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Installation Profile: Intelligent Design

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jack Kontney

How technology helps realize a thoroughly modern vision for the new home of one of our nation’s oldest museums.


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Among the challenges of the installation was meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act mandate that all video systems have captioning available. The Cycling ’74 Max/MSP/Jitter graphical programming system allows captioning to appear in less than half a second.

Among the challenges of the installation was meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act mandate that all video systems have captioning available. The Cycling ’74 Max/MSP/Jitter graphical programming system allows captioning to appear in less than half a second.

AV INFRA-STRUCTURE

The system starts with the AMX Resource Management Suite (RMS) — which allows scheduling, administration, and tracking of devices across the academy — augmented by a Peavey Electronics MediaMatrix Nion system for networkable DSP control of audio.

“We've been doing MediaMatrix for years and have used the Nion product since it came out,” Roos says. “It has great scalability because it has a high-speed bus that allows you to connect a lot of processors together.” In essence, this gives the museum a from-anywhere-to-anywhere routing capability, making it ideal for everything from custom presentations to standard PA announcements. This server system also monitors the equipment at each of the roughly 300 IP addresses scattered around the building.

“It's a bit complicated, but the cool thing is that it's easy and seamless on the surface,” says Sasha Harris-Cronin, lead programmer on the project. “The AMX system talks to the RMS, which talks to the SQL database, which talks to a Flash application we developed. In the Flash app, we have equipment icons and a map of the actual museum, so they can easily view the status of every device.”

Another custom application developed by BBI was an interface that allows academy personnel to control the volume of individual exhibits via an Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.

“Basically, we use them as web browsers,” Harris-Cronin says. “They connect to the AMX system, which knows where all the exhibits are. When museum staff navigates to the location on their iPhone, they can access volume up/down and mute controls. It's very easy to use.”

Another nice touch developed by BBI is the fact that all the exhibit computers turn off at night to conserve power.

“That's unusual in a museum,” she says. “To do it, we created a little server that runs on each computer. The AMX system tells the computers to go to sleep at night and then wakes them in the morning using the Wake-On-LAN feature.”

Wayfinding signage is located near the front entrance. Two groups of three 52in. NEC MultiSync LCD5220 monitors display information about museum events and provide welcome signage for after-hours private events. Planar Systems CoolSign software provides content-creation and management tools.

INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS

The academy's first floor includes two large flexible exhibit areas, covering subjects as diverse as climate change, evolution in the Galapagos Islands and Madagascar, the Northern California coast, and Philippine coral reefs. Historic Africa Hall includes a series of dioramas and a live penguin exhibit. The main halls are dominated by two huge globes, one housing the planetarium and the other a rainforest environment.

Most of the individual exhibits are local, typically including video content triggered by a motion sensor. The two main challenges were creating an audio environment that was intelligible without interfering with neighboring exhibits and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

For audio, BBI developed a proprietary system of miniature line arrays. The loudspeaker arrays are custom-made for BBI by Innovox Audio, which specializes in high-fidelity, low-profile audio solutions. The system consists of eight loudspeakers using either 2in. or 3.5in. drivers and driven by BBI's proprietary LAAMP8, an 8-channel DSP amplifier with vertical dispersion adjustment when mounted horizontally.





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