Landscapes OF Neolithic China

Produced in 2015, this 360-degree projection is an impactful introduction to Field Museum’s Cyrus Tang Hall of China, an exhibition featuring over 5,000 years of Chinese history and culture. Suspended above the casework, the media immerses visitors in Neolithic landscapes, demonstrating both their vastness and diversity. 

Greg Mercer was lead media producer and Taylor Peterson was project manager within the Field Museum team that created this exhibition.

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Challenge:

Transport visitors to real, ancient landscapes

 

1: Communicate the message visually

The experience’s main goal is to make visitors feel as though they are standing in Neolithic China while fore-fronting “there is no one China”. Feeling that narration or too much text would detract from its transportive effect, the team conceptualized four 360-degree contemplative scenes punctuated by shorter moments featuring the message. Because most of these undisturbed sites no longer exist, the team utilized photo-real renderings.

 

2: Create accurate environments

The team worked closely with a scientific illustrator and the Field’s curatorial staff to create the scenes. Even their orientations are authentic: the view to the west in the Taklamakan Desert depicts a sunset and the Yellow River flows in the appropriate direction. 

3: Bring the landscapes to life

To augment the illustrations, the team integrated elements of realism and movement. This was achieved by meticulously layering the compositions to enable the integration of live action footage, such as a Bactrian camel turning its head, and custom animation for elements like desert heat waves and moving cloud shadows across the plateau.

 

4: A seamless blend of physical and digital design

Throughout the process, the team prototyped both the layout and media program to shape a final design that gives visitors the option to engage with the landscapes, explore object content, or shift back and forth. Anchoring the gallery is a topographic map that spotlights the location of each scene as it appears above. Subtle lighting and audio cues announce program shifts and enhance the atmospheric quality.