Chicago Field Museum of Natural History’s James Simpson Theater, Part 1
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When Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History decided to upgrade the sound system at its James Simpson Theater. Clearwing Productions was called in to install an L-Acoustics system. Megan Henninger is with us today to describe a challenging project in an old and historic building. Coming right up on the SVC Podcast.
Megan, thanks for joining us on the SVC Podcast from a pretty frigid Wisconsin.
And as we record this it’s unbelievably cold up there.
Not quite as cold, but more than cold enough for me.
And what’s been going on lately at Clearwing Productions? That’s a very interesting name. I don’t think you’re going to be confused with anybody else.
No. In my department, which is the systems integration department, we just finished up an arena lighting install at U. W. Madison’s Kohl Center Arena for their hockey and basketball teams, so that was fun. We’re right now working on a combo package for a house of worship; sound, lighting and video. [Timestamp: 1:28]
I’m sure that’s enough to keep everybody there busy. We were going to talk about the James Simpson Theater in the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. I looked at their website and it looks like you could spend at least a week there and not see everything they have. I understand they have some corporate events there. What all goes on there?
The James Simpson Theater, with the project that we were involved in through Frost Chicago, they converted it from a rarely used kind of a corporate space to now it’s a dual-purpose and it’s primarily used for 3D cinema, which is what the sound system is for. But they still rent it out for meetings on occasion, so corporate meetings, that kind of thing. [Timestamp: 2:10]
I’ll include their website link in the show notes for this but the place just looks so clean and white. It would be incredibly easy for a sound system or any sort of technical system just to look like mud on a wedding dress in that beautiful room. Your guys had to be really careful about what they did in there.
Yeah, we definitely did. The visual integrity of this space was one of the primary concerns for the museum. As you mentioned, it’s pretty wide open. There are not a lot of places to hide things there. We had to get pretty creative in our speaker placement. [Timestamp: 2:44]
What were they doing before that as far as a sound system? Did you have to take anything out to get all this set up?
We did take some stuff out. If you’re looking at the pictures, you can see there’s a couple of tiny grilles to the left and right of the proscenium and up near the ceiling. They’re kind of decorative. And they had a couple of speakers placed up there and as you can see … there’s not a great way to aim anything up there and keep it behind the grille, so they were just kind of shooting out into the room without being directed at anything. So the sound quality was poor, intelligibility was poor; the sound sources weren’t really aimed at the audience members at all. It had been problematic for them, even in the corporate setting. As I understand it they would bring often a sound system in for corporate events so they could get better coverage of the room. [Timestamp: 3:33]
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