‘Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950’ at the V&A Museum

Dressing Up London with AV Technology
London, UK

The ‘Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950’ exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum features over sixty gowns designed for private parties, royal balls and state occasions. Designed by external designer Emily Pugh, and equipped with a projection system engineered and installed by Electrosonic, the exhibition uses giant projected images to showcase and celebrate over sixty years of a strong British design tradition.

Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950

The exhibition is spread over two floors in the newly renovated Fashion Galleries; the lower level presents gowns from 1950 to the early 2000s, including Princess Diana’s 1989 ‘Elvis Dress’ designed by Catherine Walker and a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth the Queen Mother; and the upper level displays gowns by contemporary UK-based designers.

The cathedral-like domed space features four big alcoves displaying projected images of specially commissioned photographs by fashion photographer David Hughes. The images appear to float above the exhibition and bring the costumes and the space to life. The size of the images, the need for off-axis projection and the compound curvature of the alcove surfaces made designing the projection system technically complex.

Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950

A pair of stacked WUXGA high brightness projectors equipped with wide angle lenses was required to display an image with the correct size and aspect ratio for each of the four alcoves. The show runs from two computer workstations, each serving four projectors, running a multi-display production and playback system to edge blend and warp the images for mapping onto the alcove shape.

Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950

The production of the video sequences was by Rollo Hollins of FLETCHERWILSON. Exhibit fabrication was by MDM Props Ltd, and overall project management was by Flemming Associates LLP. The temporary exhibition runs through January 2013, after which the flexibly designed projection system will be used to support subsequent exhibitions in the same space.