The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex recently opened in a 25,000sq-ft. space at 76 Mercer St. in New York City’s Soho district, where the editorial staff of Live Design was treated to a tour last week, as well as a presentation by Sennheiser and AV installers ACME Pro.

Hearing The Hall

An array of Sennheiser and Klein + Hummel products were chosen by the producers of the Annex—Running Subway Productions, Jam Exhibitions and S2BN Entertainment—including the Sennheiser guidePORT receiver that provides seamless, personalized audio navigation at their own pace and level.

Here’s how the system works: As visitors explore the exhibit, they hear music that complements each area of the gallery via a pair of Sennheiser PX 200 headphones and the clip-on Sennheiser guidePORT receiver. Specially produced narratives and live soundtracks “trigger” the guidePORT system as visitors browse the exhibits and pass by the many monitors and specially projected images and effects. All you do is press start, and the system tracks your whereabouts and accompanies you on your way.

“The guidePORT tour guide system takes what would either be a static read-only exhibition, or one that has many noisy and conflicting audio sources, and transforms it into an incredible personal experience for the rock and roll fan,” says David McNutt, industry team leader for installed sound at Sennheiser. “The Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, Joplin, Clapton, Dylan all come alive as experienced through the personal guidePORT system.”

Throughout the “Roots & Influences” exhibit, for example, visitors automatically hear how the music legends of yesterday, such as James Brown, have influenced recent chart-toppers like 50 Cent and Notorious B.I.G. Then, as visitors make their way to the “Moments to Movements” display to view such items as John Lennon’s never-before-displayed white Vox prototype guitar, visitors experience a seamless transition to a different soundtrack.

ACME Pro, a new division of ACME Sound Partners (who were among the first-ever nominees for a Tony Award for Sound in 2008, and this project marks the company’s first foray into complete AV) were responsible for the AV installation, as well as the show control systems in the venue, which includes a Medialon Manager system and Dataton Watchout. Tom Clark of ACME Pro notes that the Sennheiser receiver packs are a combination of stored audio files and radio, the latter of which synchronizes the music to video for certain parts of the exhibit.

Going back to the entrance to the exhibit, visitors start at “Signature Hall,” to view the retrospective The Power and The Glory, an immersive film experience by Batwin + Robin. The hall features seven Klein + Hummel ProX 6 loudspeakers and a multimedia presentation in special multi-channel sound over Klein + Hummel IS 123 loudspeakers and subwoofer systems.

Seeing The Hall

Available Light designed all the lighting in the public spaces, including the intro theatre, the artifact lighting, and temporary exhibit space. Ted Mather, Tim Becker, and Jim Milkey comprised Available Light’s project team. “The majority of the exhibit is lit using a system of track and track fixtures,” says Tim of Availble Light. “Both PAR38 and AR111 lamps are used. There is a lavish, yet express use of color throughout the exhibit to create a museum experience that is rooted in the energy of rock ‘n’ roll while maintaining safe exposure of the artifacts. All artifacts have the UV component filtered from the light using Optivex UV glass filters, and the light is either dimmed or scrimmed down to reduce any damaging effects from the light.”

To accompany the film in the theatre at the exhibit intro—Becker describes the space as drawing its look and feel “from downtown music venues,” and designed by 8 Hands High—the bulk of the theatrical equipment is mounted in full view of the audience. “During the film, the lighting plays both a subliminal and visceral role,” says Becker. “For early, groundbreaking performances long before the advent of concert lighting, the lighting serves as a bed for the images and music, enhancing moments of each. As the performances in the film begin to show how lighting becomes a greater component to the live rock performance, the lighting design is more present and intrinsic. The audience is often bathed in it, taking the film’s sound and image into dimensional experience with the intension of giving the feeling, at least a little bit, that they are there.”

Lighting gear in the Annex includes a Strand Palette console and Strand C21dimmer racks, Martin Professional MAC 250 Kyrptons, ETC Source Four Ellipsoidals, Diversitronics and SLD Lighting strobes, National Specialty Lighting rope lights, Altman Lighting striplights, and a mix of PARs from American DJ, Times Square Lighting, Altman Lighting, and James Thomas Engineering.

You can get tickets at the Annex box office or by visiting www.rockannex.com.

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