Museum show control - reliability doesn't come cheap

Unseen by the visiting public, behind all the interactive wonders of a modern museum lie the guts of a complex audiovisual system. Chris Fitzsimmons reports on how the falling cost of hardware is opening up new possibilities for museum system designers and operators, whilst also posing some interesting challenges for show control.

Show control software has formed a cornerstone of museum management and development for a considerable period. The need to carefully choreograph lighting, sound and visual effects has existed for as long as they have been used in museums. The means for achieving this choreography have evolved, much like their cousins in the commercial control space, to deal with more and more devices, in more rooms, and make use of network technologies as well as the traditional staples.

The timeline concept is extensively used in the space by the likes of Medialon and many others, allowing sequences of events to be set up and instructions sent to a variety of slaved devices on cue.

One of the elements of the “show” at present is video. The trend in museums at the moment is definitely towards so-called soft exhibits and media rather than physical artefact as museums try to engage a public that is receiving more visual stimulus in every day life than it ever has been before. The discussion as to whether the move towards soft exhibits is a good thing or not is for another article, but the audiovisual industry has certainly benefited from it.

What that means in practical terms is that more and more video displays must be controlled, more content must be played and managed, and at higher resolutions. As video has taken hold, the show control companies have responded by blurring the lines between video playback devices and show control software and hardware.

To learn about the risks and rewards associated with low-cost hardware solutions, as well as learn about the newest offerings from the show control vendors, read the entire article in the September edition of InAVate's ActiveMagazine.

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