Equipment is Only as Good as the Technicians Operating It by Paul Parrie

The Solomon Victory Theater at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans has one mission – to lead visitors through an experiential story of WWII as told by the men and women who lived through the era. The theater is packed with technology; vibrating seats, moving set pieces, snow machines, multiple projection surfaces and a sound system second to none.

  • However, the theater is just a collection of components, wire, steel, etc. It ‘s the Theater Technicians that keep the theater operating at peak performance to ensure that Museum visitors are awed by the story of the Greatest Generation’s experience in WWII.

If you’ve read my blog over the past several months, you’ll notice that I don’t focus on particular manufacturers, pieces of equipment or specifications. I believe in the adage, “It’s not the camera that takes the picture, it’s the photographer.” Great gear that is not properly maintained doesn’t stay in operation long and gear that is not properly operated can result in a less than acceptable experience for the visitors. Good equipment is important but, in my opinion, the operators/technicians are more important.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, building the Theater Technical Staff was a job that required a lot of work and has paid off with excellent results – the theater has operated with a down time percentage below 1% since opening day (11/6/09), which is phenomenal.

In a venue as complicated as the one housing Beyond All Boundaries, a multitude of technical issues can arise. The technical staff must be prepared for issues involving hydraulics, pneumatics, electronics, lighting, video delivery, audio, etc. The technicians are not expected to be ‘experts’ in every aspect of the theater but they are expected to have a working knowledge of all of its components.

Once the Theater Technical Staff positions were filled, a training regimen was created and implemented. It consisted of training provided by the manufacturers, implementation specialists, tech manuals and, also, the techs themselves sharing the cumulative knowledge they had acquired in their own areas of expertise. Additionally, training and cross-training is an ongoing process.

Beyond All Boundaries is an epic theater experience shown in an epic theater filled with the latest in projection and multi-sensory technology. Maintaining the integrity of Executive Producer Tom Hanks’ creative vision is the mission of the Theater Technicians. The technicians approach this task with experience, knowledge and a commitment to ensure that every visitor to the theater has the best experience possible.

Paul Parrie is the Associate Vice President, Information Systems & Technology, The National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

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