The latest phase in the development of Flagship Portsmouth, home to Nelson’s Victory, has been completed by Sarner International. Mike Mann reports.

The project, which involved several months of in-depth research, in collaboration with the Victory’s curators and crew, led to the installation of a shore-based ‘mood theatre’, which takes a personal view of the battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 - Nelson’s greatest, and final, triumph.

Using Alcorn McBride control and playback systems, Sarner’s David Dempsey, Ross Magri and John Griffin devised a four-scene experience, with an independently-controlled waiting area and several interactive elements. David Dempsey explained that in the case of the Victory Gallery, technology was used to make the story of Trafalgar more accessible, without trivialising this pivotal piece of naval history. "There was a huge amount that we had to leave out of the experience - but as both creative and technical people, we had to make sure that we didn’t ‘dumb down’ the story. We couldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Victory Gallery is a platform for educating people, rather than technology for its own sake."

Colin White, the museum’s deputy director and Peter Goodwyn, curator of the Victory herself, were keen to depict the human side of naval warfare, as well as presenting the strategic overview. To this end, individual mannequins were commissioned to man the replica cannons in the gallery’s ‘gun deck’; stock models were deemed inadequate, and members of the Victory crew posed for photographs at an original gun, so that Sarner’s modelmakers could show the extraordinary strength and stamina required to take part in a day-long sea battle.

New video footage, which is projected in the ‘Briefing Room’ (set on the deck of an English warship) was shot onboard the Victory in Portsmouth harbour, and to involve all the sensory organs, custom-mixed aromas have been introduced, such as Copenhagen tar (used for ‘caulking’ the hulls of wooden vessels) and spent gunpowder, provided by Fred Dale Air Conditioning. Audio content is a mixture of voice-over and effects, played from a pair of MPEG 2 video servers and an Alcorn McBride PCMCIA-based Bin Loop unit. Other controlled elements include motorised screens, replica cannons and all connecting doors.David Dempsey points out that the Victory Gallery was the first of three armed services projects undertaken by Sarner; since its completion the company has received commissions at the RAF Museum in London and the Army Museum.

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