A New Page in Aviation History:
By Stephen Murphy
The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum (NASM), located in Washington, DC, recently opened the doors on its new facility for the display and preservation of its overflow collection of historic aviation and space artifacts. Together the two National Air and Space Museum facilities comprise the largest aviation and space travel museum complex in the world.
A New NASM
Those who have visited the original National Air and Space Museum location on the Mall in downtown D.C. would be surprised to learn that, despite being crammed with hundreds of space- and aviation-related items, ninety percent of the museum’s overall collection of artifacts was still in storage. That fact led the movement to build a second, larger display space.
A new $311 million facility, called the NASM Udvar-Hazy Center (pronounced OOD-var HAH-zee), was built at the Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. The center is named after its largest contributor, International Lease Finance Corp. founder Steven F. Udvar-Hazy who donated $65 million for the project.
The centerpiece of the facility is the Aviation Hangar, an open area with three levels of display space: a ground level plus two tiers of suspended aircraft and walkways. The massive space measures ten stories high and is nearly three football fields long. The adjacent James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, containing the Space Shuttle Enterprise among other artifacts, is 80 feet high and 262 feet long.
The main hangar area opened to the public on December 15th, 2003, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first powered flights by the Wright Brothers. The Space Hangar is scheduled to open in the near future, upon completion of the refurbishment of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Some 200 aircraft, 135 large space artifacts and thousands of smaller items will ultimately be on display. Highlights include the fully restored B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, a Concord supersonic jet, a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and the aforementioned Space Shuttle.
Working closely with Senior Associate Greg Moquin of the audiovisual and acoustic design firm Shen Milsom & Wilke, contractor American Amplifier configured and installed a state-of-the-art Peavey MediaMatrix ControlMatrix system to provide facility-wide paging and visual messaging.
Established almost 80 years ago, American Amplifier’s list of high-profile installations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area speaks volumes of its design and application expertise. The company’s impressive list of clients includes the federal government (White House Executive Office Building, Federal Reserve Board, United States Embassies in Cairo, Kuwait and Japan), international airports (Washington National Airport, Dulles International Airport), major organizations (The World Bank, The Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, National Science Foundation), theaters and stadiums (The Kennedy Center, Navy Memorial Stadium) and numerous hotels, houses of worship and large corporations.
American Amplifier’s MediaMatrix expert Ron Penick was chief engineer on the NASM installation, with Joe Parker Jr. as on-site project manager and company President Bob Burdett and Project Liaison Mary Kelly handling the NASM project from the American Amplifier Lanham, Maryland headquarters.
The installation at the NASM Udvar-Hazy Center marks one of the first public uses of the new ControlMatrix system – a high-profile introduction of Peavey’s new paging solution which the company has positioned to challenge the market share of long-established, large-scale paging and messaging systems.
ControlMatrix is a comprehensive system designed to integrate with MediaMatrix frame-based audio systems. The UNIX-hosted system features an open-architecture, network-based design for flexibility and ease of integration with a facility’s infrastructure.
American Amplifier’s Ron Penick explains the basics of the integrated MediaMatrix/ControlMatrix system: “Typically, a MediaMatrix system handles a range of complex DSP processing and routing duties, and requires a user to interact with a custom-designed GUI to initiate various routing decisions and preset configurations.”
“The ControlMatrix system provides the instructions – whether scheduled, triggered automatically, or manually initiated from a paging station – that tell the MediaMatrix mainframe where and when to route signals and messages,” explains Penick. “In other words, the ControlMatrix’ job is to control the MediaMatrix system. It tells MediaMatrix what zones to activate for PA announcements, schedules prerecorded messages to play, plus acts as the hub for all connected paging stations and provides the end-user interface.”
The scalable ControlMatrix system can support a virtually unlimited number of page stations and zones. The ControlMatrix software is split into two main modules, ControlNet and MessageNet.
ControlNet is the main application used for configuring the overall system, individual page zones and page stations. The module also provides access to the technical system status, including event logs and status indication of CobraNet devices.
MessageNet facilitates the compilation and control of scheduled events. Events are comprised of single items or groups of items and can be scheduled to occur on particular days and times. Events can include playback of recorded messages, background music selection and other routing decisions. Messages can also be stored and/or forwarded in the event of busy zones.
The alarms page of the software interface provides the operator with a system status report and signals an alarm in the event of failure in any part of the system. System status is divided into a number of categories. A tab on the alarms page represents each category; clicking on a particular tab reveals the status of the corresponding category.
The global alarms tab lists all current system alarms across all categories. Each time a fault is detected, the system will sound an audible alarm, cause an indicator to flash and the appropriate isolated contact output at the rear of the system control computer will close. The system will remain in this state until the user acknowledges the alarm.
The ControlMatrix system is also capable of augmenting its audio paging duties by interfacing with video displays and scrolling signage.
The MediaMatrix head end closet is located at the end of the main hangar. At the core of the NASM installation is a MediaMatrix MM980NT mainframe and Q-Host ControlMatrix controller. Three MM-8802 digital-to-analog converters, a MM-DSP-RJ network processing card and CAB-80 line output card are also installed in the MediaMatrix head end area. System-level programming and zone management is typically accomplished from this location.
“The ControlMatrix user interface is really easy to use as far as configuring zones and scheduling announcements goes,” Penick says. “At the computer, you can assign the zones which will be available on the paging units, or you can create groups of zones and give it a name like ‘Public Areas’, and those groups are easily accessible from the paging units.”
“Five of the larger Peavey Paging Stations [model PCU-2/GN] were installed at various locations in the museum: Docent’s Desk, Info Desk, Security Desk, IMAX theater box office and one at the MediaMatrix head end. Each of the desktop paging stations features a gooseneck microphone, telephone-style keypad and LCD readout. The user can easily select, direct dial or scroll through the various zones or zone groups,” says Penick.
“Immediate paging announcements are made directly from the stations, or prerecorded messages can be triggered to play – “No running in the Hangar” and such – from any of the stations,” explains Penick. “Prerecorded .wav files can also be scheduled to play at designated times or intervals – messages like ‘The museum will be closing in 15 minutes’ can play in the All Public Areas group, or ‘The next IMAX presentation will be at two o’clock’ etc. can play only in the theater lobby and line areas.”
The .wav files are stored on the ControlMatrix computer and, at the designated times, the scheduling function opens up the appropriate inputs and selects the routing on the MediaMatrix mainframe. In the NASM installation, several background music sources are also available to the MediaMatrix system – a Denon DN-770RM cassette/CD combo deck and two Pioneer PDF-908 100-disc CD players – and are selected and controlled via the ControlMatrix.
For each prerecorded message sent out, ControlMatrix sends out an associated text file to an AMX controller that feeds character generator, which then flows to the NEC monitors. At the main security station and information desk paging stations, new text messages can also be entered to coincide with unique verbal pages as required. For delivery of the video signals to the monitors, American Amplifier employed an Autopatch Modula8x16 matrix switcher to put the S-Video signal on CAT-5 wiring. The digital video signal is then converted back to standard video at the LCD monitors.
All of the end-user interface functions of the system – from amp fault-detection alerts to entering one-time text messages powering up the plasma monitors – are accessible via a custom HTML interface available through the intranet on desktop computers at key locations in the facility.
Speakers and Amps
There are 15 independently accessible speaker zones throughout the exhibit and administrative and areas. Several more zones will be coming on line when the adjacent Space Hangar exhibit area is completed.
In the main Aviation Hangar, there are 12 speaker clusters suspended from the ceiling. Each cluster is made up of three Peavey Architectural Acoustics ILS 1294 two-way speaker enclosures. Six amplifier closets are spaced evenly along the 1000-foot length of the main hangar to service the 12 clusters, with each closet providing power and diagnostic support for two clusters.
“It’s a very clean and efficient layout. Everything leaves the MediaMatrix head end on CobraNet, and then hits an HP switch where everything is converted to fiber optic,” explains Penick.
”So from the main equipment rack to each of the satellite rack closets and back, it’s just the two fiber optic lines (for bi-directional communication).”
For each typical amp closet found in the hangar areas, there are seven CKV800 Crest amplifiers, six CKV400 Crest amplifiers and three Peavey CAB-80 output line modules. Additional equipment located in the amp closets includes Lowell equipment racks, a Surge X SX2120R Power Panel, a Soundolier RPM-12 Relay Pack (input side), Potter Brumfield relays (output side) plus 13 each of Crest’s CC-IPB Input Modules, CC-STS Tone Sense Modules and CC-STL Sequential power up/down modules.
“Each of the rack closets has extra amplifiers as part of the automatic fault detection backup system. In the event of the failure of any amplifier, a backup amp is automatically switched in by MediaMatrix,” says Penick.
In this sophisticated fail-safe system, a low-powered 22 kHz signal is generated by MediaMatrix, sent to the amplifiers, then up to each of the speakers in a cluster. A line is run back down from the speakers and into Crest “tone-sense” modules, which are always looking for the presence of that 22-kHz signal. If that signal is lost, the module sends a message to the MediaMatrix, which throws the appropriate relays to automatically switch from the bad amp to a backup amp.
“The ControlMatrix installation at the museum is designed to provide simultaneous visual text display, and is distributed to 16 42-inch NEC Plasma monitors interspersed throughout the public areas,” Penick explains.
Four additional Peavey speaker clusters and two more amp closets are located in the soon-to-be-open Space Hangar. These systems are identical to those found in the main hangar.
“Since this was a new construction project, M.C. Dean, the electrical contractor, pulled all the fiber and CAT-5 cable for our install. They also handled the rigging of the Peavey speaker clusters and plasma screens using ATM Flyware – they really were a great help in facilitating the successful install,” Penick says.
The scope of work for American Amplifier at the Udvar-Hazy Center also included outfitting two classroom areas plus the museum director’s conference room. These areas feature stand-alone systems designed to facilitate a variety of educational applications including video projection, public address and video teleconferencing.
The larger of the two classrooms is divisible in to two separate rooms, each equipped with identical audio-visual components. The divisible classroom is equipped with AMX-based control modules and Autopatch audiovisual switchers. Two ceiling-mounted Sanyo PLC-XU35 LCD projectors are also installed. A pair of Peavey MMA8135T mixer/amplifier combos, along with six Atlas/Soundolier FA136T47 ceiling speakers, handles public address duties for each of the classroom’s areas. The executive conference room and the non-divisible classroom are similarly equipped.
Twenty six Tannoy CM60 30-watt coaxial ceiling speakers and 128 8-watt Soundolier FA136T 87 speakers are used for paging and announcements in the smaller public and administrative areas – bathrooms, theater and main lobby areas, and the like. The Tannoy speakers are used for the areas where the ceiling is higher, or where more power was needed for even coverage. These systems are run at 70 volts powered by Crest amps and feature the same tone-sensing fault detection and back-up amp system.
In the event of a fire emergency, the MediaMatrix system is designed to augment the main life safety system by playing a designated .wav file with instructions to evacuate the facility. In such events the paging system is overridden and control is given over to the fire marshal.
All Systems Are Go
The Main Hangar system was commissioned in November 2003, in preparation for the grand opening in December. Since the MediaMatrix head end opens up right into the exhibit hall, all adjustments were made right at the mainframe. All equalization and processing is handled by the MediaMatrix system. The overall system was specified to provide a 95 dB SPL on the lowest level of the exhibit space.
The ControlMatrix system was turned on, tuned up and ready to go to work on opening day of the museum. As this was one of the first major installations for Peavey’s ControlMatrix, and the first for American Amplifier, I asked Penick to share his conclusions:
“The ControlMatrix system was a joy to install and implement – I am really impressed at how easy it is to configure and customize,” says Penick. “The end-user interface is extremely friendly and straightforward.”
Penick continued, “It’s a great addition to our ‘bag of tricks,’ so to speak, and the combination of MediaMatrix with ControlMatrix allows American Amplifier to offer our clients an unparalleled level of integration and system stability.”
Project Liaison Mary Kelly, who handled the original sale of the system, concurs: “Although the facility, as it was originally designed, specified a system by different manufacturer, we were able to demonstrate to the that the Peavey MediaMatrix-ControlMatrix system was a more comprehensive and flexible product. Though there was a bit of skepticism initially, the completed system has exceeded all expectations – they are very enthusiastic supporters of ControlMatrix now.”
American Amplifier President Bob Burdett adds, “The system designers and the facility personnel are extremely pleased with the ControlMatrix system and the quality of the install in general…So much so that they are starting to reevaluate the existing systems found in some of their other facilities!”