Multimedia AV Brings the ‘60s to Life

April 1, 2009
A museum serves as an educational and informational facility that examines the ‘60s, as well as the evolution of popular music

Built on the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is home to a 10,000-square-foot museum. The museum serves as an educational and informational facility that examines the social and cultural legacy of the ‘60s, as well as the evolution of popular music. Edison, NJ-based McCann Systems created the audiovisual environment for the museum’s immersive, multimedia exhibits; interactive displays; and the accompanying AV control systems.

Specialists began by analyzing the consultants’ conceptual plans for the space, as well as the content providers’ ideas. The visions were created, adjusted, and given new life by using the latest trends and technology.

Interactivity to Stir the Imagination
Touchscreens were used throughout the interactive areas. In one location, touchscreens allow visitors to see and explore the Woodstock Festival’s bands through a musical timeline that stretches from the ‘60s to present day. Music can be searched via category or era. Guests can also review the schedule that was followed at the Woodstock Festival. The touchscreens run by using custom software that utilizes cutting-edge flash technology. Each touchscreen features two permanently installed headphones and a jack for visitors to plug in their own headphones.

The Theater Experience
The museum’s intimate “68” Theater delivers content produced by the History Channel. Audio-video control systems and closed-caption functionality were created, including ability for the user to turn the closed captioning on or off.

In the 130-seat Woodstock Theater, an HD projector and a perforated screen hide speakers and an integrated, high-end audio-video system. The continuous-loop film highlights the music experience of the Woodstock Festival.

Put Yourself in the Picture … Forever
Another inventive, interactive area allows visitors to take their own pictures and then use the integrated microphone to add audio messages to them. The photo and the accompanying message are then stored in the museum’s archives. In years to come, visitors and friends can call up those photos and messages, and leave messages of their own; in effect, it’s a brilliantly designed, interactive time capsule.

Putting Woodstock on the Map
Another novel interactive area at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is the map table. The table displays an aerial view of the Woodstock Festival site. Surrounding the table are six small touchscreens and headphones. Visitors control their own icons on the map. When the icon is rolled over certain points on the map, descriptions of the specific areas and their Woodstock Festival significance are revealed.

One of the technical challenges involved with this project included creating a low-profile, AV-equipped map table that sat at a comfortable height for children and adults. To accomplish this task, a projector was installed under the table. To accommodate the projection geometry necessary for this small, low space, a tiny mirror sled was squeezed in to work in tandem with the projector. 

Get on the Bus
The bus area of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is an actual school bus that is painted and decorated, inside and out, to resemble a hippie-inspired bus of the ‘60s. AV specialists were called on to help create a projection screen on the interior of the windshield, and to integrate the audio as well. A video program is projected onto the windshield for audiences inside the bus to view.

The difficulty with this project was that the windshield of an old school bus is oddly shaped; this necessitated the construction of a template for Stewart Filmscreen to follow in order to make the screen contour perfectly to the window. Next, a pixel map was created for the content builders to follow so that images avoided going over the middle of the window while still tracking the screen’s contours.

Six Projectors and a Perforated, 40-Foot Screen
The museum’s Festival Experience area uses six projectors that are blended to create one large image on a 40- by 20-foot, seamless, perforated, curved screen. Behind the perforated screen is a high-end audio system. Three other projectors, complemented by small mirrors, fold the light into a vertical portrait mode and bounce video onto scrims above. The entire AV experience immerses the viewers in a trip through the ‘60s.

A Self Portrait
AV design, hardware, cameras, printers, flash technology, and other equipment were also needed for a self-portrait area. The concept was somewhat similar to an amusement park photo site, where visitors dress in clothing of a bygone era and have their pictures taken. Here, however, the concept permits visitors to have their pictures taken, and then have their photos virtually inserted into any number of chosen scenes featuring ‘60s-era costumes, hairstyles, and accessories. The final photo is printed for immediate purchase.

Utilizing Medialon, programmers wrote software that allows museum staff members to simply and effectively custom build, tailor, and tweak individual shows. Medialon also gives the staff the ability to change start times and closing times, and modify individual areas, without having to call for help on minor changes and alterations.

A Dashboard program also delivers a status overview of the system’s activity and health at any given time. It can pinpoint a specific area and tell you whether the AV equipment area is on or off. If it’s on, it can show you what clip is playing. The system will advise of any problem areas, and also provides a system health status. It’s also programmed to send immediate e-mail alerts.

Robin Goldman is director of sales and marketing at Edison, NJ-based McCann Systems LLC.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of I+S Design, create an account today!