Crestron and AVDomotics Transform Grand Canyon Visitor Center

New High-Tech Theater Introduces Visitors to Grand Canyon History and Preservation Initiatives

When managers of the Grand Canyon National Park started planning a theater for their South Rim Visitor Center, they knew it had to be highly automated and highly reliable. With 750,000 to a million people million people expected to visit the theater each year, staff might be overwhelmed by the time required to support it.

The new theater would introduce visitors to the park from a beautiful 22-minute video, “Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder,” produced by Joshua Colover of Newport Beach, CA-based Aperture Films, Ltd. Colover spent more than two years on the project, shooting in the park and completing the final just one month before the theater opening.

According to Judy Hellmich-Bryan, Chief of Interpretation for Grand Canyon National Park, the theater design project and video production occurred simultaneously. By the fall of 2010, the theater was under construction and the AV system designed. The general contractor was not happy with the plans. Charlie White of Sedona, AZ-based AVDomotics explains. “He asked us to look at the designs and we said, ‘you can do this much more efficiently and intelligently using Crestron equipment head to toe.’”

AVDomotics joined the project, with White engineering the new system. “With Crestron integrated components, we were able to re-design the system with functionality and performance far greater than the original design and at a lower overall cost,” he says.

Automated operation

Because the video was shot in 1080p high definition with 5.1 surround sound, AVDomotics decided to incorporate Crestron DigitalMedia™ over fiber to transport and switch all video and audio signals.

The new design included complete automated control of all systems, running the theater 365 days a year.

Using Crestron SMPL Windows Scheduler, park staff can program start and stop times from a TPS-6L touch screen. The Crestron AV2 processor controls the video and audio systems, and also powers the countdown timer outside the theater entrance.

When a show begins, the doors close, the lights dim and the video begins. After 22minutes the lights turn on and doors open. If it’s the first presentation of the day, the system powers on automatically early, ensuring all systems are warmed up and ready to go. At the end of the day, the system powers down automatically. AVDomotics tied the fire alarm into the AV systems so in an emergency, the movie stops, the lights turn on and the doors open automatically.

The system also includes assisted listening and open captioning for the hearing impaired plus an elaborate audio experience for the blind and visually impaired. “We provide headphones that give visitors a descriptive audio interpretation of the film,” explains Bryan.

When the park hosts a meeting or special event, staff can override the automated system and project presentation visuals from a computer or Blu-ray® player, addressing the audience from wireless lavaliere or handheld microphones. The system accepts analog and digital inputs so anyone can connect to the system.

“We hosted a Star Party in the theater where astronomers provided a tutorial on the night sky for visitors, and they were able to easily connect their laptops to our system,” notes Bryan.

Details of the system

In designing this system, AVDomotics were very concerned about the quality of the audio and video delivered to the audience. DigitalMedia™ allowed AVDomotics to provide full 1080p high definition and surround sound in the production’s original format, without compression or the artifacts that digital compression can produce. There is truly no difference between the quality the visitors see and the edited master that Aperture Films produced.

To ensure the best possible playback, AVDomotics route video signals to a Projection Design F82 theatrical projector and audio to JBL 8320 surround speakers and a JBL 4642A Dual 460 mm subwoofer system.

Crestron PSPHD PROCISE® 7.3 surround sound processor and PROAMP amplifier provide 400 watts RMS over up to 7 channels of surround sound. A CEN-SWPOE-24 24 Port Switch handles control signal switching, while the PSPHD is able to handle audio and video switching. They also used a Crestron CEN-UPS1250 power management component to provide the ability to power the system up and down intelligently and to provide battery backup for the Crestron AV2 control system and its programming.

Additional vendors controlled by Crestron include an Akman AMA1080HD solid state digital video player, a Crown DSi2000 amplifier for the subwoofer system, a Shure wireless microphone receiver, a Listen transmitter for the assistive listening and audio description systems and two Furman Elite-15PFI power conditioners.

“Using essentially all Crestron components for the video and audio system had several benefits,” says Charlie White. First, since the products are built to work together, and programming and integrating was easier and less expensive.

Second, park staff wanted to use the theater for presentations, plugging in wireless microphones and presenter laptops. DigitalMedia allowed AVDomotics to provide analog and digital inputs using a single DM-TX-201-C transmitter.

“Maintenance is much easier,” White adds, “since we’re able to bring detailed feedback on every aspect of the system from power input monitoring to projector bulb life up on the touchpanel. Should there be any problem, diagnostics are available quickly and efficiently, simplifying service and minimizing downtime.

“While a system integrating a multitude of products can work fine, when something goes wrong, it’s difficult to diagnose the problem,” he adds. If an older product needs to be replaced, the entire system may need to be reprogrammed. “Crestron, on the other hand, has been very good at maintaining their product line, providing long term support of all of their products. Not only does that go along way for the integrator, but it translates into higher customer satisfaction.”

Bryan says the film and theater’s new design have been well-received by park visitors. “Word has spread about the new theater,” she says.

Bryan’s only concern now is whether the 230-seat theater is large enough for the number of daily visits. “We have not been over capacity yet, but that could change in the coming years.”