Retrofit Meets Digital Signage at Wisconsin Veterans Museum

The Old and the New 2/17/2010 11:37 AM Eastern

Retrofit Meets Digital Signage at Wisconsin Veterans Museum

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

The Old and the New

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.

Retrofit Meets Digital Signage at Wisconsin Veterans Museum

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

The Old and the New

AVI Systems installed two Atlas Sound FC104 loudspeakers at each kiosk and 18 JBL Control 24CT ceiling loudspeakers throughout the museum. A Crestron Pro2 control system provides audio and video control.

Audio and Control

The museum is divided into three sections—18th, 19th, and 20th centuries—with 22 zones of audio. For the distributed audio system, AVI Systems installed two Atlas Sound FC104 loudspeakers at each kiosk and 16 JBL Control 24CT ceiling loudspeakers throughout the three sections (with two more playing back audio at the orientation signage). Using the Crestron control system, the museum staff can shut off the audio zones in a desired section of the museum and hold a special event there. When holding special events, the staff is able to go easily into Event mode using a Crestron TPMC-8X touchpanel that is tied to the Crestron control system. When Event mode is on, all kiosks are disabled, exhibit audio is turned off, and the six newly installed JBL Control 23T voice reinforcement loudspeakers are activated. The control system also allows the staff to turn on and off all displays and exhibit audio during regular museum hours.

The control system also includes a Crestron WPR-48 wireless handheld remote so that at a touch of a button, a museum tour guide can temporarily mute a particular exhibit’s audio. If the tour guide forgets to unmute the audio, the audio will return to its normal level after 5 minutes.

AVI trained the museum staff to update graphics, modify the schedule, and use the new control system, and through AVI’s Digital Media Group Helpdesk, the company is also able to provide ongoing training. Currently, the museum has contracted AVI Systems helpdesk and service support for one year with the option to renew on an annual basis. The service contract includes two on-site maintenance visits a year. Otherwise, all problems, training, and software updates can be addressed remotely. The museum has only had trouble getting one file to play back since the installation was completed in August, and AVI was able to remotely diagnose and fix the problem.

As a retrofit, logistical challenges are common, and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s $100,000 installation was no exception. Because the facility had to stay open during the installation process meant AVI’s team had to take extra steps to ensure their work was as minimally invasive to the facility’s patronage as possible.

Vertical Trend Watch

What trends are you seeing the museum vertical? “The younger generation expects an immersive AV show when they go into these facilities. Technology really needs to be engaging, yet it needs to be part of the exhibit. They’re looking for ways to make it more natural. [At the Wisconsin Veterans Museum], we had to work within some confines of this existing typically old-fashioned-looking kiosk, but in some of these newer installations, they’ll looking to hide technology or look at different types of projection equipment that isn’t typical such as LCD screens. There are a lot of different AV spaces out there that need to be retrofitted just like this particular museum. That’s where if you have existing relationships, you have a real opportunity. We’re also seeing a lot of corporations wanting to create their own museums to keep track of company history. We’re seeing we’re able to use this same type of technology for our corporate clients and even our higher education clients.”—Chris Roddick, DMG technical manager at AVI Systems

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