Newseum Readies for Grand Opening

The Newseum, Washington’s newest museum, and one dedicated to the business of news, is now in the final stages of preparing for its April 11 formal opening.

A special tour of the 250,000 square foot Pennsylvania Avenue facility was held last month for members of the press, and even though workers continue to add the fine details, most of the vast amount of electronic gear is up and running.

Perhaps the most tangible of these is the 32,000 pound, 40-foot x 22-foot HD video display in the Newseum’s 90-foot high atrium lobby. Barco 6 mm LED technology was used and resolution is a full 1920x1080.

Fifteen theaters and two HD television studios will be part of the attraction for visitors to the facility. The larger of the studios spans 2,800 square feet and can accommodate a live audience of more than 100. The smaller studio is somewhat unconventional in its design, as one end is a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, with a commanding view of the U.S. Capitol. Thomson Grass Valley LDK-6000 cameras are used in the studios and GV 3 M/E Kalypso switchers form the nucleus of the control room configurations; there’s another GV single M/E Kalypso in the master control room.

ABC News plans to use this facility for airing its regular Sunday morning program, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

(click thumbnail)The new Newseum includes four Thomson Grass Valley Kalypso switchers in its control rooms.The largest of the Newseum theatres can accommodate 535 persons and promises a “4D experience” for a portion of the audience. In addition to 3D projection and surround sound, a number of seats are designed to move on cue with projected earthquake activity, explosions and the like. There are also special fans and misting devices to add a lifelike touch to visual and aural content.

Another of the theaters features a 90-foot wide by 10-foot high screen, which is illuminated by five video projectors. An electronic edge blending technique is used to provide a continuous extremely wide screen image.

There’s also a 1,225 square foot master control facility that “touches everything” in the Newseum and was designed and situated to be a very visible part of the museum tour.

Due to the large size of the facility and distances to be spanned in interconnecting equipment, fiber optic connectivity was a must. Some 100 miles of fiber were installed during the construction phase.

Once the doors are opened to the public, visitors will not only be able to observe live television operations and study newsgathering history via interactive kiosks, but will also have a chance to observe close up many artifacts unique to newsgathering and a free society. These include a CONUS I satellite truck, a Bell 206B helicopter set up for aerial newsgathering and telecasting and one of the largest sections from the Berlin Wall outside of Berlin (including a complete guard tower). There are some 6,214 news-related artifacts in the Newseum collection.

More than six years of planning and construction work went into the facility. Communications Engineering Inc. of Newington, Va. was responsible for design, integration and installation of all A/V broadcast systems.

James E. O'Neal

James E. O’Neal has more than 50 years of experience in the broadcast arena, serving for nearly 37 years as a television broadcast engineer and, following his retirement from that field in 2005, moving into journalism as technology editor for TV Technology for almost the next decade. He continues to provide content for this publication, as well as sister publication Radio World, and others.  He authored the chapter on HF shortwave radio for the 11th Edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook, and serves as editor-in-chief of the IEEE’s Broadcast Technology publication, and as associate editor of the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal. He is a SMPTE Life Fellow, and a Life Member of the IEEE and the SBE.