Seattles EMP Museum recently renovated its Sky Church, a one-of-a-kind grand hall that features elaborate automated multimedia presentations complete with lighting, effects, live performances, and elaborate gala events. Earlier this year, premier systems integration firm Advanced Broadcast Solutions (ABS) upgraded the rooms master control, delivering high definition (HD) imagery, true 5.1 surround sound, and a new media front end to manage content.
EMP Museum of Music, Science Fiction, and Pop Culture is housed in the landmark Frank O. Gehry building at the base of the Seattle Space Needle. The museums Sky Church is a striking space, with a 70-foot ceiling and new 3360 foot Barco C7 LED video wall that supports better-than-HD image quality.
Essentially, its a multimedia presentation room housed in a museum exhibit, said Mark Miller, ABS sales and design specialist. The flexibility is so vast that it can host almost any type of presentation. Its arguably the most sophisticated venue in the northwest.
When the museum opened in 2000, Sky Church was originally conceived as a communal place for people of all ages to gather, according to Forrest Gibson, chief technology officer at EMP. Physically, visually, and sonically, it is an awe-inspiring space with tremendous potential to create a dramatic multi-sensory experience.
In 2009, when the museum began to consider upgrades, Gibson said several design goals were set. Beyond an upgrade from SD to HD, the museum wanted the space to draw in patrons with presentations utilizing new and archived content.
During the proposal process, Gibson said the ABS team delivered more than just the most favorable pricing. He said they were very responsive and delivered extraordinary service, particularly when gathering information during the initial bid process. They offered valuable recommendations, rather than a cookie-cutter approach, he said.
Previously designed to support SD video, the room can now display HD imagery from several Pacific Interactive media servers, a Green Hippo Hippotizer HD media server, Blu-ray players, digital signage, and presentation computers located in the control room. All video is run through a Vista Systems Spyder X20 video processor and routed through a PESA Cheetah router.
For audio, the Sky Church is equipped with a Linear Acoustics upmixer that converts stereo content into 5.1 surround sound. A Yamaha DM2000VCM digital production console allows the operator to mix in a true 5.1 space and it allows any input, including live microphones, to be panned in the surround sound field. Miller said the new design allows for more interesting audio programming for the museum.
We really transformed the space to be the heart of the museum, Gibson said, a shared space in a very comfortable environment for people to enjoy curated content. Its night and day for us. It sounds fantastic, it looks fantastic, its what we needed. He also said the upgrades have amped up production values for events.
The backbone of the new audio and video systems is built on a 3G platform, so it is ready to handle future content bandwidth demands. We spent a lot of time up front to make it future-proof and as flexible as possible, said Miller. We were coming into a space where we had to develop a workflow based around new technologies that havent really been put together before.
ABS was able to complete the master control project in about three weeks, so it was ready for the opening of EMPs Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibition in April. Sky Church is currently showing custom content supporting its AVATAR exhibition, which opened in June.
What we found with ABS was that they were truly a partner, Gibson added. They were eager to understand what our needs really were. Their design was fantastic and the installation was very clean and top notch.