Visitors to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans are moved and excited by its unique new immersive film attraction, “Beyond All Boundaries,” which not only tells the story of the “war that changed the world” but also breaks boundaries of its own in 4D cinema experiences. Electrosonic was responsible for the design and integration of the Audio Visual and show control system for what Tom Brokaw called “the most significant cinematic piece on World War II.”
A large-scale immersive production that harnesses 21st century technology, “Beyond All Boundaries” plunges viewers into the Greatest Generation’s journey from Pearl Harbor into the heat of battle to the final victory of D-Day. It premiered November 6 in the 250-seat Solomon Victory Theater, part of the museum’s recent $300 million expansion.
Tom Hanks narrates (and executive produced) the 35-minute “Beyond All Boundaries” which features Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Patricia Clarkson, Gary Sinise and other A-list actors voicing Americans on the front lines and homefront. As part of the 4D experience, the theater’s seats shake from rumbling tanks, it snows during The Battle of the Bulge, and the nose of B-52 bomber set piece flies in front of the screen during a bombing raid as its wings are projected around it. The production plays to audiences eight times a day.
The Hettema Group was responsible for the concept, design and production and called in Electrosonic to consult on AV design for its debut production, “Beyond All Boundaries.” Phil Hettema, president of The Hettema Group and a former senior vice president of attraction development for Universal Studios, served as show producer and creative director. Mousetrappe, Inc. furnished media design and productionwith Doug Yellen as producer and Darin Ulmer as production and media designer
“Beyond All Boundaries” is projected onto a 115 x 28-foot curved scrim, or transparent gauze, screen with three Christie Roadster S+20K DLP(tm) projectors edge blending the images to create the compelling wartime visuals. “The main criterion was to create a very large projection experience that would encompass audio, moving scenery and layered effects,” says Jane Hall, manager of Electrosonic’s Design Consulting Group.
In front of the scrim is a pit from which artifacts – a giant radio set, a concentration camp watch tower, the gun turret of a warship – emerge at appropriate moments in the show. Behind the scrim various objects, such as tank traps, can be illuminated, and another giant projection screen is set back about 20 feet from the main scrim. This configuration creates truly dimensional, complex images with visuals projected onto the scrim bleeding through to the set pieces and second screen. Sequences depicting the fire bombing of Dresden, Asian jungles and the bombing of Japan are especially powerful with the double-screen arrangement which can be augmented with lighting and smoke effects.
Electrosonic did a mock up with a single projector to determine the best scrim material to use, Hall explains. “When only a front image needs to be seen, a black velour curtain is dropped behind the scrim to make it opaque,” she points out. Electrosonic also spent a lot of time working with 3D computer models of the theater, reports project manager Steve Calver. “We needed to see how everything would fit and be positioned in the theater, how the projectors would be out of the sight of the audience and out of the way of other props yet be easily accessible for maintenance and retain their signal integrity and network connectivity.”
The main screen projectors were installed on a custom projection mount in the ceiling of the projection booth and aligned to achieve a single focal point so edge blending could be resolved on different surfaces. “That’s very different from typical edge blending,” Calver notes.
Five Christie DS+10KM projectors are used to create edge-butted images for the second concentric screen 20ft upstage of the primary scrim. A Christie Roadster HD10K-M, mounted at back of house, projects onto three small panels that rise up out of the pit in front of the scrim providing captions and other supporting images for the main screen.
For the six-minute preshow which sets the stage with a look at life in prewar America, all of the plasma monitors are driven by eight Electrosonic MS9500GL MPEG2 HD video players. “Beyond All Boundaries” is sourced from five Electrosonic ES9600 dual-channel JPEG-2000 players that provide 10 channels of 24p HD. Overall show control is supplied by a Medialon running Show Manager V5. with integrated AMX touch panels for GUI based operation and maintenance access. .
“John Bush, our Medialon programmer, worked three months programming the system on site to make sure everything performed as a perfectly timed, integrated system,” says Calver. “In the end there were over 1100 Medialon tasks that coordinated communications and timing between show control and the various subsystems for moving sets, special effects, lighting, audio and video. That took a lot of testing and adjusting to accomplish.”
An extensive audio system was also required to reinforce wartime sound effects and an original musical score by Hollywood composer Bruce Broughton. Electrosonic hired SoundWorks System Integrators, a local professional integrator in New Orleans to help build, install, and commission this very dynamic sound system. The Electrosonic-designed system features a digital Peavey Nion-6 digital signal processors, QSC amps and Renkus Heinz PNX series speakers.
“Beyond All Boundaries” is “a real theatrical production in a large-scale sense,” Calver emphasizes. “It’s amazingly well done, the kind of show you’d expect to see at a leading theme park.”
At Electrosonic Linda Danet was the sales consultant, Mike Dwyre was site supervisor, Tom Brighton handled the video encoding for the preshow and film and supported all the onsite video editing and mixing, John Groper and Stan Gilson were engineers, and John Notarnicola and Nir Elnekave were projectionists. Andy Batwinas from the Design Consulting Group worked with The Hettema Group on early conceptual design and design parameters.
Nick Mueller, President of the museum, developed the concept to create an immersive theatrical experience for the museum. Bob Farnsworth was project Director for the museum.
Electsosonic worked with a variety of specialty contractors including Elliott Metal Fabrication for the custom design and fabrication of the projection mounts, Visual Terrain who provided lighting design, LA Propoint and Rando Production who provided all mechanical and special effects, and Technical Supervision was provided by It’s Alive Co. New Orleans-based SoundWorks fabricated audio racks and handled the audio installation.
Electrosonic is an international audio-visual company with a strong reputation for working on complex projects, both large and small, and has through its 45 year history developed lasting partnerships with customers and suppliers. Electrosonic brings a unique breadth of experience to each project; backed by solid engineering skills, project management and quality production facilities. Beyond complete integrated systems, Electrosonic can provide a wide range of services including consultancy, technical design, maintenance and operational support.
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