Discover the miniature world in the heart of Hamburg’s warehouse district
Who can’t relate to the fascination of model railroads? In the heart of Hamburg’s historic warehouse district, you will find a miniature world with big things to discover: Miniatur Wunderland. Working on behalf of Google and Miniatur Wunderland, we have brought this mini world (which was built to a scale of 1:87) to life on Street View and made it accessible to an even larger audience on a microsite. From the development of the photographic technique and the execution of the photo shoot through to concept development and design for the microsite, we were responsible for the entire project.
Discover the world’s largest model railroad with Street View
Who can’t relate to the fascination of model railroads? In the heart of Hamburg’s historic warehouse district, you will find a miniature world with big things to discover: Miniatur Wunderland. Here, the world’s largest model railroad stretches over an area measuring 1,300 square meters. 930 trains travel across a network of tracks spanning more than 13 kilometers. Every year, more than one million visitors of all ages marvel at self-propelled cars and ships in Scandinavia and watch the planes take off from Knuffingen Airport. Here at Ubilabs, we are also huge fans of the exceptionally detailed scenes featuring some 230,000 miniature figures – scenes that lead visitors into a world full of surprises.
With the Google Street View Project “Miniatur Wunderland,” we managed to bring this fascinating world to an even larger audience. From the development of the photographic technique and the execution of the photo shoot through to concept development and design for the microsite, we were responsible for the entire project.
Street View in Miniatur Wunderland: a long-held dream
We have spent seven years grappling with the question of how we can showcase Hamburg’s most popular attraction and make it accessible to an even larger audience. At the beginning, the technology wasn’t sophisticated enough to create attractive 360° panoramas on such a small scale. In 2015, however, the time had come – and we were able to execute this globally unique Street View project on behalf of Google and Miniatur Wunderland.
Technology developed in-house – and countless night shifts
The fact that this miniature realm is built to a scale of 1:87 confronted us with new technical challenges. Not only did the cameras have to be just as small as the models themselves, but the distances for the automated shots had to be just right, down to the millimeter. “Precision” was therefore our watchword. A team from Ubilabs completed some 600 hours of night shifts together with employees of Miniatur Wunderland – just to get the photos right. Their efforts resulted in more than 10,000 panoramic images, around 2,500 of which can be viewed at the microsite we designed and built. We spent two months before the start of the project carrying out experiments in order to find the right technique and develop a method for shooting the photos automatically.
When selecting the technology, the main challenge was finding a camera and a compatible software program that could handle both this small-scale environment and the lighting. Thanks to a partnership with TomShot360, a manufacturer of panoramic tripod heads, we managed to achieve the desired level of quality.
Extended train journeys through alpine landscapes
We also created bus and train journeys, which constituted the greatest challenge (these are shown with a corresponding icon on the microsite). Using two cameras attached to a train or a bus, we took six photos per stop – three from the front camera and three from the back camera. These were then elaborately edited and digitally enhanced in an automated process.
The viewer can use a keyboard, mouse, or touch pad to navigate their way around the Swiss Alps and take in the view from a train – or even drive around the city of Knuffingen. Whether enjoying one of the tours or admiring the individual images, it’s well worth keeping your eyes peeled, as there are many playful details hidden away in both the street scenes and the idyllic upland landscapes. These details reveal themselves everywhere, from Scandinavia and the US through to Knuffingen Airport: cows, for example, mingle with the crowd at an open-air DJ Bobo concert, and the Grim Reaper lies in wait for rafting fans on the Colorado River. Viewers also get a unique insight into the terminal and hangar at Knuffingen Airport, as well as Hamburg central station. After all, these buildings normally have a roof.