Tower View

An interactive installation featuring stories and live views from the historic California Tower
  • Client:
    The Museum of Man, San Diego
  • Services:
    Concept, Design, Development, Video Production, Photography, IT Services
  • Funder:
    The Legler Benbough Foundation

Tower View provides a sweeping interactive experience that allows everyone, regardless of ability or limitations, to explore the California Tower without ever leaving the ground. At the base of the Tower, visitors are immersed in majestic live 4k video panoramas displayed in ultra high definition across a 78 inch curved LCD screen. A simple touch interface allows you to select live views to the north, south, east and west, as well as time-lapse and tilt-shift views. A companion touchscreen features a suite of videos with rich contextual information.

After 80 years, one of San Diego’s most beautiful and enduring landmarks has reopened to the public. The California Tower at the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park includes stunning 360° panoramic views of Balboa Park, the mountains to the east, the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the West, and the gorgeous California coastline to the north. A Tower tour guide provides visitors with insights into the unique history, architecture and cultural significance of the iconic building. The tour also comes with a steep 125 foot climb, which includes a tightly-wound, nearly-vertical spiral staircase, and is limited to 12 climbers per hour. Due to space requirements and physical limitations, there are many people who would love to experience the breathtaking views from the California Tower, but are unable to do so.

The fascinating history and context of the California Tower adds richness and depth to the tour; those stories are showcased in the Tower View experience as well. BPOC produced seven topical videos, featuring expert voices and rich archival footage: the planning and construction of the Tower for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, San Diego’s bid for the 1915 Exposition, the Tower’s Spanish Colonial architecture, the construction of the California Building, the value of this historical landmark to the City of San Diego, and the electric carillon, which plays the music that can be heard every 15 minutes throughout Balboa Park. A 46-inch touch screen allows visitors to select and view each video as they wish.

A 4k high-resolution video camera (with its weatherproof mount open) points west, toward the ocean.

Technical Details

BPOC leveraged a range of in-house expertise, off-the-shelf hardware and open-source software on this project. BPOC IT staff networked four 4k weatherproof cameras with a fiber connection down the Tower and into a Mac Pro in the gallery space. VLC displays each stream and video in its own virtual desktop, while node.js, HTML5, and Applescript allow the iPad to switch views. The video touch screen is a custom HTML5 application. All photography, video capture, editing and post-production was coordinated and completed by BPOC. Screens, mounts and UI meet ADA accessibility standards.