Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex near Orlando just unveiled its latest blockbuster space exploration attraction, Space Shuttle AtlantisSM, at what is now the new home of the historic spacecraft. Working in concert with the operators Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts as well as with the designer firm PGAV Destinations, Electrosonic participated in the four-phase design consulting process, after which they completed the AV integration and installation of the headline attraction.
The 90,000-square foot exhibit tells the story of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program with multimedia presentations that feature more than 60 interactive exhibits and AV simulators. These give visitors a look at the 33 missions of Atlantis, including the maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the building of the International Space Station.
Earlier this year Electrosonic provided AV support for the reconfigured entry area into the park. Now the company has led the way in using leading-edge technology to give visitors an unparalleled up-close-and-personal experience with the mammoth orbiter.
Just as with the park’s entry area, Electrosonic’s Design Consulting team got the Atlantis project off the ground, serving as AV consultant to architects PGAV Destinations. Electrosonic’s Yiannis Cabolis was the designer of record. Gary Barnes was Electrosonic’s project manager and Toni Losier and Andrew Kidd the account executives.
“From the outset we wanted to combine the architecture of Space Shuttle Atlantis with technology in a way that had never been done before. The fact that Electrosonic already had a track record of delivering audio/visual systems to some of the biggest and most complicated attractions in Orlando was a big factor in our selecting them for the initial consulting,” says Emily Howard, AIA, project architect at PGAV Destinations.
After that consulting phase was completed Electrosonic was brought on board by Delaware North Companies, which manages the operation of the venue. “Throughout the installation process, the design consulting group within Electrosonic remained engaged, representing our interests as architects and exhibit designers and ensuring that the design intent and functionality were maintained and protected throughout the design-and-build process,” Howard notes.
After passing by the entrance with its full-scale vertical replica of Atlantis’s 18-story tall external tank and two solid rocket boosters, visitors enter the building containing the Atlantis attraction itself. Designed by PGAV Destinations in the form of two sweeping “wings” representing the Space Shuttle’s launch and return, the building’s outer layer is iridescent hues of orange and gold representing the fiery glow of re-entry while the shimmering gray tiles represent the underside of the orbiter.
Visitors ascend the entry ramp where 26 speakers, including ceiling and surface-mounted box types, are installed and fed by a multi-channel server in the Electrical Equipment Room (EER). They arrive at a batching area and begin learning about the history of the space program while an LED countdown clock shows the time remaining before the start of the next multimedia pre-show. The pre-show gives historical context to the upcoming exhibits, the role that Atlantis played in the Space Shuttle Program and how the program has paved the way for NASA’s next generation of manned space flight.
In the pre-show theater four Projection Design F35 2560×1600 video projectors are edge blended in a 2×2 configuration for the main screen’s immersive experience. Sixteen Projection Design F32 1400 x 1050 video projectors edge blended in groups of four add video content to four arches.
“This is a very high-resolution video mapping application not commonly associated with visitor attractions and the display of ‘museum-like’ artifacts,” Cabolis notes. The Projection Design units were chosen for their extreme reliability, color accuracy and the “bespoke installation options you need when you are designing for a project like Space Shuttle Atlantis,” he says. The show is controlled and synchronized using Medialon show control.
Eighteen speakers, including four subwoofers, deliver audio sourced from a 16-channel player/processor linked to the video servers through time code.
An 110×20 foot, 8mm LED wall acts as a backdrop to the orbiter. During the pre-show presentation it displays the earth as the Atlantis is revealed. The display is bolted onto a sub frame provided by Electrosonic and anchored from the back to the adjacent wall.
Electrosonic selected individual multi-head 7thSense custom-configured Delta media servers for the batching area, preshow and LED backdrop. “These servers are typically found in digital planetariums or as play-out media services in high-demand multimedia interactives and high-value attractions worldwide,” says Cabolis. “The servers are physically locked to each other so independent timelines can be frame-accurately triggered giving visitors a perfect continuous show as they progress from the batching area to the excitement of the orbiter Atlantis reveal.” Electrosonic also worked closely with Mousetrappe who created the spectacular content for the show.
Once out of the pre-show, visitors find themselves in the main exhibit space with the massive Atlantis itself. The orbiter is supported by numerous artifacts, interactive and simulation exhibits as well as two additional theaters.
The Hubble Close-up Movie Wall highlights the famed space telescope whose stunning images are displayed via two Projection Design F35 video projectors; eight speakers supply audio. A life-size model of the telescope is also on view.
The International Space Station Micro Gravity Theater gives a realistic view of astronauts aboard the ISS. It features a large TransScreen, a translucent membrane that acts as the projection surface for a pair of 10,000-lumen projectors installed behind, and at an angle to, the transparent material. Audio is fed to eight speakers, and a 26-inch touchscreen offers visitor interaction.
Interactive stations populate the entire Atlantis attraction. Three of the most interesting directly relate to the orbiter. The Crew Module AR consists of three multi-axis movable pods, which Electrosonic has outfitted with 26-inch touchscreens, small USB-powered line array speakers and webcams. Electrosonic also supplied four rotary encoders for each pod, which feed position information in USB form to a PC.
The Aft Fuselage AR is similar to the Crew Module with its three multi-axis movable pods and equipment complement. The Cockpit 360 interactive offers an encompassing view from the driver’s seat and features a 26-inch touchscreen with USB-powered line array speaker and four rotary encoders.
The STS Timeline presents visitors with six 55-inch LCD multi-touch displays installed in portrait mode at a slight angle to horizontal in a table configuration. They are fed by a PC and have dedicated line array speakers powered by local amps.
The International Space Station Media Wall is another bold display featuring seven 55-inch LCD multi-touch displays in vertical portrait mode. They are also fed by a PC and have custom low-profile speakers and amps.
Electrosonic designed the EVA, or space walk, interactive with three identical systems, each operating independently. A 65-inch LCD screen is installed at each exhibit along with a 3D depth-sensing system that allows the visitor’s actions to trigger the media application. A source PC, located at the exhibit, received data from the sensing system and triggers the media app. Audio is fed from the local PC to a passive micro line array speaker.
A series of simulators involve visitors even further in the space shuttle’s routines. Landing the Orbiter simulators comprise nine kiosks fitted with 26-inch displays, each connected to their own PC and small USB-powered speaker. Robotic Arm and Docking Station simulators consist of twelve separate kiosks each with four 19-inch displays; they are connected to their own PC and small USB-powered speaker. Electrosonic provided interfaces for one joystick and up to eight buttons for each of the simulator kiosks.
Finally, the Beanie Cap Floor Interactive, named for the “beanie caps” that covered the tops of the Space Shuttles on the launch pad, features an SXGA+ resolution projector, which Electrosonic custom-mounted to throw the image through a 45-degree mirror down to the floor. A sensing device connects to a server in the EER; four speakers deliver two channels of audio.
In specifying the audio components for the attraction Electrosonic opted for QSC’s Q-Sys Layer 3 hardware-independent IP WAN networked audio delivery technology for its scalability, low latency and flexibility. “Q-Sys monitors the QSC amplifiers via data port connectivity, which provides remote standby control, device status/monitoring and DSP processing,” Cabolis explains.
“This type of technology is typically used in themed entertainment. Because of its size, the attraction benefits from the Q-Sys technology, topology and monitoring features,” he notes.
According to Cabolis, the entire Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction “required very intense concept creation by PGAV Destinations, which, in turn, inspired the rest of the design teams and consultants. Throughout the various project phases we got to experience the NASA hospitality and were allowed to view, up-close-and-personal, various artifacts that for some of us – like myself – had a very special meaning. It was the desire to give visitors that same kind of emotional connection with the NASA program that drove us. I feel very privileged to have been part of this team. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”
Electrosonic is an international audio-visual company that creates tailored, state-of-the-art solutions for a wide range of markets including theme parks, museums, control rooms, and corporate meeting rooms. Since its founding in 1964, Electrosonic has built a strong reputation for working on complex projects, both large and small, and has developed lasting partnerships with customers and suppliers. Beyond complete integrated systems, Electrosonic provides a comprehensive scope of services including technical design, projector lamp sales, maintenance and operational support.
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