The Heineken Experience at the Heineken Brewery

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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A new Heineken Experience opened at the historic Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam at the beginning of December 2008. Designed and produced by BRC Imagination Arts, the re-designed visitor experience makes extensive use of specially produced high definition video programmes. Electrosonic’s UK office was appointed by BRC, www.brcweb.com, as its principal sub-contractor for audio-visual systems integration.

The re-designed visitor experience seeks to draw its audience deep into the world of Heineken. Simulation rides and interactive kiosks give visitors a stronger understanding of Heineken’s history, the brewing process and much more.

Electrosonic utilized high definition display and surround sound technology to encapsulate the visitor in a life like environment. Standout examples include “Raised by the World” which features eight synchronized screens that envelop the audience with high definition video and sound. The world bar features an interactive virtual environment. Projected “virtual beer mats” appear whenever a visitor puts down his or her glass. The “Brew U” simulation ride features a high definition film on a 3 meter wide screen accompanied by 5.1 surround sound. The ride places the audience on a platform that shakes, rattles and rolls as they undergo the complete brewing process.

Working with BRC, Electrosonic was responsible for the engineering, supply and commissioning of the main audio and video systems including:

• An International Welcome display that illustrates the spread of Heineken’s international activities diagrammatically, with the help of thirteen 12 inch LCD monitors.


Spanning 16 meters, this dimensional world map combines light, materials and media to dramatically introduce visitors
to the global character of the Heineken brand.

• In an area themed as a traditional Amsterdam Bar visitors view a show called “Born in Amsterdam” where they learn about the origins and development of Heineken since its founding in 1863. The presentation is informal, apparently given by a genial barman standing behind the bar. Two large (3m wide) rear projection screens are built into the set, and the show plays from two synchronized high definition video players. It is accompanied by high quality multi-channel sound that both ensures correct location of the voice, and creates the appropriate ambience.


The "Born in Amsterdam" presentation shows a barman describing the origins of the Heineken company behind
the bar. Two 3m wide rear projection screen carrying high definition images are built in to the set
.

• Several exhibits feature live presenters. Sound forms an important part of the Heineken Experience, with appropriate ambient sounds being delivered to all areas. Where live presenters are involved, a local control “ducks” the ambient sound when the presenter is speaking. When visitor traffic is heavy, guides use a lavalier wireless microphone to ensure everyone can hear properly.

• Visitors enjoy the “Brew U” simulation ride, where they undergo the complete brewing process, from being mashed up as barley, boiled up with water, fermented, stored and bottled. In order to accommodate peak visitor flow there are three near-identical installations. Each one consists of a space dominated by a 3m wide screen. This presents a high definition film accompanied by full 5:1 surround sound, and a raft of special effects including lighting and water spray. The audience stands on a platform which provides the requisite “shake, rattle and roll” that is particularly effective when you (as the now brewed beer) proceed through the bottling plant.


The "Beer Tunnel" surrounds visitors with images of beer sloshing about on the walls and the ceiling.

• Raised by the World, a fast paced presentation shown on eight screens that surround the audience. It shows the impact of the Heineken brand in countries all round the world, using footage from many sources. Four high definition players, each feeding two screens playback the show. A lot of the original material is, for historical reasons, standard definition, but is up-converted for playback. The audience can enjoy the show on the comfortable seating, and at the same time admire the amazing ceiling which is entirely composed of Heineken bottles.


"Raised by the World" is a 360 degree media projection lounge which the visitors enter through the “Beer Tunnel.”
An organic and illuminated ceiling sculpture is comprised of thousands of Heineken bottles.

• “Innovation Station” shows how Heineken has always led with innovative ideas in respect of both its products and its brand.

• Near the end of the tour, visitors once again get a chance to taste the product in the “World Bars”; one of these includes a pouring demonstration. Video cameras allow visitors to get a close-up view on the LCD monitors near the bar. The main spaces are surrounded by a frieze of LCD monitors that show city panoramas from around the world – all in high definition. In the centre of the rooms interactive bar tables have back projected images that match the theme of the main displays, but also include “virtual beer mats” that appear wherever a visitor puts down his or her glass.

Teamwork

Electrosonic’s UK office was responsible for the engineering, supply and commissioning of the main audio and video systems. However, installation was carried out by local company Mansveld. Some items from the “old” Experience, for example the video system for the Gallery viewing chairs, which had also been supplied by Mansveld, were carried over into the new show.

The interactive displays were developed by the companies Alterface and Bitmove. All video media and sound tracks were produced by BRC Imagination Arts.

Technology

All audio and video source equipment is rack mounted. In order to improve access and minimize cable runs, there are three control rooms. However, it is possible to monitor the status of the entire system from any one of them.

The whole system is under network control, both in respect of operation and system monitoring. In one neat touch, Electrosonic provided a “snapshot” facility for control of the main projectors. This stores all the projector settings so that, if a projector has to be replaced, the unique settings for a particular projector position can be instantly downloaded. This feature is particularly useful in “Raised in the World”, where the effect of the green bottle ceiling is to require a special colour balance for some of the screens.