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Multimedia Network at the National World War II Museum, Part 2

Jul 26, 2010 12:00 PM

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Editor's note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes Timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the Timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

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Multimedia Network at the National World War II Museum, Part 1
It's a total century emersion in World War II combat. The sights, sounds and even the feeling of the fighting comes alive at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans...

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans features the high-tech Solomon Victory Theater where the audience witnesses jungle combat, sea battles, and an atomic bomb in the multimedia show called Beyond All Boundaries. Museum Tech Director Paul Parrie takes us behind the scenes for a look at the museum's next-generation AV system.

Paul, thanks for being back for part two. In part one, we were talking about the Solomon Victory Theater and the National World War II Museum, where you're in charge of all the technical elements. What I wanted to get into on this part is how you get the audio going and some of the lighting. What sort of audio system do you have there? Describe it for me a little.
Paul Parrie:
Sure. The main audio for the main show plays off of an Alesis hard drive—that's a 24-track. That was actually mixed; the show came to us on the media unmixed, so we got the audio flat. We brought [an Avid] ProTools rig in; we had a drop specifically built into the theater, in the middle of the theater, where the audio sweet spot is. And we actually mixed the show in the theater, so it's mixed specifically for this venue. There's 27 speakers in the theater: 11 in the front of the theater, four surround-sound speakers on the side walls—on each of the side walls, there are four surround-sound speakers on the back wall, there's some overhead speakers and some subwoofers that are mounted up in the catwalk. So there's a lot of sound in the theater. That's all distributed via a Peavey MediaMatrix; which also does some signal processing for us as well. [Timestamp: 1:58]

OK, and you've got QSC amplifiers, I believe, and some Renkus-Heinz PNX series speakers.
Yes we do, yeah. We use QSC 1102s and 702s, depending upon which area we're actually feeding sound into. [Timestamp: 2:12]

You know, the PNX is a great little two-way speaker system.
It's an awesome system. One of the most consistent compliments we get, from a technical perspective, is the amazing quality of the sound ... it sounds good. We spent a lot of extra time and thought in designing the theater. There's 8in. of sound insulation on every surface in that particular room. There's also, you'll notice—if you come into the theater, you notice a lot of wood, slatted woodwork, and that woodwork was designed and placed in such a way to be audio traps so we can cut down on any kind of audio reflections that may result from some of the flat surfaces in the space. [Timestamp: 2:48]

All right, and as we talked about before, you've got this whole World War II half-hour or 40-minute epic that you witness in the show. You've got set pieces that move up and down, you've got all sorts of gears and motors and servos on this stuff. That must be a relatively high-maintenance operation.
It is a lot of work. Again, I have to tip my hat to Electrosonic as well as LA ProPoint—they worked with us. LA ProPoint did the engineering and manufacturing of the actual set pieces and the mechanical parts of it, and Electrosonic did the design and implementation for the actual actions to occur—sending the signals to these different pieces. And we have a really good staff. When I was looking to hire staff, I knew I needed some multitalented people that had experience with sets, that had experience with show action, that had experience with rigging, hydraulics, pneumatics. So we have a little bit of everything in this theater, and it really functions well as long as we keep up with our maintenance and we keep a good eye on it. There's a lot of moving parts in this theater, a lot of heavy pieces. The main curtain itself weighs 1000lbs., so that's a big curtain that we have to move back and forth—twice, three times a show. [Timestamp: 4:02]

Right and you're doing, what, something like seven or eight shows a day?
We do eight shows a day. We also do special showings at night for groups and people who want private showings and whatnot. So I have a staff of a minimum of two technicians for each show. One person works up in the booth, and one person is actually in the theater to ensure that ... the experiences is running as it should as well for personal safety for our visitors. [Timestamp: 4:26]

And it's not just, as I mentioned before, a visual and aural experience. When you get to the, I believe it's the Battle of the Bulge, you've got snow, you've got tanks going by, and the seats actually vibrate.
The seats vibrate, and the seats vibrate at different speeds and different intensities depending upon where you are in the show. When the tank comes over, you feel a little bit of vibration. As it's approaching, it gets a stronger as you see the tank move across the screen. During the atomic bomb blast, the seats move really violently—not so violent that you're going to knock anybody off, but it's definite that they're moving. And there's big wind blowing as well—that's supposed to be from the blast wave of the bomb. [Timestamp: 5:06]

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