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Installation Profile: Shedding Light on Franklin

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

Sophisticated networked systems illuminate museum's rotunda.

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Shedding Light on Franklin

A 32-input/32-output Medialon system serves as the control backbone — sending commands over Cat-5e to not only the audio, video, and lighting devices, but also (via relay contact closures) to the motorized shade system that covers the rotunda's domed skylight and the windows near the ceiling. During normal hours, the Medialon system runs in Show mode. Every half hour on the weekends and on every hour during the week, the timeline in the Dataton Watchout software triggers the Medialon to send commands over Cat-5 for the program to begin. LED lights awaken, shades are drawn, and the Watchout system stops cycling the quotes and starts the video program. The projectors never shut down completely during museum hours because powering up and down puts a strain on lamp life.

The lamp life of the HD8K is Mountjoy's one complaint so far. After 1500 hours, the lamps need to be changed. This works out to four times a year for each projector at $2,000 to $2,500 per lamp. Medialon polls the projectors throughout the day to determine if lamps or filters need to be changed. If they do, the system notifies the staff.

Shedding Light on Franklin

Presentation mode gives museum staff and clients who rent the rotunda almost complete control over AV and lighting. A video-switching system allows the four screens, which display identical content during the show, to show content from any one of four computers. Each computer is installed with a Datapath Limited VisionRGB-Pro1 capture card, which allows the computers to pass a live video input through to the projectors. Users can input video via wall boxes installed around the rotunda. These accept component and composite video and a VGA input from a laptop. This makes it easy to hook up videocameras, DVD players, and laptops. In Watchout, users drop media into a Stage area. This can be a file or from the wall box's video input. Four microphone inputs around the room allow clients to station presenters at various locations.

“The main show is set-and-forget,” Fazio says. “We have that saved so that it can't be edited. And we have another show that they can load and modify. If for any reason that got corrupted, they can copy the saved file and just edit it again.”

There are five preset positions for the captured-video windows — horizontal VGA signals (1024×768) — within the projector screens, which display full-resolution HD (1080×1920) oriented in portrait mode. The first three presets place the 4:3 VGA image horizontally at the top, middle, or bottom of the 9:16 window. The fourth preset allows clients to use the full resolution of the window by turning an image 90 degrees and stretching it to fill the 9:16 aspect ratio. The fifth option shuts the video off.

Via wireless networking and a custom-designed computer application, a TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i440T Touch-iT touchpanel tablet addresses the Medialon system of a Dell Dimension 9200 located in the equipment room that's just off the rotunda. This tablet PC enables full control over the system while it's in Presentation mode, letting users select among video inputs, control microphone levels, and address lighting presets. Available Light of New York designed the lighting system, which includes a lighting processor that's integrated into Watchout and Medialon so that the system can fire lighting cues during the show. Users can also customize the color of the LED light that falls on the dome, floor, columns, and statue of Franklin. The custom gobos can be set to shine shapes, such as stars, on the floor or the ceiling.

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