Wired for News
Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart
Onsite for the opening of the Newseum.
It had an AV budget that few museums can command — a healthy percentage of the project's $450 million budget, consumed by hundreds of loudspeakers and screens, 100 miles of fiber-optic cable, nearly 200 racks, and enough broadcast equipment to run a broadcast studio — two, actually. While other museums use AV to tell a story of history, nature, or man, the Newseum artifacts are made of audio and video; future artifacts will certainly be made of similar stuff. And like all things, the business plan for museums has to evolve and change, so the Newseum's AV plan was not all about history — it was also designed to be a living venue for tomorrow's news.
All this was in evidence in mid-April; the day before the doors opened to the public, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker had broadcast their press conference from the studio at the center of the Newseum's third level (of seven). The studio, which seats a mid-sized audience, is also designed so that it can be observed in action from several floors of the museum through the glass walls.
The next day, more than 2,000 people passed through the museum doors and fanned out among the seven stories of exhibits and theaters. That night, nearly as many invited guests mingled against a backdrop of audio, video, and one of the largest and highest-resolution LED walls in the world.
Let's pause for a tip of the hat to the acoustic designer Steve Haas of SH Acoustics. The first 24 hours of operation demonstrated just how well he had done his job in a soaring, acoustically unforgiving space in thousands and thousands of square feet of glass and concrete envisioned by Polshek Partnership Architects.
Overall credit must also go to the museum's main systems integrators — Electrosonic did the systems design, integration, and installation on the AV side, including a sophisticated 80-zone PA system; Communications Engineering (CEI) served on the broadcast side (CEI also did integration for the 90ft.-long video news wall in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater). Designer Ralph Appelbaum made sophisticated use of AV in some 26 galleries/exhibit areas and 15 theaters, and the Newseum's VP of Technology Jim Updike — a former broadcast engineer — had high standards for the functionality of the systems. All together, it was one of the most extensive systems integration jobs in the world.
A cornerstone of the AV system was Peavey MediaMatrix Nion digital sound processing with a mixture of QSC and Crown amplifiers. Key video sources were Doremi Nugget HD video media players and Adtec edje encoders for SD.
Here is a sampling of the breadth of environments and some of the challenges:
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