Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Wired for News

Onsite for the opening of the Newseum.

Wired for News

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Cynthia Wisehart

Onsite for the opening of the Newseum.


More on the Newseum

It had an AV budget that few museums can command — a healthy percentage of the project’s $450 million budget, consumed by hundreds of loudspeakers and screens, 100 miles of fiber-optic cable, nearly 200 racks, and enough broadcast equipment to run a broadcast studio — two, actually. While other museums use AV to tell a story of history, nature, or man, the Newseum artifacts are made of audio and video; future artifacts will certainly be made of similar stuff. And like all things, the business plan for museums has to evolve and change, so the Newseum’s AV plan was not all about history — it was also designed to be a living venue for tomorrow’s news.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C., is one of the world’s most AV-intensive museums—housing 100 miles of fiber-optic cable and nearly 200 racks of AV equipment for the museum’s two broadcast studios, 14 galleries, and 15 theaters.

All this was in evidence in mid-April; the day before the doors opened to the public, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker had broadcast their press conference from the studio at the center of the Newseum’s third level (of seven). The studio, which seats a mid-sized audience, is also designed so that it can be observed in action from several floors of the museum through the glass walls.

The next day, more than 2,000 people passed through the museum doors and fanned out among the seven stories of exhibits and theaters. That night, nearly as many invited guests mingled against a backdrop of audio, video, and one of the largest and highest-resolution LED walls in the world.

Let’s pause for a tip of the hat to the acoustic designer Steve Haas of SH Acoustics. The first 24 hours of operation demonstrated just how well he had done his job in a soaring, acoustically unforgiving space in thousands and thousands of square feet of glass and concrete envisioned by Polshek Partnership Architects.

The eight “Be a TV Reporter” stations in the NBC News Interactive Newsroom allow visitors to stand in front of a JVC camera equipped with Reflecmedia’s
LiteRing technology to record their own newscasts.

Overall credit must also go to the museum’s main systems integrators — Electrosonic did the systems design, integration, and installation on the AV side, including a sophisticated 80-zone PA system; Communications Engineering (CEI) served on the broadcast side (CEI also did integration for the 90ft.-long video news wall in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater). Designer Ralph Appelbaum made sophisticated use of AV in some 26 galleries/exhibit areas and 15 theaters, and the Newseum’s VP of Technology Jim Updike — a former broadcast engineer — had high standards for the functionality of the systems. All together, it was one of the most extensive systems integration jobs in the world.

A cornerstone of the AV system was Peavey MediaMatrix Nion digital sound processing with a mixture of QSC and Crown amplifiers. Key video sources were Doremi Nugget HD video media players and Adtec edje encoders for SD.

Here is a sampling of the breadth of environments and some of the challenges:

1 23Next

Wired for News

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Cynthia Wisehart

Onsite for the opening of the Newseum.


The interactive galleries were among the most popular at the original Newseum location. The spirit of those exhibits remains, but technology has come a long way in the 12 years since the first Newseum opened. For example, a popular exhibit that allowed visitors to stand in front of greenscreen, read the news, and get a copy of their newscast has become eight “Be a TV Reporter” stations that take advantage of Reflecmedia’s LiteRing technology to enable inexpensive, effective blue/greenscreen (without the blue/green) in a challenging lighting environment. Advances in software and Electrosonic’s custom programming based on its ESCAN control platform all up the sophistication of this exhibit.

In the main rack room, the museum’s seven levels are served by more than 50 AV racks packed with gear including Peavey MediaMatrix Nions and Doremi Nugget HD video media players.

The interactive newsroom also expands upon the original touchscreen ethics stations and adds a unique 7ft. Ethics Table that responds to gesture and touch, providing an interactive game environment to tackle ethical questions. The table was conceived by Appelbaum, and the Newseum’s internal staff collaborated with New Jersey-based Kinecity — a company that specialized in unique interactive exhibits that combine company expertise in software, architecture, and art — to bring it to life.


A study in powerful simplicity, the central artifact of this gallery is the upper section of the 360ft. antenna mast from the World Trade Center North Tower. As the highest point in the city (1700ft.), it served most of the city’s TV and radio stations, and in its fall to Earth, it became a poignant, twisted sculpture. The gallery also includes one of the Newseum’s most straightforward and popular video presentations (part of 5 hours of video content created for the museum), played from a Christie Digital HD projector.


These three theaters provide a starting point for visitors, showing three award-winning documentaries on news, sports, and documentaries. Electrosonic designed the rack rooms that serve these theaters and the control interfaces within each theater to allow the Newseum’s video content elements to be programmed to any of the three theaters. This flexibility of sourcing is a key aspect of the Newseum systems design, for both video and audio sources.


The 90ft.-long videowall in the Big Screen Theater portrays a streetscape of the Newseum in its new surroundings on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The largest gallery is built around a spine of historic newspaper front pages, newsbooks, plates, and magazines from throughout news history. In addition, eight large display cases display an array of artifacts, surmounted by a frieze created by 20 SD Christie projectors displaying a collage of video images. Five more Christie projectors highlight artifacts within the glass cases. Along the side of the narrow gallery, five small HD theaters (also equipped with Christie projectors) tell stories from five centuries of news reporting; a series of 47in. Toshiba LCD interactive touchscreens complete the gallery. On the same floor, the Pulliam Family Great Books Gallery features an edge-blended HD show run by a Dataton Watchout.


In addition to doing all the broadcast systems integration for the Newseum’s two Knight broadcast studios and master control, CEI did systems integration and installation for another dramatic Newseum update. The original video news wall was a signature element of the first Newseum. Here, it expands to 90ft., with 8 minutes of dramatic news stories from the past quarter of a century. As with the original, the new screen can also carry live news feeds from Newseum master control, where broadcasts are coming in from all over the world, 24 hours a day.

Previous1 2 3Next

Wired for News

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Cynthia Wisehart

Onsite for the opening of the Newseum.


Because this gallery is devoted to the history of electronic news, it has one of the highest AV profiles from an aesthetic standpoint. In the center of the gallery is a towering translucent theater (white fabric screen and Christie HD projector) flanked by two 25ft.-high walls embedded with six rows of four 32in. Sony CRT SD TVs. They are fed by eight separate media sources, which can be prerecorded or live.

The two most dramatic AV elements are also the most unique. In the iconic 90ft. atrium in the Great Hall of News, the competition for viewers’ attention comes from a Bell JetRanger news helicopter and a replica of NASA’s ATX 1 satellite. Yet, somehow in this vast space, the 40″×22″ HD Barco LED display holds its own with 1920×1080 resolution — seemingly unfazed by the blaze of light that fills the atrium.

The Bloomberg Internet, TV, and Radio gallery has two 25ft.-high media walls featuring memorable images from TV news, a multimedia timeline, trends in digital news, and a display devoted to pioneering broadcaster Edward R. Murrow.

Also a Newseum standout, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater is a flexible presentation and broadcast space. But it is a also a 4D theater (indicating a 3D film supported by physical effects). Electrosonic worked with the Newseum and filmmakers at Cortina Productions to develop the unique sightline design, lensing, and systems design for this HD theater. It features a 57’×25′ custom curved Stewart screen; a pair of Christie CP2000 projectors; DVX HD servers; and Renkus-Heinz, Tannoy, and Bag End loudspeakers.

The heart of the Newseum’s AV is a large rack room, which also interfaces with master control, the broadcast systems, the incoming satellite feeds, and the intercom systems, as well as the portable AV carts that can plug into any of the museum’s 80 intercom zones. The seemingly effortless overlap of broadcast, AV, and intercom systems throughout the building — as well as the elegant way the loudspeakers, display devices, and acoustics all fit into the design as a whole — gives the Newseum a wholly modern and organic AV presence.

As Electrosonic’s project manager Dan Laspa says, it was — as are so many large-scale integration jobs — a study in cross-discipline problem solving. Site veterans know that there is scope and expertise, and then there is real life, where the particular POV of systems integrators makes for essential collaboration with other construction disciplines. The ability to adapt — whether its software, loudspeaker mounts, or lens specifications — and the ability to provide systems that can be operated and maintained every day in relative ease is crucial to success in an environment so dependent on AV. In this respect, the combination of a designer who understood AV; a client in Jim Updike who was completely fluent in audio and video; and systems integrators with international experience across AV, broadcast, and software ensured that one of the world’s most ambitious AV projects would live up to its own standards and those of its constituents in the news media.

More on the Newseum

The ingenious systems design for the Annenberg Theater allows it to house the 4D film installation and double as a flexible live performance/meeting space.

  • In an exclusive SVC podcast, Dakota Audio Director of Business Development Michael Blake discusses the company’s opportunity to “see” its loudspeaker arrays installed in many of the interactive exhibits at the Newseum and the specialized nature of audio in the museum space. While visitors to the museum won’t actually see the arrays — thanks to custom-built enclosures and clever deployments that keep them hidden from view — the audio design is part of the overall rich experience of the Newseum. To listen to this podcast, go to
  • On opening day, SVC Editorial Director Cynthia Wisehart took an extensive onsite tour of the technology infrastructure with Newseum VP of Technology Jim Updike. Over the course several hours, she reviewed the front-of-house, backstage, and production facilities that serve the 450,000-square-foot museum. She also took a look at the video content created for the Newseum’s 15 theaters, including a 4D theater that combines 3D film with practical effects. Check it out at
  • In SVC‘s sister publication Broadcast Engineering, Michael Grotticelli details the Newseum’s role as a state-of-the-art broadcast facility to serve as the new home for ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, in addition to being used for other television and radio programs. The backbone of the infrastructure includes an SD/HD Thomson Grass Valley K2 media server-based SAN, a Trinix HD video router, and two Apex digital audio routers. To read more, go to

Previous12 3

Featured Articles