amongst its core markets are high resolution scientific visualization and simulation, medical imaging, e-cinema and public displays.  Demonstrating commitment to the development of the display industry, projectiondesign was first to market with 1080p and the more recent WUXGA resolution and portable and high-resolution active stereoscopic 3D projectors based on Texas Instruments DLP technology.  The entire professional product range is warranted for 24/7 usage.  projectiondesign is based in Fredrikstad (Norway), and has offices in Gothenburg, Singapore, Milan, Stuttgart, Bilbao, Bombay, Cape Town, London and New York.

For further information about this and other leading products please visit or contact:

Manufacturer Enquiries                                                   Press Enquiries
Anders Løkke                                                                     Katinka Allender
projectiondesign                                                                PR Consultant
Telephone: +47 69 30 45 68                                           Telephone: +44 (0) 1491 571402
Fax: +47 69 30 45 80                                                         Mobile: +44 (0) 7887 711 246

More from this author

Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Find out how to update