Visual Productions in control at Origins Centre
Monday, 10 May 2021
originsThe museum has an extensive collection of stone tools, fossils and rock art, all interwoven with technology (photo: Duncan Riley)
South Africa - For curious minds intrigued by anthropology, archaeology and the San people, the oldest residents of South Africa, the Origins Centre Museum at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, has an extensive collection of stone tools, fossils and rock art, all interwoven with technology.
Since opening its door in 2005 Gavin Olivier of Digital Fabric has been intricately involved in the museum, recently installing a Visual Productions system to centralise lighting control via a single button, but which has delivered more than expected.
Having spent the last two years in Dubai on Expo 2020, Olivier of Digital Fabric, a company that specialises in heritage work and attractions internationally, was pleased to be back at one of his earliest installations. “I never really stopped going to Origins,” he says. “I was part of the original team, working as an audiovisual consultant with project director Francis Gerard of Totem Media. Like most things, museums rely on funding, and since then, we’ve returned several times to assist with small upgrades to keep the system running.”
Olivier is affectionately referred to as a ‘friend of the museum’ by Duncan Riley of DWR Distribution. “When it comes to Origins, we typically do more than our core business, but the current team running the museum are outstanding. While Origins is close to my heart, it’s also good for my soul. In this instance, aside from the AV and lighting, we have rebuilt many of the display cases, including dress panels, conservation standards, object mounting, and labelling”
The new Visual Productions system, supplied by DWR Distribution, comprises one Cuecore2, five IOcore’s, one RDM Splitter, and three B-Stations with the aim to reinstate a centralised lighting control approach, one of the elements that had died over the years. “The staff was having to chase around the museum, turning switches off or sometimes leaving lights on, which in turn created further maintenance issues,” Olivier explains. “The idea was to give them a single button point to start and end the day but thanks to the flexibility of the system, we have given them additional functionality as well.”
One of the ways museums survive, and this is true globally, is to offer their space as a venue for events. “Even if museums can’t always provide the best conference facility (in the usual sense), they certainly provide one the most interesting spaces,” says Olivier. “Origins is very good at selling the concept of hosting small meetings, conferences, or lectures in a beautiful and unusual setting, and it’s an important part of keeping the museum alive.”
Using the Visual Productions system, clever circuit separation has come into play. On a normal exhibit day, the display circuits are on, but should the venue be used for a conference, additional tracks can be switched on, the showcase displays switched off and the lighting focused above the seating area, all at the touch of a button.
The system also integrates the control of a new moving Robe SPOTE fixture in the largest of the spaces in the museum, which otherwise would have required a separate controller. The SPOTE is used as a presenter spotlight, with pre-programmed positions and colours.
The Visual Productions system has also been integrated with the museum’s AV systems using UDP, it accepts triggers from the video players to dim the lights at the start of a film, returning to the previous light scene when the film ends.

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