Etruscan Expo
Monday, 1 January 2001
Palazzo Grassi is among the most imposing buildings on Venice’s Grand Canal. It was built in the 1700s for a rich merchant family before being purchased by Fiat in 1984, who restored it to its original splendour and equipped it with all the facilities necessary for a large modern exhibition centre.

Currently running until July 1 is a new exhibition covering ‘The Etruscans’. Occupying 36 exhibition rooms with 700-plus exhibits, the exhibition uses cutting-edge multimedia technology to ensure visitors high-impact immersion in the history of this mysterious race of people. The company responsible for these aspects of the exhibition was specialist Turin firm Medialogos/WDM, whose expertise in this area has been gained on other high profile events, including ‘The Future of the Longobards’, the Italian Design Process show in Seoul and the ‘Sinestesia’ exhibition on the five senses.

The company’s Ottavio Dichio explains: "The idea was to use innovative technology to complement the information given by the more traditional media - so videos, stereoscopic computer graphic reconstructions and 3D Dolby Digital sound environments help tell the exhibition’s story." 3D videos, designed for projection on ‘fragment’ screens, are used to emphasize aspects of the Etruscan civilisation.

"In rooms with just projections," continues Ottavio "we used DVDs with films in MPEG2. The D-1999E players by Olidata can play DVD, video and audio CDs and CDs with MP3 files and have a built-in AC-3 decoder for Dolby Digital sound. Images are projected by Sanyo SP 10E units with 70:125 zoom lenses and visitors are immersed in a combination of music and effects recreating natural settings (the noises of a forest during the night, the deafening din of a battle, etc)." In some cases, such as in the War Room, atmosphere was created with audio only and during production, sounds were recorded using proprietary mic techniques (e.g. for outdoor environments and with antique instruments) and underwent psycho-acoustical processing to increase the audio effects’ impact.

3D computer graphics were also used to reconstruct stereoscopic environments recreating the Etruscans’ evolution from villages to towns. The most important Etruscan archaeological sites were reconstructed for the exhibition and a two-minute animation was produced to enable a virtual visit, with HD stereoscopic rendering giving great realism and depth to the images. The projection features a DVD with a video produced by Medialogos and specially encoded for viewing using customized 3D personal display system i-glasses and aD-1999E unit with an IR sensor triggering the video when visitors enter the room.

Also in on the creative aspects of the multimedia project from the outset, Renaissance Sound Technologies developed Dolby Digital ‘immersive audio environments’ for several rooms. Working with a range of Olidata DVD players and Turbosound Impact 50 and 110 Subs, all powered by dB Technologies 100+100 amps, the company have added a much-needed dimension to the exhibition.

RST’s Riccardo Mazza explains: "As well as the actual creative audio aspects and finding the ideal balance between ancient art and cutting-edge technology, our work also involved historical research - in the War Room for instance, this regarded combat techniques, types of weapons, numbers of soldiers in formations, etc, to make the battle setting realistic without exaggerating it."

Standing in the centre of this room in front of a chariot surrounded by helmets, swords and shields, visitors find themselves in the midst of a battle - clashing swords, terrified horses, chariots thundering back and forth. The result is so impressive that key press agencies have opened their news bulletins on the exhibition mentioning the effectiveness of the sound effects.

The intent of the Writing Room is to bring the Etruscans’ mysterious language back to life. Researchers have reached the probable pronunciation of Etruscan word

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