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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Commemorative Solutions

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex, New York

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Last July, once the remnants of the space's previous tenants were cleared, Acme built a full-scale plywood model of the annex's layout.

“We laid out the entire GuidePort system long before the construction was finished, so that we could test its capabilities in real space,” Clark says.

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The attraction contains 32 “events.” Each GuidePort unit stores 512MB of data, and for the annex, that storage space holds 20 audio files. When a visitor walks into an audio zone that is not associated with synchronized video, a stored track on the GuidePort automatically plays back from its beginning.

“In essence, you have the equivalent of a high-quality MP3 player,” Clark says. “There is some compression involved, but it's much closer to CD quality than MP3.”

Keeping on-demand, nonsynchronized audio out of the venue's airwaves clears FM-frequency headroom for the video events that do require synchronization with audio. When visitors step into one of these 12 areas on the floor, his or her GuidePort picks up a constantly playing audio channel via an FM radio frequency. Five GuidePort transmitters send these synchronized audio channels to the visitors' receivers.


To generate audio-track switching commands, Acme painstakingly defined audio zones by burying inductive-loop antennas under the carpeting.

“You can think of it as sort of a force field that is defined by the shape of the antenna loop,” Clark says. “The energy emanates from the antenna wire itself in a slightly cone-shaped direction.”

For the antenna loops, Acme used flatwire — about half the thickness of a credit card and used primarily in home-entertainment systems. Antennas are connected to devices called “identifiers,” which send out a pulse to the GuidePort receiver to switch the channel. Acme reduced the power of these pulses to tighten the trigger zones. Acme followed the plan of exhibit designer Patrick Fahey of Eight Hands High (New York) as closely as possible, but it made adjustments to the layout to separate the zones better and keep the system working cleanly.

On a recent visit to the annex, this reporter found that occasional interference between the zones was a problem. For instance, I would be watching the Rolling Stones but hearing the Grateful Dead. However, I could easily and quickly situate myself better on the floor to pick up the proper associated song. This seemed like a reasonable amount of effort considering the price of admission is not cheap ($26) and the museum is packed with artifacts. Visitors are therefore going to want to stay for at least a couple of hours. Clark admits that the triggering system is not perfect, and he says his company has tweaked the zones since the museum's opening.

But for him, the trade-off of including more music was worth it. “It was more important to us to have as many audio sources as possible than it was to have them be impossible to fool,” he says.

Throughout the museum are 32in. and 40in. Sony LCD flatscreens (models FWD40LX2F/B and FWD32LX2F/B) and 4000-lumen Sony VPL-FE40LCD projectors. A single-channelAdtec Digital edje 4111 HD box feeds each screen an MPEG file. Keeping the edje boxes close to the displays helped Acme optimize the video quality and made it possible to use Cat-5 cable to wire most of the facility. The venue's all-encompassing Medialon show-control system controls the network-addressable Adtec players.

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