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Native AV Installation at National Museum of the American Indian, Part 2

Randy Sherwood of Electrosonic talks about the installation of video workstations and interactive video displays in the National Museum of the American Indian. 6/09/2011 6:51 AM Eastern

Native AV Installation at National Museum of the American Indian, Part 2

Jun 9, 2011 10:51 AM, with Bennett Liles




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Faced with the unique challenge of presenting age-old Indian relics using touch screens and interactive workstations, Electrosonic outfitted the National Museum of the American Indian with the latest gear to make history come alive. Project engineer Randy Sherwood is back to wrap up his talk about how it all got done, coming up on the SVC podcast.

Randy, thanks for being back for Part 2 on the interactive workstation and touch screen displays project at the National Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan. Now before we were talking about the displays in the workstations, but I wanted to get into how all of these things are controlled. Does the control room area actually share space with any sort of other stuff for the museum? I mean, sometimes you have to put these things where ever there's space available, so is it located in the storeroom or a fairly good environment for what you've got in there?
Yes, Abby Campbell at the museum, she helped us find the best location and we're actually two floors below the gallery in an IT room so we found a…just a place in the IT room to stick our couple of racks. [Timestamp: 1:26]

And since it's an IT room I would think that you got a fairly good isolated power situation in there.
Yes and actually they had to relocate some power for us that's specific to our racks. [Timestamp: 1:36]

How long did it take to get the whole control room finished? Where there any special issues that came up with that?
Well we build our racks off-site which really helps in minimizing the installation time in the field, and when we got there the guys had already pulled the wires so it only took us a couple of days to get everything terminated. Because we're sharing space in an IT room that really wasn't designed for us to be in there, we put our racks on wheels so we're able to roll them out away from the wall to work on them and then when we're finished we're can push them right up against the wall so people can still get by them and do their work in the IT room. [Timestamp: 2:12]

And the video extensions, the Cat-5 extenders—those were from Magenta Research?
Yes, yeah we used 20 pairs of video extenders. [Timestamp: 2:2]

OK any particular reason why you decided to go with the Magenta extenders since that's a fairly competitive field?
Yeah, the Magenta, they have a mainframe card solution you can put in your rack so it makes the rack installation very clean. And they also offer units that would transmit the distances that we needed and they also come with adjustable SKU compensation to help with all the different cable lengths. [Timestamp: 2:44]

OK, so all the control stuff is centrally located. I guess all the media players are located down there too.
Yes, two floors below the galleria.

And so you've got what—AMX control gear in there?
Yes, we're not doing a lot of controlling in this system but we have a NI-4100 controller and a 10in. touch panel. So what we're using those for—through a serial interface—we're actually connected to all of the displays and the AMX controller in the morning confirms that everything comes on, and then it also monitors the Alcorn McBride unit to make sure the videos are all playing, and then in that control room you can also adjust the volume for the individual interactive displays or you can adjust the overall volume. [Timestamp: 3:25]

Yeah, I would think that that might present something of a challenge because these video stations are all playing in close proximity and playing different things at various times all at the whim of the general visiting public, so how was the acoustic isolation between these video stations? Was that any kind of a trick to do?
Yeah, that was probably the toughest thing in this particular gallery. Steve Hess was the acoustic consultant and he specified the Dakota FA-602 speakers, they're very directional and they have adjustable patterns on them depending on how much you want to cover and how high that the speaker is so they allowed us to very precisely control where the sound goes. The room is all glass and marble so that makes it even more of a challenge, but with the tight coverage patterns and using a lower volume we did come up with a solution that met the goal of keeping the sound localized to each one of the interactive exhibits. You can't stop the sound but it's really only intelligible when you're standing right in front of the artifact and the interactive display. And the volume's low enough in the surrounding areas that it really doesn't pull your attention away from the other artifacts when you're not looking at the one that it's talking about. [Timestamp: 4:4]


Native AV Installation at National Museum of the American Indian, Part 2

Jun 9, 2011 10:51 AM, with Bennett Liles




Yeah, once you get the signal out of the electrical and back into acoustic form you lose about 90 percent of your control over it.
Absolutely.

And then it gets into more of an art than a science I guess. But I want to get into more about the workstation interface design—how that went, because there are so many different people operating these things. Did you get any kind of input from the museum staff or use them as testers to work out the bugs on it?
Well, they do get a lot of school groups through there so the actual touch panels were put a little lower than normal. They're not too low for an adult and they're angled up a little but the actual content design was done by Potions, so they're the ones that did the actual content design. We just did the technical installation part of it. [Timestamp: 5:25]

Well, it sure would be an advantage getting in at the outset of the project so you have input for your needs as the plans are actually being drawn. That would help you obviously avoid having to run any cables into places where they'd rather have you not spoil the look or be drilling holes in things.
Yeah they actually gutted this gallery. I mean, they completely took everything out of it and it was rebuilt specifically for this installation. [Timestamp: 5:47]

When you got all this up and running what was the reaction from the museum staff and clients? Were you there to see when it was first turned loose on the public?
Actually, I wasn't able to attend, but Ellen Simwhich, our project manager and Brian Bellowhich, our sales person, they did attend the opening and the museum had staff is very happy with the installation and they're very satisfied with the continued success with all the people that visit the gallery. They're having hundreds of people in there every week. [Timestamp: 6:14]

I'd sure love to see that place and check out the interactive displays. The idea of having all these really old historical objects and having the motion graphics and instant video about them right there would really be a fun experience. So what's up next? What's coming up for Electrosonic? Have you got any big projects in the works you want to tell us about?
Well, I can't tell you specifically about some of the projects. We're always working on a next big theme park ride. It's got to be bigger and better than the last one, and of course that usually involves defying one law of physics or the other. We're also working on some very large fiber optic matrixes for the government. A couple of projects we just finished are the National Museum of Jewish and American History in Philadelphia and the Museum of Moving Images in Astoria, New York, which is in Queens. [Timestamp: 7:03]

I read about that and I understand you also did a big interactive display installation for NASA down at the Kennedy Space Center.
Yes we did a big part of the visitor center. They opened a new part of the visitor center and we did that as well. Yep. [Timestamp: 7:16]

Oh, I would love to see that. I haven't been down there since the old Apollo days when it was before any of that sort of technology was available so it would be a real treat to see all of it work now. Yeah that was fun working on that project. I worked on that one as well. We also just acquired Excel Media Systems out of New York City and they specialize in corporate solutions offering meeting room and video conferencing systems so we're pretty excited to have them on board. [Timestamp: 7:39]

OK, broadening your horizons and your clientele for that too.
Absolutely.

All right. Randy Sherwood from Electrosonic and the National Museum of the American Indian right there in lower Manhattan—sounds like a very intriguing place. I'd love to see it and it sounds like Electrosonic did a very good job on it. Thanks for being here Randy to give us all the tech details behind the scenes.


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