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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Nov 17

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11/17/2011 6:12 AM  RssIcon

Dolphin TalesAn inspiring theatrical production starring Atlantic bottlenose dolphins is thrilling and amazing visitors at the newly-expanded Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Electrosonic played a major role designing, supplying and installing all the audio and video equipment the show required. In addition, the Design Consulting team at Electrosonic took on the production's complex AV and show control systems design.

Electrosonic's work supported Clermont, Florida-based entertainment design and production company WOW!Works which crafted AT&T Dolphin Tales, a sweeping 25-minute musical tribute to the beauty and grace of dolphins. The indoor show is staged in the new multi-function auditorium that seats 1,800 people and houses 1.8 million gallons of water in four pools. Five tall organic shapes evocative of upright dolphins' tails rise above the performance pool. The tails are actually complex, curved aluminum structures that cover an area about 80-feet wide and 40-feet tall, and serve as innovative projection surfaces for video, graphics and lighting effects that create different moods and enhance the audience experience. Screen Goo, a specially formatted line of waterproof acrylic paint designed for projection, was used to enhance the surface.

"The show needed to be a hybrid of show-controlled equipment and events, pre-recorded multitrack audio and video playback with a layer of live performance mixed in," says

Electrosonic design consultant, Steve Coe. "We wanted to meld a live theatrical show with dolphin behaviors and, at the same time, tap into the gamut of theatrical technology available, especially digitally-projected sets and backdrops and a high-quality theatrical multi-channel audio system."

The spectacular AT&T Dolphin Tales story is narrated by the StarSpinner, a mysterious seafaring adventurer who leads the way through an interactive journey across the oceans. The timeless tale of good and evil is marked by exhilarating performances that highlight the strong emotional bond between humans and dolphins, and deliver a powerful message of the importance of caring for and about aquatic creatures.

Electrosonic coordinated with Atlanta-based program manager, Heery International; St. Louis-based architect, PGAV; and Atlanta builder, Brasfield & Gorrie to accommodate the show into the new building design. "Alongside Lighting Designer, David Agress, we helped design catwalk systems for them and advised on areas such as backstage dressing rooms and routes for performers across the stage," Coe says. "We also did a study for them to help specify the control room glass, which needed to be angled for projection and follow-spot use."

One of the biggest decisions the team made was to locate as much AV equipment as possible in the control room to protect it from the saline atmosphere of the dolphins' salt-water pool. The architect allocated a control room that almost spans the width of the theater, and which was divided into an audio booth, amplifier room, projection booth and lighting booth with extra room for stage management. The only AV equipment not in the control room are the speakers and antennae.

For the video system, the team selected Green Hippo Hippotizer HD media servers connected via DVI to seven Christie Digital S+20K projectors edge-blended in two stacks of three, plus one on center. The center projector forms a flat image on a screen that drops down over the pool in front of the main set. The other screens are the complex curved aluminum structures shaped like dolphins' tails.

The Hippotizers handle media playback and content masking on independent video layers, as well as pre-show in-house advertising content and audio playback. They receive the LTC master clock from a Medialon show control system and sit on their own HippoNet with a single network bridge to the main AV network.

The audio system is wired for 7.1 surround sound and features an L-Acoustics speaker system with KUDO and ARCS arrays. Coe opted for a Digidesign D-Show Profile mixing console with onboard snapshot automation that stores audio information on the different actors who rotate into the show. During the show, Sennheiser handheld wireless and wired mics are mixed live with prerecorded music tracks, which Coe mixed onsite in the theater. He also specified waterproof VHF wireless mics for the dolphin trainers and Clear-Com Encore theatrical intercoms.

Electrosonic was also contracted by the architect to design the AV systems for the dolphin gallery lobby. They include a background music system, a nine-screen LCD videowall and circular rear-projection screens above visitors' heads, which dispense educational content provided by the aquarium.

"I linked the lobby system to the AT&T Dolphin Tales control booth system for audio and control," notes Coe. "This function is now used at the end of the dolphin show: The show playout music is sent to the lobby system, minus the vocal tracks, so it accompanies the audience as they walk out of the theater and back to the lobby. All show producers hope that the audience walks out humming the theme tune. We wanted to go one better and provide them with an orchestral backing track so that they can also sing it!"

Tim Wilson served as project manager for Electrosonic and Toni Losier was the sales executive.

About Electrosonic

Electrosonic is an international AV company with a strong reputation for working on complex projects, both large and small, and has through its 47 year history developed lasting partnerships with customers and suppliers. Electrosonic brings a unique breadth of experience to each project; backed by solid engineering skills, project management and quality production facilities. Beyond complete integrated systems, Electrosonic can provide a wide range of services including technical design, maintenance and operational support.

Learn more about Electrosonic. Visit www.electrosonic.com

About Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is the world's largest with more than 10 million gallons of water and the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards; offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.

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