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3D/4D Theatre: Harkness Shines With Specialty and 3D Screens


Harkness Screens, the largest supplier of cinema screens in the United States, was at InfoComm with screens specifically designed for 3D display.   

The silvery screens have aluminum flakes within, contributing to premium gain and polarization for 3D presentation. Dennis Pacelli, vice president of sales and marketing for Harkness, said the company is currently installing those by the hundreds.

Harkness, based in Fredericksburg, Va., also specializes in unusual custom-shaped and –sized screens, doing its own screen and frame manufacture.

Among the company’s deployments is the system at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Experience, including 20-by-38-foot rear-projection screens. The $60 million, 44, 000-square-foot Shuttle Launch Experience is the most technologically advanced attraction ever created for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and gives riders a realistic feel of what it’s like to blast off in a space shuttle.  

After riders are strapped into their seats, the shuttle simulator lifts off, taking its “crew” on a 4-minute ride into space, culminating with a 63-degree tiltback that abruptly ceases. When passengers arrive in orbit, the shuttle’s cargo bay doors open and passengers are tilted slightly forward to show a spectacular view of planet Earth just as real-life NASA astronauts would see it.

Emil Poggi, chief operating officer of Poggi Designs Inc., a design engineering company, was approached by Technomedia Solutions LLC, the systems integrator for the attraction to work on the project.

“Technomedia Solutions who had the contract reached out to us because this was a fairly involved design project and something that we have years of experience in designing, ” said Poggi. “I have been using Harkness Screens for the past 10 years in the designs of rides, attractions and movie theaters. The quality of its screens and frames, creative designs, attention to detail, and customer service made it the obvious choice for this special project.”

According to Poggi, the screen requirements for this attraction were very unique and very specific. It called for a 20-by-38-foot screen with a custom frame about four feet larger to be installed and hung at a 75-degree angle, 60 feet above the ground with a mock up of a space shuttle underneath it.

The tricky installation required some ingenuity on the part of Harkness Screens, and it came up with the idea of a window shade at the high end of the screen. This involved designing a frame in which the screen could be winched up and dropped in like a window shade so it could be pulled down with drag on it and then laced in place. The lower end of the screen frame and screen was radiused (curved) to represent the horizon line of the earth and corresponds with the radius of the earth as seen from the Shuttle when it is 100 miles above earth.

“Harkness Screens was the only company that was able to provide us with everything we needed for the project – all at one shop, ” said Poggi. “They were able to design, and engineer the screen and frame and also have it inspected, seismically certified and approved. Harkness Screens did a fabulous job in the actual heavy engineering of the frame.”

In order to accommodate the large volume of visitors passing through the Shuttle Launch Experience, three simulators were made. As a result, Harkness Screens had to create the same custom screen and frame multiple times. “Harkness’ screens have provided for incredible images that continue to captivate passengers, ” said Poggi. “All of the NASA astronauts that have taken a ride in the simulator swear by it and claim it is as close to being in the real shuttle as anyone can get.”

See also:
3D/4D Theatre: Total Immersion puts augmented reality at the forefront of entertainment with worldwide attraction openings
3D/4D Theatre: Simworx Mobile Morphis 4D Movieride Theatre to promote Walt Disney’s Race To Witch Mountain
3D/4D Theater: Familiepark Drievliet to add Simworx ‘5D’ effects theatre for 2009 season

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