Leonardo da Vinci: Genius Immersive Experience opened in January and is the first show hosted at the purpose-built Wriezener Karree in Friedrichshain, Berlin. Produced by Borealis Interactive Group (BIG) and a year in the making, this immersive, interactive art experience invites visitors inside one of the brightest minds that ever existed to feel the power of human creativity, the lightbulb moment of invention and the inner workings of a true genius. Aptly described as ‘Edutainment’ visitors explore Leonardo’s inventions and ideas via state-of-the-art technology, with specially composed music from DJ Sasha transformed into a captivating a 360-degree soundscape by immersive audio specialist, Sonosphere.

The exploration into immersive sound for BIG began with a connection to d&b audiotechnik, who introduced them to their Soundscape system and its ability to place audio objects in a space. “From the beginning, we decided sound would play a really important role in our exhibition,” says Alfonso Losco, Technical Director at BIG. “When we started working with Sasha, he suggested collaborating with Sonosphere as they have expertise in producing electronic music and would be able to give us what we needed to make the soundtrack immersive, as our goal was to have powerful music that envelops the visitor and makes them feel ‘inside’ the experience.”

The audio was split into two distinct areas: music and sound effects. The sound effects were supplied by Klangerfinder in Berlin to be triggered when visitors interacted with the content on the video walls. The content, delivered by disguise video servers, utilised laser scanners to know when people were interacting with the content and then issued OSC commands to a QLab system, which then fired the appropriate spot effect. The same OSC data that fired the effect also informed the d&b Soundscape system where the effect was to be located, with automatic panning to localise each specific effect.

“The music track for the show and any linear sound effects that always happened in the same place were all delivered by Sasha to Sonosphere as a set of stereo stems of each section of the hour-long work,” explains Sonosphere’s Technical Director and Senior Mix Engineer, Phil Wright. “In total, we had around 400 stereo stems to provide enough granularity to do a really effective spatialisation. I chose to work in Atmos because the Soundscape system already had 40 of its 64 inputs taken up with spot effects, and with the number of stems we had, and the amount of automation we wanted to use, 20 or so objects in Soundscape was not going to be enough. So, we made those 20 inputs standard matrixes on the DS100 and then utilised Atmos rendering in 20.0 to output to those loudspeaker positions. Once this was all programmed and configured in the Dolby RMU, we took it it to site.”

Although Sonosphere and Sasha did much of the pre-production work at Sonosphere’s Dolby Atmos studio at Metropolis Studio in London, with a number of last-minute changes to the running order and runtime of the piece, they decided to take an RMU to Berlin and finish the work in situ. Wright also tweaked the Soundscape system to account for the challenging acoustic of the large industrial unit, changing the position of some subwoofers and the infra sub for chest-thumping electronic moments and nuanced classical elements.

“Duncan [Bell, Sonosphere Commercial Director], Jamie [Gosney, Sonosphere Creative Director] and of course Phil, really put our minds at rest when it came to being able to transfer what we were doing in the studio to the venue space,” says DJ Sasha’s studio partner, David Gardner. “Having Phil with us in Berlin was amazing, he understood the music and how to make the most of it in the space.”

“It was incredible to see what the team achieved in the first two days; calibrating, adjusting and positioning all 22 channels around the space,” adds Alfonso. “Whilst our studio created powerful visuals, connecting our work with Sonosphere’s treatement and spatialisation of Sasha’s music offered a unique experience that just exploded with the Soundscape system. We’ve had people who are involved in music production at the exhibition, and they said it was a really immersive experience. It’s not only what you see; if you close your eyes, you can feel the objects around you. It’s like you’re going inside them.”

Genius is BIG’s first interactive exhibition. It is pushing boundaries by combining immersive sound with interactive visuals on the walls and reactivity on the floor, and at different resolutions. As part of the interactive exhibition, there’s a cube in the centre of the room that’s also filled with sound. “I describe that as not a 360 sound but 720, because it’s coming from outside to inside and inside to outside,” Alfonso notes.

Genius has proven a resounding success, so much so that its six-month tenancy in Berlin is being extended and there are plans to take it on tour to other cities around the world.

“The effort from everyone involved, Sonosphere and d&b for the audio, Panasonic who were instrumental for the video projection, and our technical implementors, including Klangerfinder in Berlin, has been phenomenal,” concludes Alfonso. “Thank you to everyone involved. We have created a phenomenal show, now we will make it even bigger!”