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5th Annual Pro AV Spotlight Awards Best Entertainment/Arts AV Installation: AT&T Dolphin Tales, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta

Jul 16, 2012 2:49 PM

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Award Winners
Best Worship AV Installation
Best Education AV Installation
Best Healthcare AV Installation
Best Corporate AV Installation
Best Hospitality/Restaurant/Casino AV Installation
Best Government AV Installation
Best Retail AV Installation
Best Museum AV Installation
Judges’ Award

Electrosonic, Burbank, Calif.

AT&T Dolphin Tales is the latest Georgia Aquarium project spearheaded by Chairman and CEO Bernie Marcus. Marcus donated $250 million to build the aquarium in 2003 and has helped fund its current expansion into the world’s largest facility of its kind.

The concept of the $3 million 25-minute musical tribute Dolphin Tales was to meld a live theatrical show with aquarium show-style dolphin behaviors and tap into the gamut of theatrical technology, particularly digitally projected sets and backdrops. As such, the show is a hybrid of show-controlled equipment and events, prerecorded multitrack audio, and video playback with a layer of live performance mixed in. It is housed in a new multifunction auditorium that seats 1,800 people and houses 1.8 million gallons of water in four pools. In a set designed by Michael Hotopp out of New York and built by Atlanta-based ID3, five tall organic shapes evocative of upright dolphin tails span an area about 80ft. wide by 40ft. tall above the performance pool and serve as curved aluminum projection surfaces.

Because things can go wrong with trained animals of any species, especially during a live show, the AV track is broken down into time-coded segments. This allows the show’s technicians to slow down or speed up sections depending on the dolphins’ onstage actions, while retaining the mix of video, sound, and light. There had to be a balance between a complex multimedia script and the realities of working with live people and animals. Using segments of prerecorded material that the operator can manage on the fly is an effective compromise.

For the innovative projections, Green Hippo Hippotizer HD media servers connect via DVI to seven Christie Roadster S+20k projectors in two stacks of three, plus one on center. The two stacks form a left and right side overlay onto the set, with a center-edge blend. The center projector forms a flat image on a roll-drop screen that drops down over the pool in front of the main set. All seven projectors have been rigged with City Theatrical DMX controllable dowsing flags in front of the lens, enabling a synchronized fade to complete black on the projection system, as controlled by the lighting console.

The Hippotizers handle the media playback and the content masking on independent video layers. During the show, different masks are used, dependent on the position of the front roll-drop screen, and for special video effects. They also handle the preshow inhouse advertising content and audio playback. The Hippotizers receive LTC from the Medialon and sit on their own gigabit network (Hipponet), with a single network bridge link to the main AV network for control. The audio system consists of a large-format L-Acoustics speaker system, comprising about 20 arrays, six subs, 16 surrounds, and three overhead monitors, for about 40,000W total, driven by 13 controller/amps.

The system is wired for 7.1 surround sound and was modeled in 3D using L-Acoustics Soundvision software—similar to EASE—creating a 3D model of the theater from the architectural plans and dimensions. Show control is Medialon.

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