BPCL Experience Centre, India

The BPCL Experience Centre won the inaugural Experience Centre Project category at the Inavate APAC Awards 2021. The end user, creatives and integrator walk us through every aspect of the facility.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) is an Indian government-owned oil and gas explorer and producer. Tracing its roots back to 1871, BPCL has a long and storied history and it aimed to highlight its journey to the masses.

Abbas Akhtar, who heads brand and public relations for BPCL, explains why BPCL chose to establish an experience centre: “The objective of the Experience Centre is to communicate an encapsulated message of the grand nation-building saga of BPCL, a Maharatna energy conglomerate in India. Like a virtual time travel machine, we wanted to trace the history of oil in India from its early days till recent time and showcase the extraordinary legacy of the company, leveraging an assortment of cutting-edge digital technology, exquisite exhibit space as well as BPCL’s glorious history and growth.”

Once the decision to create an experience centre was made, BPCL started work. Abbas narrates: “We deep dived into our archive, chronicling BPCL’s journey through the years. BPCL has a long and illustrious history, with a nationwide spread of activities. Therefore, we reached out to our employees and channel partners to share artefacts and anecdotes, which was a mammoth task. We also reached out to the archives of National Film Division of India and leading national news publications for media coverage of BPCL’s activities. Once the content was curated, we had to choose the exact stories which represented a significant moment in time for BPCL or a paradigm shift at that moment in history.”

MPS Interactive, a creative agency, and Sigma AVIT were brought onboard to handle the content and flow of the experience centre, and the integration and deployment of technology respectively.

A representative of the leadership team from MPS Interactive talks about the starting phase of the project: “In the initial period, before work on the project started, our job was to understand BPCL’s requirements and work closely with the BPCL team to understand their vision and then discover how we could translate it to reality.”

The curated archive of content created by BPCL provided direction. Rohini Gupta, senior director of content design at MPS Interactive, adds: “It wasn’t just about putting content on screen but understanding the story that needed to be told. We first had to take a deep dive into the content and resources that we were provided with. Only then could we start to even think about how to organise the space, look at the choreography of the experience centre and start to consider the content and the hardware.”

BPCL also provided direction in terms of technology features for the Experience Centre. The representative from the leadership team at MPS Interactive details: “We had a blank canvas to work with, but we definitely took the input from BPCL onboard. For example, they really wanted augmented reality and 360-degrees projection to be a part of the storytelling, so we made sure to incorporate these into our design. Through collaboration the plans for the project began to take shape.”

Once the designs were finalised, Sigma AVIT came in to handle the hardware side of the project. Giri Prasad, general manager for projects and services at Sigma AVIT, says: “We have worked with MPS Interactive on previous experience centres, so we were comfortable when we joined the project. MPS conveyed the entire flow of the project and mapped out the journey and detailed what was expected in the different zones of the experience centre so for us it was a matter of delivering on their requirements.”

He continues: “Certain technology aspects of the project were evident from the start. We knew that we needed 4K displays and transmission because content is trending towards higher resolutions. We knew that touch functionality would be required to create interactivity for the visitor. On the audio side, we knew we needed localised audio to create that intimate experience for the visitor in particular parts of the experience centre. There was a requirement to have control for the technology. With these directions we were confident that we would be able to deliver the systems that were needed.”

The Welcome Area is the point of entry for the BPCL Experience Centre. Giri details: “We have a Panasonic ultra-short throw projector projecting onto a curved wall to welcome the visitor to the BPCL Experience Centre. The content and the display set the tone for the whole journey that is to come and fills the visitor with excitement. What is interesting is the fact that this curved wall is convex, not concave, and this brought up a unique set of challenges with regards to geometric correction for the projection. We worked hard with the Panasonic software to achieve the perfect display.”

Why choose projection to greet visitors? Rohini explains: “The Welcome Area is a part of the Journey Zone which has four elements, so the space is quite content dense. We didn’t want the visitor to be overwhelmed with sensory overload right at the start, so we decided to go with projection on a convex wall which is very different and unique. We did consider options such as LED, but felt that LED would be too high impact for the experience that we were trying to create.”

Screen Goo is used on the curved wall to make it a surface suitable for projection.

QSC speakers paired with QSC amplifiers with Biamp Nexia DSP handling processing duties provide audio across the BPCL Experience Centre.

Next, we enter the BPCL Journey Zone and Giri explains the experience that has been created: “An aspect that was required for the BPCL Journey Zone was that at any given moment there could be three different content blocks on the three displays in portrait mode. This meant that the audio from the displays would have to match the content each was displaying. Now, we could have used ceiling speakers or the audio capabilities of the display itself but that would mean that the audio would bleed over across the three displays. To solve this, we used Holosonics speakers because they have a distinct, conical audio spread that we could localise to a designated place. This means that visitors standing in front of a display get to hear the audio for that particular content block without intruding on the experience of others.”

Continuing the journey, we come to Facets of BPCL, an area that presents the contemporary story of the company. The area provides seating and content can be viewed on a two-by-two videowall comprising thin bezel Samsung displays. Audio comes from ceiling speakers and the system is operated via Crestron control and an iPad.

Giri says: “We wanted a particular size, the 110-in diagonal, and that was easily achievable with the LCD videowall. This option also allows us to provide a nice mix and blend of different displays. And we have the option to experiment. The two-by-two videowall can actually show four different pieces of content and this is something that can possibly be explored in the future.”

Completing the Facets of BPCL segment of the Experience Centre is an interactive, touch display which links with social media to give visitors a chance to engage directly with BPCL.

The proceeding space, Reimaging BPCL, looks towards the future. This space features an augmented reality deployment comprising a two-by-one LCD videowall together with creative content and Apple iPads. The representative from the leadership team of MPS Interactive expands: “We decided to employ augmented reality in the Reimagining BCPL part of the experience centre to bring to life the Mumbai refinery. BPCL wanted the content to really take the visitor to the refinery. So, the content, which is a 2D layout of Mumbai Refinery has specific patterns embedded into it. When viewed through one of the six iPads we have provided, it gets into 3D view of the refinery, along with more related content on the tablet.”

Giri adds: “For the augmented reality displays we created customised touch frames from EIS to enable touch functionality. The custom frames have been designed to be robust and also easily serviceable.”

Rounding out the journey is a custom projection dome that immerses visitors in content. On the backend, MPS Interactive has provided a CMS system and the representative from the leadership team of MPS Interactive says: “The provided CMS allows multiple configs and presets have been programmed for curating the journey. For example, if a minister or a VIP visits, the journey can be activated by selecting the right preset. The content responds accordingly.”

Video transmission across the BPCL Experience Centre is accomplished via Lightware HDBaseT transmitters and receivers. Giri explains the selection: “We knew from the start that we wanted 4K video transmission and we decided to go with Lightware HDBaseT transmitters and receivers to accomplish this. HDBaseT provides us with stability, and we have a relationship with Lightware having used their products for multiple projects. There was also the fact that this project was delivered at the height of Covid-19 restrictions, so availability of products dictated our selection to a certain extent. And this was also the time when the geopolitical situation in India meant that the provenance and origin of products was being scrutinised, so we had to make sure that the products we selected complied with the directives from the government.”

Abbas concludes: “Taking a trip down the memory lane of the rich history of BPCL is a profound experience, which is made even more thrilling by our intricately crafted one-of-a-kind BPCL Experience Centre in our corporate office. Entering the astounding place is like walking into a virtual ‘time travel machine’ that magically transport the visitor to a glorious bygone era on a voyage to witness and experience the enthralling journey of Bharat Petroleum in its present and previous avatars. Here the visitor is not just a passive viewer but is pulled into the ambience of the journey depicted, thus making the voyage an unforgettable experience that is a feast for the senses and a delight to the mind.”

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