The brand new 250,000 square foot home of the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue was well received when it opened on April 11. Located in Washington, DC, adjacent to the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, the Newseum features seven levels of galleries, theatres, and event spaces that blends news history with cutting-edge technology and hands-on exhibits. Besides offering museumgoers a behind the scenes look at how and why news is made, they also produce and broadcast in their own television studios.
The main funder of the operations of the Newseum is The Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation. Jim Updike, VP of Technology for the Freedom Forum and for the Newseum, points out, “doing the outside news broadcasts and programs from here is an important part of our mission. We have done any number of television shows here from network newscasts all the way to our own programming, which we do in conjunction with other foundations and museums. We have two studios; they are both sponsored by one of our founding partners, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,” says Updike. “The studio on Pennsylvania Avenue and the interior studio that is 45’x70’. The Pennsylvania Avenue studio faces towards the Capitol and is all glass; this is where they broadcast This Week with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News from every Sunday.”
Updike has been with the Newseum project since it began in Arlington, VA. “We had our first museum over in Arlington, where Barbizon provided all of our studio lighting. It was natural when we came here, to bring Barbizon along with us. This was a huge project with a lot of different elements that Barbizon stepped up to and took ownership.” When Updike first contacted Barbizon about the new building he worked with Bill Price, Barbizon’s Director of Systems, who came on board to help design and build the two studios as well as supply the theatre. The final designs covered a large array of elements but Price knew that Barbizon Capitol Project Manager, Mark Fink would be able to handle such a large scope with ease. “Barbizon was originally contracted as the systems integrator for lighting and rigging systems in the two Knight Studios, The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater, and for the media screen in The New York Times – Ochs-Sulzberger Family Great Hall of News,” explains Fink. “Barbizon furnished the dimming equipment for these spaces for installation by the electrical contractor as well as furnishing and installing the motorized rigging and control systems for these spaces. We were later contracted to provide onsite project management and field coordination for the building-wide architectural lighting control system and the event lighting fixture package installed in the Great Hall.”
Barbizon provided the lighting and rigging integration for the Annenberg Theater, which is a 535 seat, multi-purpose venue. “Its main function during the during Newseum hours is the I-Witness 4D: A Time Travel Adventure,” says Updike. The show was produced by Cortina Productions with lighting design by Nancy Schertler. “In this particular case, Barbizon worked with the main systems integrator in there, which was Electrosonic, in creating the show lighting and effects. Barbizon also handled all of the rigging; there is considerable drapery, moving screens, roll drops, a lot of motion rigging in there.” Barbizon, with its subcontractor Pook Diemont and Ohl (PDO) furnished and installed an integrated motorized rigging system consisting of DeSisti batten hoists, Trumpf 95 and Cue-Track curtain track systems from Gerriets, various J.R. Clancy winches, and custom roll drops built by Hawkeye Scenic. A custom logic cabinet by PDO provides the control integration which is in turn controlled by an Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) Congo Light Server. The Congo Light Server is triggered via RS-232 from the Electrosonic show control system.
As systems integrator for the lighting and rigging systems in both of the Knight TV Studios, Barbizon supplied each studio with DeSisti self-climbing battens controlled by DeSisti HMC and HDC controllers. Entertainment Technology Intelligent Raceway was used for the dimming as well as DMX data distribution for the Pennsylvania Avenue Studio, with ETC Sensor+ Dimmer Racks being used in the interior studio. Barbizon supplied ETC Congo jr. consoles for lighting control in each of the studios, with the ability to connect any DMX lighting console directly to the dimming system if needed. Barbizon also installed the window treatments to make broadcast from that studio possible. John Schertler, lighting director with the Freedom Forum and for the Newseum handles the lighting design duties.
The scope of work for Barbizon was expanded to include coordination and integration of all of the architectural dimming and control throughout the building. They oversaw having the entire Newseum building incorporate an ETC Unison architectural control system with multiple processors to integrate the lighting control for day-to-day operation and special event use. There are more than 50 individual lighting control locations consisting of either a 5 or 10 button Unison Station, paired with a plug-in for a portable Unison LCD controller and an RJ-45 connection to the lighting network. Since the Newseum also serves as an event space, the lighting needed the ability to have tailored looks for each event’s requirements.
An ETC Congo is being used for event lighting control in the Great Hall of News. The Congo also has access to virtually every lighting circuit in the building for quickly setting event lighting looks in the galleries and other spaces. The inventory in the Great Hall includes 14 Robe ColorSpot 1200e AT units, two Martin TW1 Wash fixtures, 16 Selador X7xtra • 21 LED striplights, and 26 Elektralite PaintCan color changing fixtures. All of the fixtures are connected to Congo via either ETC two-port nodes or Pathway Pathport Uno nodes on an ETC Net2 network.
While there is a lot to see and do at the Newseum, when asked about interesting solutions, Updike “would have to say the media screen in the Great Hall is certainly a cool aspect of what we do. If we had just hung that thing without being able to take it up and down, it would have been a sad day.” Price is also proud of the screen solution, “I have to say the part that I am most pleased with was the monstrous winch for the media screen in the atrium. That was just an engineering marvel thanks to J.R. Clancy and to PDO who installed it.”
Barbizon contacted J.R. Clancy, requesting assistance on the challenge of moving the media screen, which is 40’x22’ of Barco ILite 6mm tiles weighing 22,000 lbs from a beam concealed within the metal paneled ceiling of the Great Hall. The clearance within the ceiling, as well as the relative inaccessibility of any equipment installed above the metal panels 90’ in the air, presented a challenge, as it made a typical ceiling-mounted hoist system impractical. To solve this, Clancy engineers designed a self-climbing winch that would lift 34,000 lbs—the combined weight of the screen and winch.
Barbizon’s work with Clancy is typical of their approach to a project of this scale. They bring together many companies, with the right products and services to make a project work as an integrated whole. “We used Clancy, we used DeSisti, we used Gerriets, we used PDO, and we used the expertise of the people throughout Barbizon,” says Price. “We were all rowing in the right direction, which is the beauty of a design build project. That you get a good team onboard and anything is solvable and everything worked well. Yes, there were difficulties, but they were all, ultimately surmountable.”
Fink agrees there is long list of people and companies that made this project all come together. “This was a success because of the work of a lot of people, certainly Kristian Vatalaro, Paul Jacunski, and Michael Patterson from Pook Diemont & Ohl who installed the rigging systems; Eric McAfee and Anthony Seifritz from J.R. Clancy; Ted Ozimek and Jeff Stroman from ETC; David Ketchum from Entertainment Technology; Nick Pagliante from Gerriets International; and Chris Wunderlich from DeSisti.” Price concludes, “Ultimately, it was a really good collaborative effort by a lot of people within the entertainment technology industry.”