Curve Appeal at the Navy Memorial

When officials at the Navy Memorial put out a request for proposals to bring into the 21st century its Arleigh & Roberta Burke Theater, it hoped the results could more than offset the expense.
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Curve Appeal at the Navy Memorial

When officials at the Navy Memorial put out a request for proposals to bring into the 21st century its Arleigh & Roberta Burke Theater, it hoped the results could more than offset the expense.

CHALLENGE: Take an existing IMAX curved screen and set it up to show everything from high-definition, 2.35:1 video to 16:9 presentations.

SOLUTION: Bite off only what current technology can chew with a high-brightness projector and anamorphic lens.

The U.S. Navy Memorial was open to replacing its curved IMAX screen with a flat screen, but Hoppmann Audio Visual convinced the nonprofit that the existing screen could handle all the video options it wanted while saving money.

Despite its mission of honoring U.S. military service members, the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., does not enjoy the same federal funding as the Department of Defense, or even the National Weather Service. The Navy Memorial is a nonprofit organization, and as such, it must be cautious with its limited budget, especially when eyeing a major overhaul of its AV systems. Still, when officials at the Navy Memorial decided to put out a request for proposals to bring into the 21st century its 242-person Arleigh & Roberta Burke Theater and President's Room boardroom, it hoped the results could more than offset the expense.

"We needed a facility that gave us more flexibility," says Dan Flynn, the Navy Memorial's project manager. "We wanted to host our own events and lure some private business–receptions, symposiums."

The U.S. Navy Memorial was open to replacing its curved IMAX screen with a flat screen, but Hoppman Audio Visual convinced the nonprofit that the existing screen could handle all the video options it wanted while saving money.

The Burke Theater was already something of an attraction to tourists and Navy personnel who held their retirement and other ceremonies there. Its giant, curved IMAX screen rendered the Memorial's own featured films in large-screen splendor, but the facility couldn't support high-definition or multimedia content from other sources that are necessary in a commercial venue today. " We wanted to target event planners," says Flynn, "We needed to upgrade everything to do it."

When the two-page RFP hit the streets, it was long on ambition but short on details. "We wanted to put it out there and see what people came up with," says David Wallis, who was the AV consultant on the project.

Among the AV components the RFP was ambivalent about was the theater's screen. While not explicitly demanding a new screen, the RFP acknowledged the Navy Memorial was open to the possibility.

Two bidders presented plans for taking out the curved screen and replacing it with a huge flat screen. But when Hoppmann Audio Visual of Chantilly, Va., visited the Memorial, it had other ideas. "When I went out for the site visit, I saw how big the curve was but I said to myself, 'There's no way I'm going to move this screen out of here,'" says Jared Leib, Hoppmann's design engineer.

The Navy Memorial staff was torn. On the one hand it would have preferred to keep the curved screen to avoid the cost of replacing it. Plus, a flat screen might cut into the area on-stage where the Navy holds ceremonies and presentations. On the other hand, it needed to be convinced that existing technology could give the Memorial all the video options it wanted on a curved screen. Leib persuaded the Navy Memorial it could be done, and Hoppmann won the contract. But then the work of delivering on its promise began.

The Fruits of Superior Service

In working with the U.S. Navy Memorial, one of Hoppmann Audio Visual's aims was to establish on ongoing relationship that would increase its client's satisfaction and perhaps ensure ongoing business. Its design team took the time to explain aspect ratios and other factors that would figure into its proposal of keeping the Navy Memorial's curved screen while enabling 2.35:1 high-definition video.

At press time, the company was in negotiations on a comprehensive maintenance contract with the Navy Memorial that would provide 24/7 support of the organization's AV systems. Moreover, the Navy Memorial is already returning to Hoppmann to add fresh capabilities to its system as end-users have requested them. "Just recently they wanted to add digital audio recording to the system," says Keith Helmrich, Hoppmann senior account manager.

Dan Flynn, the Navy Memorial's project manager, says his group is already looking to add videoconferencing capabilities and Internet streaming so it can transmit content to the Navy fleet. Hoppmann is in a good position to perform that work, in part because it went the extra mile to help the Navy Memorial with its latest upgrade.

"It's not like we sold it cheap and then change-ordered them," says Helmrich. The original project budget was in the neighborhood of $350,000, and Hoppmann's final bill-of-materials came in at $470,000–and that doesn't include the lighting work handled by Hoppmann subcontractor Mona Electric of Clinton, Md. That's no small outlay for a nonprofit organization whose 2007 programming expenses were $4.5 million.

To help the Navy Memorial raise money, Helmrich says Hoppmann helped design marketing collateral to give to prospective donors. The company also helped transform the Navy Memorial's existing IMAX footage to high definition with surround sound–on the house.

Vadim Finkov, Hoppmann's technical engineer, took the IMAX content and painstakingly converted it to 480p resolution video, touching it up as necessary, and separated the existing audio into five channels. Considering the movie was made 20 years ago and the 70mm film had been old and damaged, the final product is comparable to a cable broadcast. "I even tried to stretch the pixels to anamorphic dimensions," says Finkov. "It stretches out quite well."

In the end the IMAX movie ended up on a DVD that the Navy Memorial can offer to the public, and its now considering migrating it to Blu-ray and remastering the audio for 7.1 surround sound.

"It was a pleasure working with such a great group of people at the Navy Memorial," says Helmrich. "I'm proud to be part of a project that allowed [us] to showcase our ability for such an esteemed organization."

Having gone the extra mile, Hoppmann may be working with the Navy Memorial for a long time.

Curved Screen, One Projector

When Leib took the curved screen idea to Hoppmann technical engineer Vadim Finkov, the latter, who'd had experience with IMAX screens, was unsure the team could pull it off, particularly with a single projector, which was the Navy Memorial's preference. "Others show HD on curved screens with three projectors," says Flynn. "But it's been my experience that no two projectors degrade at the same rate."

With a curved screen and a single projector, the challenge is keeping the images bright and focused at the corners. Leib and Finkov were worried about the curvature of the 54-foot-long screen. "The concept was to get a bright projector capable of doing cinema-quality footage at 17 by 43 feet," says Leib, "We didn't know the radius of the curve, but we knew we needed to project from about 55 feet back and at 2.35:1."

There were times Leib and Finkov weren't sure they'd be able to deliver. They examined various solutions, including warping technologies, but they didn't address focus issues. They visited a company that was working on software to compensate for curvature. "It worked," Leib says, "but not at 1920x1080."

In the end, engineers at Digital Projection proposed a system that included its 10,000-lumen, dual-lamp Titan 1080p-600, VIP 2000 scaling engine, and an ISCO 1.33 anamorphic lens. "They eventually came out to Washington with a 6,000-lumen model and set it up," says Leib. "It was pretty much in focus; maybe slight percentages off corner to corner. But it made everyone feel comfortable with the technology, without any warping or any computer-based DSP calculations."

The team took delivery of the brighter Titan and got to work. During installation, Hoppmann switched to a longer throw primary lens to hit the anamorphic lens more directly (the original was overshooting the anamorphic lens and causing cropping issues). But once the projection system was installed and integrated with the new AMX controls to move the anamorphic lens in and out of position, the client was impressed.

"Granted, they couldn't cover the full 54 feet [of screen]," explains Flynn. "But we could get 43 to 46 feet." And when the AV staff punches up widescreen HD on one of the theater's AMX touch panels, the drapes surrounding the screen automatically adjust to reveal only the surface area required for viewing.

"To our knowledge, this is one of the only large, curved screens that shows full HD–in focus–with one projector," says Flynn. "Seaworld does it with three."

Maximizing Control

Having a central point of control was important to the Navy Memorial and was one of the more clearly detailed requirements of the RFP. The organization wanted to be able to manage all the facility's AV, including its President's Room, from the theater's main control room or from a wireless touch panel.

The President's Room functions as a stand-alone room for meetings and events as well as an overflow room for programs taking place in the Burke Theater, with audio and video streamed in. Hoppmann took everything, from AV to lights to contact closures on the theater's doors, and integrated them into an AMX NetLinx system.

According to Flynn, the control programming needed a little tweaking. "Commands were overriding other commands and the system would lock up," he explains. To solve the problem, Hoppmann established a queue in the system, Flynn says, that would prioritize and execute commands. It also programmed a four-second delay so commands wouldn't collide.

As the Hoppmann team evaluated other parts of the existing infrastructure, it targeted a pair of Biamp Nexia processors for an upgrade. "They had two Nexia chassis connected together, and they were running daVinci on an old computer," says Leib. "They were happy with it and it was working, but with 15 different source devices and three different racks, the technician was running around without a single point of control."

Hoppmann started by swapping in a Biamp Audia-Flex CM system. "They can expand the AudiaFlex with CobraNet," says Leib. "The daVinci was replaced with full microphone control on the master touch panel in the control booth. The three racks were condensed into a single rack and an operator's console." The AMX system offers the single point of control.

Powerful Amplification

Now Hoppmann just had to put in a sound system to complement the other precision-controlled gear. The existing JBL Synthesis system in the Burke Theater was at least 10 years old and was replaced with a 10,000-watt 7.1 surround sound system with JBL ScreenArray and Cinema loudspeakers. Lab.gruppen amplifiers and a Lexicon THX processor feed the system. "We went for super powerful amplification," says Finkov. "We can do 133 to 135 db right now, but we're limiting it to 104 db."

Today the Navy Memorial is touting its state-of-the-art AV capabilities and already reacting to requests. "We had a guy show up with a Mac and the system was set up for Windows, so we're working on that," Flynn says. But the design includes the flexibility to adjust to different technology.

"This was one of those projects that was backwards," says Leib. "They put an RFP on the street and said 'Do what you've got to do.' I enjoy those types of projects because you get to be creative, but it's hard because there's no apples-to-apples comparison. We were so far from what the other people were specing."

Including that majestic curved screen and high-definition video.

Full Equipment List

Chantilly, Va.-based Hoppmann Audio Visual installed the following equipment at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Arleigh and Roberta Burke Theater

4 AMX FG2022 Dual COM port card
1 AMX FG2105-06 Netlinx central controller
1 AMX FG2259-01K 10-inch widescreen table top touch panel
1 AMX FG423-41 power supply
1 AMX FG515 rack kit
1 AMX FG5965-04 8.4-inch wireless touch panel
1 AMX FG5965-10 Modero viewpoint touch panel table top docking station
6 Biamp AEC2HD two-channel acoustic echo cancellation card
1 Biamp Audia EXPO eight-channel output expansion unit - CobraNet
1 Biamp Audia Flex CM Audia FLEX chassis w/ CobraNet module
1 Biamp TI-2 two-channel telephone hybrid card
1 Chief FSB-4101B interface bracket
1 Chief FWD-110B dual swing arm wall mount
1 Digital Projection 105-021 TITAN adjustable ceiling mount
1 Digital Projection 105-610 1.39-1.87:1 motorized zoom lens
1 Digital Projection 106-487 TheaterScope package
1 Digital Projection 106-689 VIP 2000 high performance video scaling engine
1 Digital Projection 106-855 Dual HDMI expansion card for VIP 2000
2 Digital Projection 107-694 300 watt lamp and housing
1 Digital Projection 1080P-600 10,000 ANSI lumen 3-Chip DLP 1080p projector
1 Escient MX-111 Fireball DVD-changer controller and music server
2 Extron 26-566-02 6-foot VGA cable w/audio
1 Extron 60-334-11 12x8 ultra wideband matrix switcher with ADSP and IP link for RGB and Stereo audio
2 Extron 60-345-02 twisted pair computer-video and audio transmitter
2 Extron 60-450-01 twisted pair receiver for RGBHV video and audio
1 Extron 60-486-01 computer graphics interface (RGB 192V) includes 6-foot VGA & audio input cable
2 Extron 60-716-0A Surface-mountable enclosure for cables
1 Extron Cable Cubby 200 AC power outlet
4 JBL 2517 brackets for surround speakers
3 JBL 4622N two-way screen array speakers
2 JBL 4642A dual 18-inch subwoofer system
4 JBL 8340A high power cinema surround speakers
3 JBL Control 29AV-1 ceiling mount monitor speakers
3 JBL MTC-29UB U-bracket for control 29AV speakers
2 Lab.gruppen C28:4 4-channel power amplifier, 700 watts/channel
1 Lab.grupen C68:4 4-four channel amplifier, 1,700 watts/channel
1 Lexicon Calib mic opt. mic EQ kit
1 Lexicon MC12HD surround sound preamplifier
1 Middle Atlantic CBS-ERK-35 caster base for rack
1 Middle Atlantic ERK-1825 18 space rack
1 Middle Atlantic RSH4S custom rack kit
2 Middle Atlantic SCQ-1427-1217BK quiet-cool series monitoring console
1 Middle Atlantic SCQRK-1327BK 13 RU quiet-cool series rack enclosure
1 Middle Atlantic SPN-1427-1217BRK side panel for large console
1 Middle Atlantic SPNH-27-1217BKR side panel for small console
1 Middle Atlantic WS1-S45-GBR black work surface
1 Middle Atlantic WS2-S18-GBL black work surface
1 Pioneer DVR-LX70 DVD recorder w/500 GB HDD
1 RDL PS-24A 24Vdc 400mA power supply for ST-LCR1H
1 RDL RU-MLD4 1x4 microphone distribution amplifier
1 RDL RU-RA3 rack kit
1 Sharp LC32D62U 32-inch LCD monitor w/ built-in speakers
1 Shure DFR11VEQv5 digital signal processor w/feedback reduction
1 Shure Lot CFE portable wireless microphone system
2 Shure MX418/C 18-inch goosneck condenser microphone with attached preamp with XLR
1 Sony BDP-300 Blu-ray disc player
1 Sony DVP-777ES DVD/CD changer
1 Sunpak S620-624-CFT-P Pro 624P carbon fiber 4-section tripod with 3-way pan/tilt head
3 Surgex SX1120 RT 1RU, 9 outlet, 20A power conditioner w/ remote
1 Surgex SX20 NE surge suppression for display equipment
1 TOA MP-1216 powered monitor panel, 16-channel, line/speaker level, black
1 TOA 70 volt amplifier
1 Vaddio 999-6204-000 wall-mounted pan/tilt/zoom camera system
1 Yamaha CFE powered monitor speaker

President's Room

1 AMX FG2105-05 NetLinx integrated controller
1 AMX FG423-17 power supply
1 AMX FG5965-04 8.4-inch wireless touch panel
1 AMX FG5965-12 Modero viewpoint kick stand
8 CFE CFE CFE ceiling mounted speakers (Existing)
1 CFE CFE CFE amplifier (Existing)
2 CFE CFE CFE XLR wall plate
1 CFE CFE CFE wireless handheld microphone and wireless lavalier microphone
1 CFE CFE CFE Wall-mounted computer interface (Extron RGB 460xi)
1 CFE CFE CFE CATV receiver
1 Chief RPA-985 ceiling mount for LCD projector
1 Denon DN-V310 professional DVD player w/RS-232 control and HDMI output
1 Draper 102300L 119-inch motorized ceiling-recessed projection screen
1 Escient MX-111 Fireball DVD-changer controller and music server
1 Extron 60-340-01 seven input configurable switcher with integrated video scaler (System 7SC)
1 Extron 60-486-61 universal computer-video interface (RGB 190F)
5 JBL LS360C surround sound ceiling speakers
1 Lab.gruppen C20:8X 8-channel power amplifier, 250 watts/channel
1 LG BH100 Blu-ray disc/HD DVDplayer
1 Mediapointe DNS150D Composite video w/audio streaming device (decoder)
1 Mediapointe DNS150E-C Composite video w/audio streaming device (encoder)
1 Middle Atlantic CBS-ERK-25 commercial grade caster base for 25-inch depth model
1 Middle Atlantic ERK-1825 18-space equipment rack
1 Middle Atlantic ERK-RR18 rear rack rails
1 Middle Atlantic RSH4S rack shelf for DVD player
1 Middle Atlantic U2 2RU universal rackshelf
1 Onkyo PR-SC885P THX Ultra2, 7.1-channel 3-zone preamplifier/processor
1 Sanyo LNS-S30 standard zoom lens
1 Sanyo PLV-80L 3,000 ANSI lumen LCD projector
1 Sony DVP-777ES DVD/CD changer
1 SurgeX SX 1115 1RU, 9 outlet, 15A power conditioner
1 Surgex SX1120 RT 1RU, 9 outlet, 20A power conditioner w/remote
1 SVS Mini 4-3 (2X2) projector lift
1 Tannoy TS12 12-inch powered subwoofer
1 Vaddio 999-2304-000 ceiling-mounted Pan/Tilt/Zoom camera system

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