Enhancing atmosphere - transforming space on board superyachts with technology

21 January 2015 • Written by Rebecca Cahilly

The lights dim, the dining room is hushed, a chill fills the air and suddenly, hovering above the table and its stunned guests is a wispy, billowing cloud. Not a hologram, not a prop, but a real nimbus cloud. The guests sit for a moment, transfixed in their chairs before reaching for their phones and cameras to capture the anomaly. Is it a ghost? An apparition? Before long the cloud dissipates, leaving the guests to their coffee and dessert in animated commentary.

ransforming a superyacht's interior styling with a cloud formation is the next step in interior design enhancements Courtesy Berndnaut Smilde and Ronchini Gallery

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde is the man behind such interior space cloud formations (pictured above). He creates them using a special technique: spraying tiny cold-water droplets into the air, then setting off a fog machine. The fog mixes with the moisture and creates a cloud that will last on its own in an interior space for several seconds.

The dining room scenario above is not reality – just yet – on a yacht, mostly because the location of Smilde’s creations must be cool and damp to create the perfect atmosphere for the water droplets to form and retain its cloud shape. However, it is likely that developments mean it could be recreated aboard yachts in the near future.

Such is the beauty of audio-visual technology – the sky is literally the limit when it comes to enhancing the overall entertainment experience on board and changing the feel of a space. While traditional audio-visual refers to onboard sound systems, televisions and cinemas, today audio-visual extends into the world of fantasy, art and sometimes ceases to be a conduit and becomes the entertainment itself. Year upon year, as mainstream technology progresses, so does onboard technology – and the options that go with it.

No area of a yacht’s structure is off limits when it comes to visual entertainment and onboard lighting tends to be the first area of emphasis for owners looking for the ‘wow’ factor.

The 53.8m superyacht Sea Force One uses lighting and art to create an intimate atmosphere

While the basic technology behind lighting has not changed significantly in recent years, the attitude toward its role has. Lighting is now a vital element of audio-visual technology because it serves to customise the boat, lending to it a particular feel and personality that can change throughout the day and into the night.

The once common scenario of a harbour full of dark yachts alive with sounds of people on board is no longer the norm. Masts of motor or sailing yachts can be illuminated, as can the boat itself, the water beneath it, its pool or spa pool. This creates an exterior mood that suits the onboard event. Link the lighting with the sound system and the boat’s atmosphere is instantly transformed.

Lighting alone can also radically affect the interior of a yacht. One of the most notable examples is Sea Force One (pictured above). Each space aboard this 53.8m motor yacht was designed and outfitted to present a different mood – with the owner aiming to create a vessel that feels alive. ‘Every other boat is just a collection of books, couches, chairs,’ the owner says. ‘Why shouldn’t she have her own biorhythms? So she’s a temptress at 2 am, a princess at 6 am…’

Aboard Sea Force One, while the main deck is dimly lit with dark colours and furnishings – ‘it is introspective, intimate’ says the owner – the upper deck by contrast features a 20,000 watt sound system, as well as many of the 40,000 LEDs and 1,000 spotlights used throughout the boat.

In this space, continues the owner, ‘You get your emotions out, and it’s all about fun.’ Here, the dining table for casual lunches lowers to form a dance floor at night. The entire space transforms into a pulsing disco, aided by the sound and light system as well as a wall of plasma video screens.

No area of a yacht’s structure is off limits when it comes to visual entertainment. Glass panels with television screens can be incorporated into ceilings, walls or floors and can perform a number of functions. Instead of static artwork, the owner of the 45m motor yacht Big Fish opted for a dynamic three-storey video wall featuring 20 46-inch LCD screens that display everything from abstract art to feature films.

On the 50m Heesen motor yacht Man of Steel, a floor of river pebbles under plate glass creates a delicate pathway along a corridor. Each square is illuminated to give the feeling of walking on water over the stones.

The 50m Wally superyacht Better Place is given personality with a custom lighting scheme

Chemically produced smoke or mist can also transform a space. The Californian company Koolfog sees many of its cooling and misting systems implemented into superyachts’ aft decks, not so much for entertainment as for comfort. The mist provides an inviting space to relax outdoors when the weather is hot and sticky. But fog and mist can also provide a visual spectacle, from spooky mist crawling across the deck to fog providing an ethereal background onto which lighting effects such as waterfalls can be displayed. Fog and mist systems can even provide privacy screens to section off certain areas on board a superyacht.

Holograms and 3D imaging have also seen a surge in popularity, often serving as a focal point or a stand-alone art installation. While the technology is not new, it has been refined and is much more realistic. Last year audio-visual company Advanced New Technologies introduced a 3D fireplace to the yacht market. Created as a holographic 3D display, billowing fabric that mimics a flickering flame combines with virtual layers to produce a realistic fire effect in high-definition. The piece is equipped with built-in speakers for custom sound and can be integrated into furniture, while the content and colour of the 3D hologram can be easily changed and customised.

Advanced New Technology's holographic fire can heat up the designs of a superyacht's interior

It is expected that the cinema effects seen on land – a breeze that makes you feel as if you’re outdoors and moving seats, ceilings and walls – will soon find their way into superyacht cinemas as well. But perhaps most significantly, a new breed of screen is expected to replace LED and plasmas. The new 4K television offers four times more resolution than standard quality HD, its ultra high-definition image generated by eight megapixels versus the current two megapixels in HD televisions. This technology is not yet mainstream because like 3D and HD, programs have to be made in that definition – but once on the market it is expected to be beyond anything we’ve seen before.

The superyachting community not only has the resources at its fingertips to push such audio visual technology to new heights, but also access to innovative companies with the expertise and ambition to turn fantasy into reality. Whatever you see in environments such as theme parks, restaurants or cinemas – all of this is technically possible to pull through into superyachts. It’s as clear as day that clouds are not the limit.

Originally published in the  June 2013 issue of ShowBoats (http://estore.boatinternational.com/showboats-international/showboats-69.html)  October 2013 issue of Boat International (http://estore.boatinternational.com/boat-international/boat-international-328.html).

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