Wednesday, May 8, 2013

TEA InfoComm VIP Tour, June 13 in Orlando

InfoComm, the premier tradeshow for AV and Show Control equipment, has extended a unique opportunity for members of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA): a TEA member-led VIP tour of the show on Thursday, June 13th, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, USA.

The tour will last approximately 2 hours, during which a cross-section of leading companies within our industry will give tours of their booths and their latest technologies. This nontechnical tour is appropriate for architects, designers, students and industry interns, and anyone having to successfully integrate AV equipment into attractions and exhibits.

David Willrich of  D. J. Willrich Ltd and TEA's Europe & Middle East Division (EME) were instrumental in helping to organize this tour.

For more details about the tour, download the complete flyer at:

To register immediately for the tour, RSVP to:
For more information on InfoComm:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

At "David Bowie is" (London, V&A) TEA's EME Division hosts May 14 mixer sponsored by Sennheiser

Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) members attended a behind-the-scenes mixer on May 14 in London at David Bowie is, the new traveling exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). The mixer was hosted by TEA's Europe & Middle East Division (EME) and sponsored by Sennheiser.

David Bowie is exhibition, 2013. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Article by Judith Rubin
David Bowie is, co-curated by Geoffrey Marsh and Victoria Broackes, opened to the public on March 23, 2013 at the V&A Museum in London. In a blend of attraction design, exhibition design and theater, David Bowie is presents two galleries of memorabilia and costumes from Bowie's substantial personal archives. A Bowie exhibit would neither be complete nor satisfying without music, and state-of-the-art audio technology is integral to the presentation. Most of the displays, videotaped performances and interviews are coupled with zone-specific audio delivered via personal headsets. The headsets come off for a climactic, immersive concert experience in the second gallery. Sound experience by Sennheiser - the TEA member company provided its guidePORT and Auro 3D systems, plus support services.

The 300+ objects on display include Ziggy Stardust bodysuits, set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour, storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics and some of Bowie’s own sketches. Visitors may want to keep an eye out for Brian Eno's “Heroes” synthesizer in the concert area - an artifact Marsh called our attention to. Our own favorite stop was the kaleidoscopic video presentation of “Star Man” - Bowie's breakthrough, 1972 Top of the Pops performance. All in all, the exhibit contains some 4 hours' worth of material, which the average visitor will spend about 90 minutes browsing. David Bowie is will finish its V&A run August 11 and then head to half a dozen additional venues around the world, starting with Sao Paolo.

Founded in 1852, the V&A covers some 12.5 acres and boasts 145 galleries and a collection of some 4.5 million objects, and is ranked as the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design. Since 2001, it has been undergoing a series of major expansions and facility overhauls. We visited David Bowie is between the A-list soft opening event on March 21 was attended by the likes of Boy George, Tilda Swinton (dressed as Bowie), Laura Carmichael and Bill Nighy. By the time of the public opening March 23 it was already a blockbuster success. Advance ticket sales had already reached beyond 68,000, more than triple the previous V&A record for pre-sales.
David Bowie is exhibition, 2013. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Martin Roth
Martin Roth, V&A director since September 2011, has a reputation for being outspoken, bold and successful. With a background that includes 6 years as an executive on the organizing committee of Hanover Expo 2000, Prof. Roth is in a position to know a great deal about revitalizing cultural institutions, and to have developed a keen sense for crowd flow, diverse audiences and juggling corporate, political and aesthetic interests – qualities relevant to fielding the massive, international crowds that visit London and its cultural institutions.

A look at the internal/external team that conceived, designed and built David Bowie is over a whirlwind, 2-year period reveals credentials in theater and themed entertainment as well as museums. Marsh's experience ranges over a wide variety of arts and entertainment projects, including events at two world expos and “a major architectural project in Kurdistan.” Exhibition designer 59 Productions and sound designer Gareth Fry previously teamed in similar roles for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremonies. Real Studios, which collaborated on the design, has worked in corporate exhibits, hospitality and casinos. Lighting design was by dha design. V&A's internal team included Tom Grosvenor overseeing AV.

(Above, visitors receive their guidePORT headsets as they enter "David Bowie is" at the V&A in London. Video by Judith Rubin.)

Compelling delivery of musical material can help museums attract new audiences, connect with the young, empower educational programs and generate attendance and revenue. In a modern-day music exhibit such as David Bowie is, sound is and must be part of the storytelling, and sound design becomes part of the exhibit brief. Content creation and system design happen together. “It's the only way to do it,” says Mark Grimmer of 59 Productions. “Tech and creative are interwoven, and digital technology enables us to bring most editing capability on site. You design a system to give you the ability to adapt quickly. This project was more like a theater piece than a museum exhibit.”

The use of headphones meant that gallery spaces could be left fairly open without the need for acoustical barriers. The only theater zone is the concert atrium in the second gallery. “We knew we wanted primarily a headphone experience,” says Gareth Fry, “but we also wanted to get close to the concert experience – the social, shared, visceral response where you hear it and feel it, and feel others' responses.” Accordingly, Sennheiser's guidePORT and Auro 3D systems were integral components – the one providing personal audio through headphones and the other providing the shared experience. Sennheiser Application Engineering team members Norbert Hilbich and Robert Genereux collaborated with the designers, customizing and programming guidePORT to supply the audio content segments tied to the displays. Sennheiser International Recordings Applications Manager Gregor Zielinsky created the special mix for the 10-minute concert loop in the second gallery.
David Bowie is exhibition, 2013. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
guidePORT is self-operational and responds to external triggers and zones set up in the environment. All the visitor does is put it on, switch it on, adjust the volume and move through the exhibit. “It gives you the freedom to wander around and play with the exhibit in a way traditional audio guide systems don't allow,” says Fry. “It introduces a magical aspect in that it responds to where you are standing. You wander around, and the system follows you. It lets you focus where you want to focus.”

In addition to audio delivery, guidePORT can be programmed to track visitor behavior and collect data. “guidePORT keeps adapting as designers bring us new programming ideas,” says Hilbich. “Designers' imaginations and operators' needs will continue to push it.” Genereux concurs: “There will always be new ways to modify the behavior of the system. It will always keep going.” An embryonic version of guidePORT was part of the MEG audio guide for the original Experience Music Project in Seattle; a more recent, robust installation is key to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Other venues with guidePORT installations include the dome of the Reichstag Building in Berlin, the Strasbourg Historical Museum in France, Khalsa Heritage Complex in India, The Canal House Museum in Amsterdam and Musee de la Civilisation in Canada.

Fry says, “guidePORT let us have the quiet, and Auro 3D let us have the shared group experience.” Entering the concert atrium in the second gallery, the visitor is still in the bubble of the experience, but now the experience is shared. Visitors are enveloped in a dynamic, 30-minute show with video projected on 3 huge scrims and 9 channels of sound in an Auro 3D custom music “upmix,” complemented by theatrical lighting and props that include artifacts and mannequins in Bowie costumes.

Working from material originally recorded in mono, Zielinsky – a passionate perfectionist whose previous experience includes recording opera for Deutsche Gramophone - created the upmix using Sennheiser's proprietary Auro 3D algorithm, designed to simulate how the music would sound in a concert hall. The challenge was to maintain the authenticity of Bowie's original performance and of sound recording in that era while adding the dynamic, Auro 3D punch. Sennheiser's new 9.1 surround system calls for precise loudspeaker placement and room configuration. “Once you get used to 9-channel there's no going back,” says Zielinsky. “It's not easy and it's not cheap, but it's a real revolution in audio quality that helps to bring it in line with today's video.”
The queue waiting to enter "David Bowie is" at the V&A. Photo: Judith Rubin
Personal electronics in exhibits and attractions are sometimes criticized for having an isolating effect, but in this case they simply help keep the visitor in the bubble of the experience. The galleries of David Bowie Is are very quiet even when filled to capacity, because the visitors are all listening to their guidePORT sets - but that's the point. As Martin Roth says, “It's not that different from a traditional art museum: You don't talk, it's contemplation, focusing on a piece, an object. It keeps the visitor in their own capsule. In this case, it's an exhibition that combines music and objects; that is the major difference. In this case, the technology enables us to do what's important for a museum to do: to surprise and convince your guest, your visitor, with new experiences, and with more and different information.”

Additional details about Sennheiser's role in "David Bowie is" and a list of audio components are available in the company's press release.

For information on TEA's EME Division and future events, email