Rapid Inventory Theater

Winner, Best Multimedia Installation, 2013 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival; Winner, Silver Muse Award, 2013 American Alliance of Museums

This experience showcases Field Museum scientists at work in the Andes-Amazon region where they catalogue forest biodiversity in an effort to secure formal protection. Opened in 2011, Abbott Hall of Conservation: Restoring Earth details the museum’s worldwide conservation efforts, demonstrating how science can be put into action.

Greg Mercer was lead media producer within the Field Museum team that created this exhibition.

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Challenge:

Create a balanced experience that’s immersive yet narrative

 

1: Narrative or atmospheric?

The existing footage and photos—indispensable for their ability to visualize the rapid inventory process—didn’t lend themselves to creating an immersive atmosphere. Striking a balance between the “narrative” and “transportive” was the most challenging aspect of the project, but the team embraced this constraint and produced concepts that allowed for both styles.

 

2: Craft the story

As content developers outlined the story, Greg and the media team pored through years of footage and photos from previous expeditions. Through subsequent scripting and storyboarding, the team identified opportunities to use existing assets and noted the gaps for which they’d need to find creative solutions.

 

3: Production logistics in the Amazon

To obtain environmental footage tailored to the theater’s three-screen layout, the production team filmed on location in the Peruvian Amazon. A custom-built, three-camera rig—quick to assemble yet robust to stand up to rough conditions—enabled the crew to capture continuous action to be projected accordingly across the screens.

 

4: Integrate the media

After weaving the new footage with existing material into a cohesive story, the team worked to create a compelling theatrical experience: at times the program focuses attention upon a single screen, and at others, all three projectors envelop visitors in the landscape. Surround sound and dynamic lighting extend the content throughout the space.