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Retrofit Meets Digital Signage at Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Feb 17, 2010 4:37 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

The Old and the New

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In a $100,000 retrofit, AVI Systems brought the Wisconsin Veterans Museum up to date by replacing the failing exhibit kiosk CRT monitors and installing a two-screen digital signage system.

At the Wisconsin Veterans Museum (WVM) in Madison, Wis., the AV technology that had been cutting-edge in the late ’90s was obsolete; that isn’t a desirable feature for an award-winning museum that’s mission by law is to inform and educate the public about Wisconsin’s military history, which dates back from the Civil War and goes all the way to the state’s present-day military involvement. WVM needed to replace its old equipment in the existing 10,000-square-foot exhibit space and at the same time install a digital signage system that would highlight upcoming events to bring in additional foot traffic. The bid for the project was awarded to AVI Systems, which had a long-standing relationship with the museum from former AV service jobs.

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The museum’s main attractions are its life-size dioramas that depict historical military events that the state’s veterans have participated in. At four of these exhibits were informational video kiosks equipped with CRT monitors that played back the museum’s composite video material—including footage from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War—via laser disc players.

Job one for AVI was upgrading the old failing 4:3 CRT monitors to NEC MultiSync LCD 3210 monitors. Due to the budget, AVI Systems had to keep the original millwork for the kiosks. AVI installed its Digital Signsolution Media Player at each kiosk to provide the necessary scalability so that any material displayed on the new monitor would play back at 4:3, not the LCD’s native 16:9, to fit the old kiosk openings.

AVI Systems installed two NEC LCD4620-2-AV screens, one in the orientation area and one in the gift shop, for the museum’s digital signage system.

“The guest would never know that there’s a bigger monitor behind there than what there actually is,” says Chris Roddick, DMG technical manager at AVI Systems. “In the future, when the client decides to change out an exhibit or change that actual millwork for the kiosks, they can play HD content on those screens.”

Another upgrade necessity was linking the museum’s four kiosks to an easy-to-use content management system that could also run the two new NEC LCD4620-2-AV digital signs—one in the gift shop and one in the orientation area. Having a networked system for both facility components would allow museum employees to only have to learn and operate one system (in conjunction with a Crestron Pro2 controller for system control). For this reason, AVI Systems installed the Scala-based content management and server system, which allows the staff to schedule and change out content by simply putting the file on the playlist. The system also works with the museum’s existing graphic toolset, including Adobe Photoshop.

“With that toolset, the graphic artist is able to create the graphics that create an off-the-wall factor for the graphic displays,” he says. “But at the same time, some of the staff just needed to be able to change simple messages on the screen without getting the graphic artist involved, so the graphic artist was able to create templates in Scala. Then the person sitting at the reception desk could easily add a welcome message or some simple message from the template that their graphic artist created.”

Because almost all of the museum’s existing content was either on laser discs or audio CDs, AVI Systems had the laborious task of converting all the media to MP3 or WMV files so that it could play on the Scala system. After all, Roddick says, “It’s kind of hard to find a laser disc player nowadays.” The museum is already playing HD content on its two digital signage screens, and when the museum is ready to update the kiosk millwork and add new videos for playback, those can play in HD as well.

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