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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta

Feb 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Staff Report

Fortifying Event Function Space


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The Georgia Aquarium, which opened in 2005, is the world's largest facility of its kind and features more than 100,000 animals representing 500 species from around the planet in more than 8 million gallons of fresh and marine water. The original audio and video installation — from a paging system to the video, interactive, background, and ballroom audio and control components of the aquarium's five galleries and 4D theater — were installed by Electrosonic Systems in 2005.

While an aquarium's appeal lies in its exotic animals and savvy exhibits, having a ballroom and a meeting room was vital to the aquarium's sustained success for hosting fundraising events, sponsor-related meetings, and educational conferences. These spaces have also become popular venues for outside business and personal events. Baker Audio of Norcross, Ga., recently participated in a major improvement project at the aquarium that included an expansion of the Oceans Ballroom prefunction space.

The more than 7000-square-foot expansion of the Oceans Ballroom included the creation of an elegant entrance that would act as a prefunction space. Additionally, green rooms, coat checks, and meeting/conference rooms were expanded and upgraded. The new prefunction space for the Oceans Ballroom needed to be versatile so it could also serve as an event space. For that reason, the room needed local inputs that could connect into the audio system.

“We were looking for a high-tech audio solution with a look that fit with the classiness of the new Oceans Ballroom expansion,” says Jerry Harris, the audiovisual director of the Georgia Aquarium, adding that custom cable connection panels from Wireworks were crucial to the project's success. “Wireworks' solution met our needs technically and provided a sharp-looking interface.”

The audio was divided into six zones: the common area, interior hallway, exterior hallway, conference room, and two green rooms. The common area has 24 suspended Tannoy Di6 DCT loudspeakers and six microphone/line-input plates (four wall-mounted and two in-floor boxes). An operator can choose between the existing background music feed, mic/line input, a wireless handheld, and a wireless headset unit. Source selection and volume control is selected via a wall-mounted Biamp Volume/Select 8 control unit.

The interior hallway is equipped with 12 ceiling Tannoy CMS601 loudspeakers, while the exterior hallway has six ceiling Tannoy CMS601 loudspeakers. The conference room is also equipped with two ceiling Tannoy CMS601 loudspeakers. An operator can choose between the existing background-music feed or the banquet hall source, which allows the operator to feed audio from the prefunction space to the nearby conference room, lobby, and green room. The green room also has two ceiling-mounted Tannoy CMS601 loudspeakers. The audio system will allow a paging override from the existing facility, and for added safety, the fire alarm will automatically override the audio system in the event of a fire. The head-end equipment is housed in a Middle Atlantic DWR-16-22PD wall-mounted rack located in the common area.

Baker Audio selected Wireworks LumaVue panels for the audio system input because of the panel's modern style and functionality. The LumaVue panels were placed throughout the ballroom to provide flexible inputs for DJs, bands, and/or microphones. The plates were also customized with the Georgia Aquarium's logo at the aquarium's request — a typical request for WireWorks.

“Frequently, the technology used in themed spaces detracts from the visual design,” says Peter Shiplett, systems design engineer at Baker Audio. “However, the LumaVue panels added to the look of the space, while offering the connection reliability and durability that Wireworks is known for. The first time I came across the Wireworks multicable products was at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Since then, I've used the multicable products when I worked at audio reinforcement provider Promix in New York, for Broadway rentals, and for concert events. Now, at Baker Audio, I design audio and video systems and have been using the Wireworks cabling and connection systems for many projects.”

The aquarium is no stranger to using today's technology to enhance the experience of its visitors. Baker Audio is currently in the process of completing an installation that will allow divers inside a 6.3-million-gallon water exhibit — called the Ocean Voyager — to communicate directly with guests. The primary challenge of the installation, which is part of the aquarium's Event Dive Program, is to capture the diver's voice underwater. Because the valves in the diver's mouthpiece create noise when air is transferred, the noise conflicts with capturing the diver's voice with a microphone.


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