LA PROPOINT PROUD TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED FOR ITS EFFORTS IN WWII MUSEUM
BEYOND ALL BOUNDARIES FEATURED IN LIGHTING AND SOUND MAGAZINE’S FEBRUARY 2011 ISSUE
Remembering the Good Fight: The National WWII Museum Preserves the Voices of the Greatest Generation
Since opening in November 2009, the National World War II Museum expansion in New Orleans has drawn glowing acclaim and healthy visitor numbers. The new, 70,000-sq.-ft., $60-million complex’s venues are The Solomon Victory Theatre, Stage Door Canteen, and The American Sector restaurant. Voorsanger Mathes, LLC was the architect for this first phase of a $300-million project to develop the museum’s six-acre campus, set for completion in 2015. The grandopening celebration was presented by Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, general contractor for the project, and included a retrospective honoring the museum’s founder, the noted historian Stephen E. Ambrose.
The central feature of the redeveloped museum is the 250-seat Solomon Victory Theatre, the home of Beyond All Boundaries, a 45-minute, 4D multimedia show that tells the story of America’s experience of the war and endeavors to preserve the voices of WWII veterans and eyewitnesses. “It was in one of our several iterations when we sat down with Tom Hanks and he suggested, ‘Could we tell this in the voices of the people who were there?’” recalls show producer and creative director, Phil Hettema.
Beyond All Boundaries was conceived, designed, and produced by The Hettema Group, with Hettema leading the creative team, and Anthony Pruett as senior project director, driving the production effort. George Wiktor, now an independent, was with Hettema throughout the project, on production development. Tom Hanks was executive producer, and the president and CEO of the museum, Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, was producer. The team also included Chris Ellis (writer); Mousetrappe (director David Briggs and media designer Daren Ulmer); Doug Yellin, media producer for The Hettema Group; It’s Alive Co. (Bob Chambers, Susan Cummings, and Rob Palmer); LA ProPoint (show action equipment); Electrosonic (AV design, show control, and integration); Visual Terrain (lighting design); Bandit Lites (lighting supply and integration); Audio By the Bay (sound design and music production); Bruce Broughton (original music); Timothy Williams (music scoring and conducting); John Kasperowicz AIA (theatre design); Daniel Ionazzi (scene design); AES (scenic fabrication); Judd Nissen (site projectcoordinator); and Rando Productions (special effects).
With Hanks doubling as narrator, the show features an all-star voice cast including Kevin Bacon, Patricia Clarkson, Blythe Danner, John Goodman, Neil Patrick Harris, and Gary Sinise. The theatre’s raked seating is cocooned snugly within the curve of a projection scrim that is 115′ wide by 28′ tall. Giving depth to the illusion are special effects that work in concert with the action on-screen and a host of physical props that are revealed by lighting when they fly overhead or emerge from the pit. Additional projections appear on Christie DLP DS-10K-M secondary screens about 25′behind the main scrim and three smaller Christie DLP HD- 10K-M screens in front that raise and lower from the pit.
These three hard-surface panel screens allow for a directed focus on archival images and provide a contrast to the large scale of the massive main screen. Six sections of black velour provide masking. (Softgoods were furnished by Rose Brand). Theatrical license and placemaking “The dramatic scale of the audience to screen as part of Phil Hettema’s core concept for putting people in the middle of the experience,” says Daren Ulmer. “Theatrical scenic and set pieces were part of the concept, so we took a theatrical license. We approached each scene thinking about what we’d do in a traditional theatre environment rather than a film documentary.
We considered the elements of the film as cinematic representations of theatrical elements, such as scenic, lighting, and performers, and we thought about the images as being projected beyond the plane of the screen—as if the screen were a proscenium. We went for a painterly, rather than photorealistic, look. Performers were shot on film and composited into a scene, most often at a 1:1 scale, to appear life-sized. At the same time, we were not constrained by the physics of actual theatre.” Consultant Yael Pardess was tapped to art-direct the movie. “Yael brought a theatrical sensibility to the design,” says Ulmer. “Her designs brought a great color palette, perspective, and POV that had its basis in dimensional physical space rather than a 2D screen.”
The Normandy D-Day landing is the most elaborately realized battle scene. The film imagery interplays with physical set pieces: five tank traps rising up from the pit. Other sequences are fully CG-animated, the biggest of which depicts US B29s firebombing Japan from the viewpoint of someone inside the plane, accompanied by Jesse Eisenberg’s reading of a graphic quote from a veteran who had been there. “We were extremely cautious to be absolutely true to the history and the facts,” notes Ulmer. “Everything was vetted by historians, and the 4D type tools that we used were applied in moderation, to create setting and emotion and enhance the theatrical suspension of disbelief. It wasn’t a ‘ride,’ it was placemaking.”
Since 2002, LA ProPoint has been a leading provider of design, engineering, fabrication and installation of stage and show systems for all aspects of the entertainment industry, from concert halls and theme parks to outdoor amphitheaters and movie sets. Strategically headquartered in Southern California in the city of Sun Valley, the company has a huge reach.
It's highly skilled, experienced technicians, fabricators, and craftspeople regularly take on far-flung projects from the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.