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Multimedia Network at the National World War II Museum, Part 1

Dec 30, 2010 12:00 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Part 1 | Part 2

Editor's note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes Timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the Timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

It's a total century emersion in World War II combat. The sights, sounds and even the feeling of the fighting comes alive at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Paul Parrie, director of information systems and technology at the museum, takes us backstage for a fascinating look at the complex AV system that makes it all come alive.

Paul, thanks for being with me on the SVC podcast. You have a great job: You're in charge of the technical elements of the National World War II Museum that's had a huge—something like a $300 million—upgrade lately.
Paul Parrie:
And actually I do have the greatest job in the world. I get to work with some great veterans and some awesome technology and we just went through—we're in the midst of—a $350 million expansion, actually. We just finished what we're calling "phase four," which contains three new venues for the museum: the Stage Door Canteen, the Solomon Victory Theater, and the American Sector restaurant. [Timestamp: 1:26]

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That's a lot of stuff to keep spinning in the right direction. So you've got the Stage Door Canteen, which is a performance venue; the Solomon Victory Theater, which is the main thing I want to talk to you about; and a pre-show area out in front of that. Now what kind of AV resources does the Stage Door Canteen have?
The Stage Door Canteen is equipped to do live performances whether it's—we've done lectures in the Stage Door Canteen, we've done big band music in the Stage Door Canteen, we've done dance music, and we have a live signature show with actors—eight actors—that sing and dance and tell jokes on stage. So we have a full complement of audio gear; we have stage monitors for the front of the stage; we have rear stage monitors. We also have a full lighting package that can be controlled manually or via our show control system, which is a Medialon system. [Timestamp: 2:18]

OK and we'll talk more about the Medialon system when we come to the Solomon Victory Theater, where it really gets a workout, but in the Stage Door Canteen, where is all the control stuff done? Where's the FOH audio and everything?
That's up on the second floor. This is a two-floor facility. The first floor is the ground floor that has the dance floor and the stage; the second floor is a mezzanine, and right back center stage of the mezzanine is the FOH position where the audio control is. Also the neon lighting control or the Ion lighting control is back there and we have access to the Medialon remotely from the FOH as well. [Timestamp: 2:57]

OK, so obviously you don't just have one guy running around there. What kind of a crew do you have for this stuff?
It depends what the production is. We will always have a stage manager who is working with the on-stage talent; working back-stage to ensure that movement back there is efficient and safe and then we will have, at a minimum, one technician working the FOH position. If it's a complex show, we will set another technician up there to either run audio or run Medialon as well as the lighting controls. [Timestamp: 3:29]

Yeah, you've got so much stuff in there as far as sights and sounds and all sorts of tactile sensations and so forth. I don't think you can come close to experiencing all of this in one day. It seems like you give it—you could spend several days just to see everything you have there.
It is very difficult to see everything in a day. It takes quite a while to get through, and we've just recently instituted a multiday pass so if you come in you can take your time, really experience everything that we have to offer and really absorb the story of World War II and the people who fought in World War II. So we have a multiday pass now so people don't feel that time pressure to rush through so they see everything. [Timestamp: 4:07]

That's great. The big attraction, as far as the technical elements and everything, you've got the Solomon Victory Theater with a show called Beyond All Boundaries, and that's probably the most appropriate title I can think of even from behind the scenes in describing the way it all works. You've got so many things going on there, not only sight and sound but all kinds of special effects and moving objects. What was the original concept for the Solomon Victory Theater?
What we wanted to do with the Solomon Victory Theater and with Beyond All Boundaries is we wanted to give a 35- to 45-minute experience the would encapsulate the war. And we knew when this was in scripting that there was no way you could tell a war of this magnitude; you couldn't tell that story in 45 minutes and you can't cover all the battles, you can't cover all the people. So we really—we designed this experience to be more about feeling, and it's told from the point of view of the veterans who fought it in the war. It's told from the point of view of the 17-year-old kids who actually went over there and did what they had to do and tried to come home alive. It's a very emotional experience. People walk out of there and they just—they're just amazed. It really gives them a different prospective on what the war was about and who was actually over there and how it affected those people. I always suggest to visitors when they come that they see Beyond All Boundaries before they go through the exhibit spaces so they have a point of reference as they're looking at the artifacts and are reading the stories that are in the exhibits. [Timestamp: 5:36]

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