Opened as the National D-Day Museum in 2000, the New Orleans-based venue has since established a front commemorating the war in the Pacific and is now known as the National WWII Museum. In keeping with its recently expanded mission, the museum decided last fall to refurbish its main Louisiana Memorial Pavilion with a new audiovisual system, suitable for exhibits and special events that take place under the wings of a torpedo bomber plane replica that is its signature aircraft. SoundWorks Systems Integrators, a division of local general electrical contractor Frischhertz Electric Company Inc., undertook the project, as it has several times before for the museum. “We do most of their service work,” says SoundWorks manager Rob Pourciau.

But this was different — not necessarily the scope of the work, but the intensity of the execution: just six weeks last October and November and a narrow 10 days in the venue itself during working hours for installation. Pourciau says the “largest hurdle to overcome was the quick turnaround time we had to do it in.”

“The Pavilion is the largest exhibit area located in the museum,” he explains. “The museum contacted us regarding the design and installation of an audiovisual system, including video projection, audio, and theatrical lighting. This was something they had been looking at for quite a while, and then the funds became available for us to do the project. We met with officials on several occasions to better understand their expectations.”

Frischhertz Electric was engaged to install the conduits, raceways, back boxes, and power specified in the design, another difficulty as the installation effort took shape. “All the work was performed with man lifts and boom lifts,” Pourciau says. “The 1,000-plus feet of conduit was installed at an average height of 15' to 20' off the ground. This was extremely challenging, because we couldn't start until the raceways and back boxes were installed.”

Between the whirring of mechanical systems and the interactions of guests the pavilion, which is 60' high × 100' wide × 75' deep, with an entire glass wall, is a noisy space. Yet the sonic solution was a simple one. “So many people had recommended other concepts. When we came in and said, ‘Two speakers are going to do the whole thing,’ they said, ‘You're crazy,’” Pourciau recalls. But two Iconyx 16 loudspeakers from Renkus-Heinz placed within the pavilion on custom brackets to maximize their coverage actually did do the trick and enhanced speech intelligibility in the pavilion. The war, however, got in the way of their placement.

“The speakers needed to be custom-bracketed to get the correct rake on them,” says Pourciau. “There are some large Higgins amphibious landing boats [Louisiana's outstanding contribution to the war effort, used in key beach landings] there in the pavilion, right out in front. Renkus-Heinz helped us with a solution that would give us seamless coverage from front to rear. Once the speakers were in their proper place, we backed them up with one of the RH PN212 subs. Additionally, we had to have two different mix locations, one to operate behind the stage within the pavilion and then one to transfer the audiovisual system control from the back of the room as well,” Pourciau says. “That's all we needed to make it work.”

A 15'×20' video projection system screen from Da-Lite Screen Company was also put in. “All of the hanging brackets we had to fabricate on site, and it, too, had to be placed out of the way from the museum's irreplaceable artifacts.”

Theatrical lighting from Colortran was the third element in the mix. “The museum had a vision of what they wanted, but the reality has, I think, surprised them,” Pourciau says. “We've been watching it as they realize its potential.”

In the end, Pourciau says it all came down to the turnaround time. “The museum had a drop-dead date that had to be met, and we had to get all the equipment from the manufacturers in time. And we had to do our work when the museum was open. There are large displays there that are in the way. The plane, for example, has the wingspan of the entire pavilion. Installing a 15' motorized screen with the tail of a WWII-vintage plane in the way isn't easy.”

For all the effort expended, the revamped audiovisual system for the pavilion is a mere foothold in a much broader objective to expand the museum in the coming years. Plans call for a $300 million expansion that will quadruple the size of the venue by incorporating a US Pavilion, large-scale interactive galleries, space to accommodate tanks, jeeps, and other vintage vehicles, theatres, and a USO-style canteen and restaurant. Buoyed by this and its other prior projects, SoundWorks hopes to be in on this new campaign, Pourciau says.

Robert Cashill blogs about entertainment at Between Productions, www.robertcashill.blogspot.com.

NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM
GEAR LIST

Lighting Gear

8 Colortran Ellipsoidal

4 Colortran LEO Ellipsoidal

4 Colortran PAR64

1 NSI MC N7016 16/32 Channel Console

1 NSI NDS12-1KO Dimmer

Video Gear

1 Eiki LC-6

1 Eiki 001-4297

1 Eiki AH70215

1 Extron IN 1508

1 LG DN798

1 Da-Lite 15'×20' Screen

Audio Gear

2 Renkus Heinz Iconyx IC16 Loudspeaker

1 Renkus Heinz PN 212 Subwoofer

1 Allen & Heath WZ 16:2

1 Peavey VSX 26

1 Shure ULXP14/51

1 Shure ULXP24/58

1 Lowell 18-195

2 RCI Custom Wall Plates

1 Custom 12RU over 14RU ATA Style rack w/ casters