• Recreating life behind bars

Recreating life behind bars

The use of modern AV technology has brought the prisoners and guards back to the corridors, detention blocks and cells of Faengslet Prison Museum in Horsens, Denmark. 

From tussles between prisoners on the gangways, to the clanging of heavy cell doors, to the distinct smell of cannabis drifting down the cell block, the Museum has so faithfully recreated the sights, sounds and smells of prison life that visitors will feel the closure in 2006 never actually happened.

Visitors to the Museum choose an identity card at the start of their journey, this dictates which of the eight carefully chosen stories they are told. Each of the eight is either a former prisoner, guard or member of support staff, so that repeat visitors view the exhibit through different eyes each time.

The stories range from problems related to drugs to the despised weekly fish-day. There are a number of furnished cells where visitors can explore and try prison for a moment. You can inspect the cells for hidden graffiti, take in the sights and smells of the prison kitchen or even take a closer look round the prison medical bay.

“When you walk around, you meet each person eight times, telling their special history. People love it, because we have brought life back to the prison,” said Anne Bjerrekær, Prison Museum Director. “When people leave they know much more about prison life.”

Central to the multi-sensory experience are the 56 Panasonic projectors, which help create shadows through the halls and the sight of heavy set prisoners in the toilet blocks.

The majority of these are Solid Shine™ laser projectors. A total of 45 PT-RW330EJ projectors are placed throughout the prison.

Solid Shine™ projectors were chosen due to impressive brightness and contrast levels but also because of the no maintenance concept which means they will run for up to seven years without the need for filter or light source replacement.

Conventional projector lamps run at 100% of their power requirement, which means producing 100% of the brightness, regardless of the brightness of the image they are projecting.  Laser diodes on the other hand are dimmable light sources. They will use 100% power only when full brightness is needed. As a result, they consume less power and last much longer.

Many are hidden within cupboards and placed vertically above doors, which is made possible by the laser light source optical engine. Laser projectors can be rotated 360 degrees for installation at any angle and emit virtually no heat, allowing various unique and smart applications.

“We wanted to create exhibits that weren’t intrusive, so that it’s not obvious to visitors where the content is coming from,” said Mads Havemann, Exhibition Designer, Kvorning Design & Communication. “To achieve this it was important that we could mount the projectors discreetly. The Panasonic Laser/LED projectors have coped with any mounting position we chose and, because they emit little heat and are virtually silent, they have helped maintain the atmosphere, even in confined spaces such as the cells.”

The journey begins in the prison reception area. Three arresting archways with traditional bars create a frame in which eight Panasonic short throw projectors create a shadow show against the far wall. Prison guards accompany handcuffed prisoners along the corridor. It’s a simple, yet effective technique that is used throughout the museum and was filmed using former inmates and staff, giving it a genuine feel. 

Inside, one of the most fascinating tales is that told by Sonny Rasmussen, a former prisoner turned museum guide, whose imposing frame is placed around the museum using life size projection. He recounts amusing stories about his time as the prison go-to-guy for contraband, regretful stories of his time in solitary confinement and emotional stories about missing his children grow up. Each is presented cleverly using the high brightness PT-RW330EJ, with the brightness and contrast creating lifelike images, even when subjected to the natural light that fills the prison.

On one occasion he recounts these tales sitting on a wooden desk within a cell block, designers have used digital mapping so that his virtual image appears perched on top of an actual desk. A similar technique is used in the shower block where his frame, somewhat menacingly, fills a tiled wall. 

The exhibitions were designed by Kvorning Design & Communication and integrated by AV-Huset.

Lasse Werner, Key Account Manager at AV-Huset, said, “Of particular benefit to the museum is the fit and forget nature of the Panasonic Solid Shine™ projectors. There is no full time technical support on-site, so it’s great to be able to fit projectors that we know will last for up to seven years without the need for maintenance.”