Electrosonic Makes Headlines with Mammoth Newseum Project

Interactive museum of news reporting opens in Washington, D.C. in seven-level, high-tech space

Electrosonic has provided most of the video displays and audio systems in the public areas, exhibit galleries and theaters at the Newseum, which opens in Washington, D.C. in April.  The project is among the largest jobs Electrosonic has ever done.

A seven-level, high-tech interactive museum, the Newseum traces the history of news reporting from the 16th century to the present.  Originally located in Arlington, Virginia, with AV systems installed by Electrosonic, the Newseum is now at the Capitol end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  It boasts 250,000 square feet of exhibit space and includes 14 major galleries and a 4D time-travel experience.  The main funder of the Newseum’s operations is the nonpartisan Freedom Forum.

“The Newseum is a very sophisticated building with an open plan and enormously tall atrium, which meant there were many lighting and acoustical challenges to overcome,” notes Andrew Kidd, Electrosonic business development manager and technology consultant.  “But our client, the Freedom Forum’s Jim Updike, and Bud O’Connor and his team are technologically extremely well qualified.  Since they are all former broadcast engineers, the design and implementation was really a partnership between the two organizations.  Starting with a very interactive design and development process, they absolutely understood what we were doing.  They have been excellent to work with for a second time and that has made for a great experience all around.”

Electrosonic furnished almost 800 loudspeakers for the PA system throughout the Newseum.  They comprise ceiling-mounted EAW CIS400 speakers, Community WET2W8 and Tannoy i8 speakers on the outdoor terrace, and custom Dakota line arrays and Bag End subwoofers in the lobby, also known as The New York Times-Ochs-Sulzberger Family Great Hall of News. 

“The Newseum is divided into about 80 zones, and any zone can be addressed independently by the PA system,” Kidd explains.  “The most basic use of the system is to announce events and closing time to visitors.  But the system will also be used to deliver background music to private events held in the space and to enable different presentations to take place in the zones simultaneously.”

With most galleries wide open to the Great Hall of News “there were issues of containing sound within the individual zones and creating good sound quality in the lobby,” Kidd continues.  “There are thousands and thousands of square feet of glass and concrete working against us and a few nice absorbent surfaces helping out.” Electrosonic worked closely with acoustic designer Steve Haas of SH Acoustics to select the speaker types that best fit his acoustic design of the Newseum.  “His speaker choices and treatments in the lobby make for quite extraordinarily clear sound,” Kidd reports. 

Media Matrix Nion digital sound processing was used throughout the Newseum along with a mixture of QSC and Crown amplifiers.

The Great Hall of News also features two Sunrise Systems news tickers, which run 100 and 150 feet respectively along the fronts of the second- and third-floor balconies.  Associated Press RSS News feeds streamed to the Newseum have characters six inches high.

Visitors to the Newseum begin their tour on the concourse level where five Hearst Corporation Orientation Theaters as well as assorted exhibits welcome them.  One 120-seat theater and four 40-seat theaters present the award-winning “What’s News,” an HD video exploring the boundaries of journalism and the public’s need to know.  Electrosonic outfitted the theaters with Christie 3-chip DLP projectors, Stewart screens, Tannoy speakers and Bag End subs.

Electrosonic furnished 42- and 47-inch Toshiba LCD displays and 24-inch Samsung flat panels to exhibits throughout the Newseum.  In the basement, the Berlin Wall Gallery, which features one of only two of the original guard towers in existence, and sections of the graffiti-strewn wall, includes four 42-inch Toshiba LCDs and three steered array speakers to hold the sound in the concrete-filled area.  Other basement galleries spotlight a satellite news truck, a linotype exhibit and a looped slide presentation of unforgettable photos shown on two screens.

From the concourse level visitors take huge glass elevators to the top exhibit level where they continue their tour and descend to the other floors.

On the fifth floor the News History Gallery chronicles artifacts from five centuries of news reporting.  The long, narrow space features two rows of display cases surmounted by a frieze created by 20 Standard Definition Christie projectors displaying a collage of video images.  Five more Christie projectors highlight particular artifacts by projecting onto screen fabric in the glass cases.  Five small “Sidebar” theaters, equipped with Christie HD projectors and custom screens, tell individual stories in the history of news.  A series of interactive touchscreens are supported by 47-inch Toshiba LCD slave displays from Electrosonic.

On the same floor is the Pulliam Family Great Books Gallery, which highlights documents related to freedom of speech and the press, Christie HD projectors display a two-screen, edge-blended show run by Dataton WATCHOUT.

The fourth floor is home to an extensive 9/11 Gallery, which looks at the media response to the terrorist attack.  Among the components of this space are Samsung 24-inch flat panel displays from Electrosonic and a screen and Christie HD projector in a small theater.

Visitors descend to the third floor where the Internet, TV and Radio Gallery, which has a unique configuration.  In the center of the space is a theater with a white fabric screen and Christie HD projector.  The long outside walls of the theater are composed of two 25-foot high glass cases which each house six rows of four 32-inch Sony CRT SD TVs in a checkerboard arrangement.  They are fed by eight separate media sources and primarily display prerecorded content; although live events can also be fed to the TVs.

The gallery also has graphical timelines detailing methods of transmitting the news interspersed with 13 JVC 19-inch flat panels from Electrosonic.

On the second floor the Interactive Newsroom includes eight “Be A TV Reporter” kiosks, which are run by Electrosonic custom control software and hardware.  In this bluescreen experience, which is triggered by the barcode on the entry ticket, visitors choose a backdrop and read a script from a teleprompter while full-motion MPEG video and still photos capture the moment.  Visitors can take the photo home and download the video from the Newseum’s web site with their card code.  Flat panels display the clips in the exhibit area.

On the first floor, four 47-inch Toshiba LCD displays cycle through Pulitzer Prize-winning photos as visitors head to a theater for a more detailed presentation on the topic.  Electrosonic provided a Christie HD projector for the show about the prize-winning photographers and their work, which is projected onto a white wall.

Also on the first floor, Electrosonic helped design and installed the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater, a true multi-purpose venue, which includes a 4D time-travel experience. As a theater for general purpose presentations, it seats 500 and is outfitted with Christie HD projection and Tannoy speakers. As a 4D theater it seats 196 and features a 57x25-foot custom curved Stewart screen, a pair of Christie Digital CP2000 Projectors, DVS HD Servers and Renkus Heinz, Tannoy and Bag End speakers. QSC amplifiers, Media Matrix Nion audio processing. A Fostex digital audio player was also used.

The 4D experience takes visitors on a journalistic trip through time where they meet celebrated reporters of the past such as Nellie Bly and Edward R. Murrow.  They sit in motion base seats, built by Oceaneering under contract to Electrosonic, and feel wind, air blasts, spritzer and rumble effects as they view a 3D show created by Cortina Productions. Lighting effects were crafted by Barbizon Lighting.  Electrosonic created the final show programming for the theater using their ESCAN show control software.

Throughout the Newseum Electrosonic provided DoReMi Nugget HD players as some of the HD sources. All HD is transmitted from a central equipment room on the third floor and a basement equipment room to the displays via fiber.

All of the exhibition systems are controlled by Electrosonic’s ESCAN software for scheduling and sequencing; the program is client-updatable and modifiable.

Dan Laspa served as Electrosonic’s project manager for the Newseum. Media for the galleries was created in-house at the Newseum with Paul Sparrow in charge of production.  Chris Miceli at Ralph Appelbaum Associates headed the exhibit design team.  Kubik was the exhibit fabricator.

About Electrosonic

Electrosonic is a worldwide audio-visual company that operates in three ways: as a systems integrator, as a product manufacturer, and as a service provider for AV facilities. Founded in 1964, Electrosonic has always been among the first to apply new technology to create tailored, state-of-the-art solutions that meet the challenges of the professional AV market.

Electrosonic’s system integration business has 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, lamp leasing and operational support.