The Interactivity Behind the Lincoln Heritage Museum, Part 2

The story of the life of Abraham Lincoln comes to life in the Lincoln Heritage Museum, and Alan Eidson of Eidson Studios was brought in to install all of the interactive sound and video. 5/15/2014 5:22 AM Eastern

The Interactivity Behind the Lincoln Heritage Museum, Part 2

May 15, 2014 9:22 AM, With Bennett Liles

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The story of the life of Abraham Lincoln comes to life in the Lincoln Heritage Museum, and Alan Eidson of Eidson Studios was brought in to install all of the interactive sound and video. Alan’s here to finish up his talk about how he used proximity sensors and turned walls into subwoofers to wow the museum’s visitors. That’s right here on the SVC Podcast.

Alan Eidson of Eidson Studios in Little Rock, Ark.; and we were talking about, in part one, the Lincoln Heritage Museum on the campus of Lincoln College in where else but Lincoln, Illinois. The museum experts at Taylor Studios in Rantoul, Illinois brought you in for all of the interactive audio and video that helps tell the story of our 16th president. You used a lot of Alcorn-McBride hardware for it and a big part of that was the ProTraxx 16-channel audio player.

Yeah, the ProTraxx. That was a surprising unit to me. It had much more capability than I thought at first, when I first looked at it. It has 16 tracks. You can do eight tracks of stereo or 16 mono, and we had one stereo audio and then the rest of the audio was mono incorporated into some surround sound too, so that’s with a different unit. But the ProTraxx is very diversified. You can load hundreds of audio samples in there, or audio stories in our case, and it’s a nice unit. The show controller instructs the ProTraxx to play a particular audio track through a particular audio output, so the audio files that you have in there, they’re not strictly just to one output. You can send it to any output or you can send them to all outputs. It really was more of a machine than I thought at the beginning. It’s a nice machine. [Timestamp: 2:08]

Sounds like you can get pretty creative with it. The machine is pretty well proven and you know it’s going to work but on this project there were a lot of triggered events to coordinate and connect. People are within an arm’s reach of all these exhibits so how did you hide all of the wiring that’s involved? I’m sure that can require sort of a creative approach, too.

Oh, of course. You don’t want wires to be showing and we’re all about wires, so there’s plenty of wires.

And this is a period exhibit so any kind of wires, connectors and stuff would really sort of destroy the atmosphere you try to create.

Of course, of course; you drill through desks. And one of the neatest things that we ended up doing – and actually one of the fellows at Taylor Studios did this – we had one of our touch points as a fan, one of those old-style, accordion-out type of fans that a lady might use, and that was our touch point. So we had to get something that was magnetic into that area and just routing the wires, you get shrink wrap and run it down posts and stuff like that is how that one worked out. So it was really – it was really nice. There’s a lot of time involved in hiding the wiring, but it was all dark and so sometimes you can just have black wires, which helped too. [Timestamp: 3:27]

And where does all the wiring lead? Where’s the rack where all of the control and playback equipment is installed?

We try to put all the control racks in a central location, and this one in particular we had two 52u racks centrally located in one of the rear projection spaces. So it handled all the amplification and all of the control and all of the media processors. [Timestamp: 3:50]

One of the more often-used items in the tech side of this is the Digital Binloop. How do you use that to create the period environment and sort of set the mood for the exhibits?

Well, the Digital Binloop, Alcorn has two different Binloop configurations that we use. One is a high-definition processor and one is a standard-definition processor. What makes these work really well is we use surround sound just to give it more ambiance; voices and train sounds and crowd sounds, just – you’re just enveloped into the sound. And so these units handle your surround sound very well, as well as the video processing. Basically it’s a three-rack unit and you have reproducer cards which are the video and audio processors, then you slide those in there. You can put in eight high-definition ones or 16 standard-definition ones depending on the unit. So a lot of those standard-definition ones that we used, we didn’t use the video at all. We were just using it for the surround sound audio. [Timestamp: 5:01]

The Interactivity Behind the Lincoln Heritage Museum, Part 2

May 15, 2014 9:22 AM, With Bennett Liles

And that can be as effective as lighting as far as setting the period environment for this. Now when it came to testing all of this, did you do it a little at a time? I would think that testing this whole thing would be the real fun part.

Well, it’s quite a process. It’s like a war, basically, and you have an attack plan of how we’re going to do this and you have your little generals that you say okay, this is your area and you attack this part of it. And so that’s a funny analogy, but it is pretty much a tactical thing. You can’t just throw it all in and then decide you’re going to test it. You have to be real methodical, especially with wire runs. Just on the audio/video we had well over 5,700 feet of wire within the system. So you have to do it very methodically and you test your connections as you go. And then after you get it all hooked up, then you start testing your programming and your lighting versus your audio. It’s quite an extensive process. [Timestamp: 6:04]

And probably a lot of the adjustments are in the timing of everything.

Exactly. Exactly. And the timing, you have a good idea of how you want it to be timed, but until you get in there and actually walk through it, you don’t have an idea of what it’s going to be until you get there.

And you have plenty of video in the exhibits. Who did all of the audio and video production for this?

Well, we have a company called Native Sun Productions out of Indiana. They shot the reenactment footage of Lincoln and company for the Ford’s Theater and the boarding house videos, and they recorded the V.O.’s for the first-person storytelling along the way. And then we did postproduction and animation along with integration of all the A/V. [Timestamp: 6:48]

And the sound outputs for this would in some cases have to be pretty small, but you didn’t actually use speakers for all of it.

We incorporated several different technologies. You know, surround sound in general, and in surround usually you have a sub-woofer too, so the speakers weren’t small by any means. They weren’t huge, but small groups of 12 to 15 was what we were shooting for in the different areas, so we incorporated that technology. And we also incorporated transducers – aural exciters, basically – and turning objects into sound-producing material sort of like the musical birthday cards, the greeting card technology. There’s a little transducer in there and when it’s hooked up to the paper it turns the paper into a speaker. [Timestamp: 7:38]

It seems like there are a whole lot of possibilities in where you could go with that.

Yeah. We used the walls as actual sub-woofers in many instances.

And they can have a power outage just like anyplace else, so if that happens everything just comes right back up and you’re back in business pretty quickly.

That’s the good thing about these types of units. Just a power loss is not going to be too tough to recover from at all, unlike a PC or that type of thing. These things boot right up really fast. It probably takes about two minutes for it to all boot up and get going again. [Timestamp: 8:09]

The museum is open now and it looks like a success. What sort of things has Eidson Studios got coming up next?

There’s some interesting stuff we’re looking at. We’re working on some solar-powered nature trail audio kiosks where you go along a nature trail, you touch a particular part of this informational kiosk. We’re not using any buttons or anything like that, once again using the proximity type of sensor. It’s all solar-powered and it plays a little bit of audio, and we’re using those transducer – that same type of technology to turn the informational panel into the speaker itself. So that’s one of the things we’re working on. Some other nature trail type things, QR codes where they take their smart phone and read the QR code and it’ll play a short video for whatever they’re looking at. That’s kind of some things we’re working on right now. [Timestamp: 9:03]

Oh yeah, you can really get into some things once you start working their smart phones into it. Well, it’s been fun hearing about this one. Alan Eidson from Eidson Studios in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College. Thanks for telling us the story, Alan.

Thanks, Bennett. Thanks for having me, and it’s a pleasure and it’s always good to talk about this stuff. It’s a lot of fun.

Enjoyed having you with us for the SVC Podcast with Alan Eidson of Eidson Studios. Show notes are available on the web site of Sound and Video Contractor Magazine at Make sure and be here with us again for the next SVC Podcast.

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