National World War II Museum

Electrosonic Helps “Beyond All Boundaries” Deliver Unique 4D Theatrical Experience to Visitors
New Orleans, LA

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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 6th, 2009 in the 250-seat Solomon Victory Theater, part of the museum’s recent $300 million expansion.


Working light view of the auditorium, which seats 250. The big projection port accommodates all three main projectors.


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 US Air Force flying over Germany. The foreground bomber’s nose cone is a giant model within the auditorium.


“Beyond All Boundaries” is projected onto a 115 x 28-foot curved scrim, or transparent gauze, screen with three Christie Roadster S+20K DLP™ 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.


The scene depicting the bombing of Japan. The audience feels the “heat” with lighting, smoke effects, and layers of projection.


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.


“Tanktraps” can be seen through the scrim. A single “pit” screen is being used to provide caption information.


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 MPEG2 HD video players.  “Beyond All Boundaries” is sourced from five Electrosonic dual-channel JPEG-2000 players that provide 10 channels of 24p HD.  Overall show control is supplied by a Medialon system.  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.”


Fighting the Japanese warships. The “gun turret” appears from the pit and seems to be on board the aircraft carrier as it strafes the auditorium.


An extensive audio system was also required to reinforce wartime sound effects and an original musical score by Hollywood composer Bruce Broughton.   “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.”

The Hettema Group was responsible for the concept, design and production and called in Electrosonic to consult on AV design for the theater's debut production, “Beyond All Boundaries.”  Mousetrappe, Inc. furnished media design and production with Doug Yellen as producer and Darin Ulmer as production and media designer.


The “Dresden” scene, with words from Kurt Vonnegut, makes effective use of the scrim.



The pit in front of the main scrim hides scenic props, three additional screens that raise and lower throughout the show, lighting equipment, foggers and the intense strobe used for the atomic blast.