When the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum was dedicated in November in Springfield, Ill., thousands of spectators, VIPs, and political heavyweights were in attendance. The event, hosted by former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, included speeches from George Ryan, then-governor of Illinois, J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and many others. The event was held outdoors in the newly constructed rotunda building that will eventually house the museum—a location that happened to be in the middle of a street in one of the busiest intersections in Springfield.

Organizers asked production company Paulette Wolf Events and Entertainment, Chicago, to stage the event, which included a wide range of presentations and entertainment.

Mark Kishbaugh, VP of db Sounds, Mount Prospect, Ill., supervised the technical setup, including audio provided by his company, lighting from Upstaging, Mundelein, Ill., and video reinforcement from Rent Com, Schiller Park, Ill. Because the event was staged at a downtown intersection, the audience viewed the screens at 45-degree to 22-degree angles. Further complicating matters was that the dedication was scheduled to begin in daylight.

Rent Com was asked to provide two large videowalls that the general public could clearly see while looking over the VIP section and a large platform where the media was stationed. For security reasons, spectators not in the VIP area were required to be 200ft. away from the screens. During planning, organizers considered using giant LED walls, which would

have mitigated problems caused by daylight viewing.

However, to utilize two LED walls of the size required (about 20’x20’), the pricetag would have exceeded the video budget approved by organizers, according to Bill Knowles, media systems designer for Rent Com.

Rent Com therefore offered organizers a different alternative. According to Knowles, the company’s solution involved the use of two 20’x40’ inflatable air screens, manufactured by Harkness Hall, a U.K.-based company. Those screen frames are inflated by a small blower device and can be erected in approximately 10 minutes, including front surface attachments, according to Knowles. After inflation, the screens are supported by guy lines that are simply staked or tied off. Knowles estimates use of the system was approximately one-tenth the cost of an LED wall.

“Clear video was crucial, especially since two clips were central to the event,” says Knowles. “One clip had dignitaries and school children reciting the Gettysburg Address, and the other was a four-minute address from President Bush. Those clips, plus IMAG of key speakers, had to be presented right for the event to be a success.”

The daylight-viewing dilemma still remained, however. As a compromise to ensure maximum video visibility, organizers decided to move the event start time back 15 minutes to dusk and shuffle the start of the program slightly so that the bulk of the presentations would take place after dark. Barco ELM R-12 projectors were chosen, placed on 26-foot scissor lifts, and covered. “The lifts gave us the flexibility to get the front-projection system over the crowd and minimize sightline problems.” Knowles explains.

Because computer images were also used, in addition to tape rolls recorded on Doremi hard-drive video recorders and IMAG shot with three cameras at the venue, the video team controlled the images with an FSR Omni Navigator 8x1 graphic switcher.

Send potential submissions for the Center Stage column to SRO Senior Editor, Michael Goldman, at mgoldman@primediabusiness.com