Interactive multimedia is the buzzword at Explorations in the New Millennium, a new space-age attraction that opened last February at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral on the east coast of Florida. Cuningham Group architects designed the themed layout of the attraction with all of the media and show production by Metavision of Burbank, CA, lighting design by JK Design Group in Granada Hills, CA, lighting system installation by Candela Controls, show control and audio systems by Soundelux Showorks, and onsite coordination by Idle Time Network (all of these companies are in Orlando, FL).

A collage-style timeline, or history wall, looks back at the first 1,000 years of man's exploration of earth as well as space, and sets the tone for the attraction. "The timeline stretches from the Vikings to the Viking Lander on Mars," explains Peter Inova, creative director for Metavision. The images on the wall were computer-generated at Metavision.

This 50' curving mural has been applied to the drywall and is lit from above with Con-Tech track fixtures lamped with Phillips 75W PAR-30s. "Conceptually, I saw this area in white light," says Edward Kaye, principal designer and partner in the JK Design Group. "We infused a subdued color statement into the future areas. The concept is for a very high-contrast lighting treatment with low-intensity general illumination. The areas of visual concentration are highlighted. The overall effect is colorful and subtly illuminated, not dark."

Throughout the other areas of the attraction, Kaye added ETC Source Four ellipsoidals with patterns to add texture to the open space (GAM 643--Moonscape and Rosco 7764--Amorphous) and filters (GAM 960--Medium Blue, Rosco 60--No Color Blue, and Rosco 37 Pale Pink Rose). "These are programmed on a slow-moving chase to inject a dynamic element into the attraction," notes Kaye.

The Source Fours are circuited to a 24-channel ETC Unison dimmer rack that is shared by the lighting in the attraction and its Millennium Theatre, which presents live briefings about current and ongoing NASA missions. The Millennium Theatre's four dimmer channels are run by an ETC Unison control system, while those remaining in the attraction areas were programmed on an ETC Express console, then downloaded onto a rackmounted ETC Express(TM) LPC96 for playback. Both control systems accept MIDI signals from the AMX show control system installed by Soundelux.

"The show control is all automated," says Bill Ellis of Candela Controls, which provided and installed the majority of the lighting equipment. "There is a start cue that turns it on in the morning and a stop cue that shuts it down at the end of the day." Manual options include the use of work lights and lamp check. "There is also a 12-pole contactor, or electrical device, that acts like a giant relay with 12 circuits to run some of the track heads," Ellis explains.

Bruck track fixtures (from Germany) with matte chrome finish and MR-16 lamps were used on a flexible track to follow the curved 90'-long planetary mural. To accent the space theme, colored T-5 fluorescent tubes internally illuminate curved arches on the outside of the theatre walls, while vertically oriented T-8 fluorescent lamps with color sleeves are concealed within decorative columns and serve to edge-light acrylic rings framing either side of the Planetary Exploration console set.

Another nod toward space is the 15mm steady-burn neon tubes in red and blue that are hung on a trellis-like structure near the ceiling in the Viking exhibit area. "These curve around the planetary mural originally conceived metaphorically to symbolize the orbits of earth (blue) and Mars (red) in space," Kaye explains.

The Planetary Exploration console area simulates the bridge of a spaceship, with Metavision's graphic control panels, touch-screen displays with facts about solar images, and three large windows that serve as screens for looping films about space travel. Looking figuratively out into space from the control bridge, the window treatment is a Metavision-produced video, which mixes imaginary images with NASA's own space footage. The video playback is via MPEG-2 video servers (compression format) from Visual Circuits in Minneapolis, MN.

The ceiling of this room suggests the architecture of a spaceship with a domed pod in the center and an array of struts, or arms, reaching outward. To give the decor an otherworldly glow, Kaye added E-90 purple argon neon in the soffit, and fluorescent lamps in dark lavender (GAM 990) on the underside of the arms. The interior of the dome is lit with compact fluorescents sleeved with a deep rose tint (Rosco 39--Skelton Exotic Sangria).

The audio system for the whole attraction was installed by Soundelux Showorks, which also installed the video and show control systems. The audio system is designed to differentiate the sound and control the volume in each separate area. "We used smaller speaker clusters to contain the sound levels since the walls do not go all the way to the ceiling," says Tom Swetitsch, project manager/ design engineer for Soundelux. Careful speaker placement helps direct the sound to avoid sound bleeds as much as possible. Most of the exhibit speakers are custom Soundelux models.

"There is one major ambient background sound with special effects mixed in for the different areas," Swetitsch explains. The background sound mixes mechanical sounds and a music track, with effects such as whispers at the history wall or wind and space sounds in other areas. Metavision provided the soundtrack.

A Peavey MediaMatrix system is installed to control the audio. "This gives us the ability to cue each zone separately, edit and delete devices on the fly, change the EQ as needed, and add gain control if you need to," notes Swetitsch. "Most of the system is mono, since it would be hard to have a good stereo mix in such a wide open space." The system also allows for independent volume control in each zone, or overall volume increase in steps of 3dB. The only stereo sound system in the attraction is in the Millennium Theatre, where Tannoy speakers are installed.

In Spacerace 3000, a comic science-fiction version of the future, when travel will be faster than the speed of light, a three-screen video presentation is seen on two 42" JVC plasma screens plus a JVC G1000 projector shooting above the plasma screen onto a wall with a white painted finish. The image source is another MPEG-2 video server, which provides three video streams: one to the projector and the other two to the screens.

Show control for the entire attraction is via an AMX integrated computer-controlled system with custom software written by the programmers at Soundelux. "The system is pretty straightforward," says Swetitsch. "There is one 'go' cue for the video servers, projectors, and MediaMatrix. Then the show loops all day." The system is activated by the staff of Johnson Control, the onsite exhibit maintenance company that makes sure that everything is up and running each morning.

Interactive elements of the attraction range from "Touch-Mars," an actual sliver of a Mars meteorite, to interplanetary exploration passports that guests can get stamped at six various space locations, ranging from the Moon to the Big Dipper by way of Mars and an intergalactic space station. Informative as well as fun, this attraction should help future generations of little Buzz Lightyears get ready for the future of the everlasting quest to conquer space.