Hot Show

Design and Production, in a joint venture with Art Guild, provided final design support and full-service production and installation of the permanent exhibits at the EdVenture Children's Museum in Columbia, SC, a 67,000-square-foot interactive learning center that is reputedly the largest children's museum in the country. For a 12-minute immersive theatrical experience that teaches domestic fire safety, Design and Production turned to AMX for an automation system to integrate multimedia and lighting and synchronize it to a detailed script.

"Working with Boston Productions, we pulled together live-action video with 3-dimensional set pieces, mechanical animation, voice-activated effects and lighting," explained Design and Production senior vice president, Susie Lepp. Boston Productions designs and produces interactive multimedia experiences for special venue presentations.

Detailing the genesis of the exhibit, she continued, "For this particular theater, the client had a room that wasn't developed yet, but they knew they wanted a Fire Safety Lab. The fire department was a huge sponsor. Knowing we had $200,000, and, with the museum's input, we conceptualized and built it with Boston Productions. They did the creative script and research; we did all the hardware, set construction and lighting."
The cartoon-like set cleverly incorporates two life-sized video screens, where the "Clueless" family (all played by the same actor) interacts with real furniture and appliances to highlight fire hazards in the home.
Playback is via three Pioneer DVD-7400 machines through Christie DLP projectors.

An on-screen fireman addresses the audience and becomes involved in a dialog with an oversized smoke detector, while various stylized props are brought to life using mechanical animation and voice-activated lighting. Six JBL Control 25 loudspeakers powered by a QSC CX 168 amplifier and processed through EV EQ-231 equalizers deliver dialog and sound effects to the audience.

The presentation has been designed to retain the attention of the children, who typically range in age from pre-elementary to 6th grade, Lepp said. "It's part of the curriculum, so to capture their attention for 12 minutes you've got to have comedic relief. They shout out the answers, because at times the fireman interacts with them. All of that has been built into the script.

"The AMX is not only keeping the show and the video sources running in sync through timing and cues, but it has contact closures and relays that are having all these devices do their bit. It's a very tight script, and the AMX is programmed to follow along and make this all happen."

The setup required a straightforward complement of AMX equipment to operate, according to Lepp. "We're using an NI-4000 [NetLinx Integrated Controller], and we have a 5.5-inch control panel in the rack, an AMX MCP/PB. That is the user interface, if the staff wants to reset the system or override for manual control. There's a power supply, a relay control card, a power controller, and two relay boards for lighting control."

At the end of the presentation the local fire department arrives to put out a fire. "It's really fun; the kids squeal and laugh, and they crawl out of the theater at the end-because that's how you get out of a burning house. And, at the end, when the fireman jumps out of the TV to put the fire out in the couch, we have a water spritzer that's in the ceiling, so they feel the water."
Lepp reports that Design and Production also utilized AMX gear for a number of other EdVenture presentations. "One is a heart-and-lung interactive that is AMX-controlled using a mini-card frame. There is a TV studio exhibit, where kids can pretend they're TV anchors. There's also an interactive system in the Music Lab to teach kids about melody, tempo and time signatures. We use AMX for all of that."


Design and


Steve Harvey ( is editor-at-large for Pro Sound News and also contributes to TV Technology, MIX, and other Future titles. He has worked in the pro audio industry since November 1980.