December 11, 2007

Visitors Shake, Rattle, Roll Through 4-D Film

Newseum Executive Director Joe Urschel introduces the 4-D film to a test audience. (Sam Kittner)
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Newseum Executive Director Joe Urschel introduces the 4-D film to a test audience. (Sam Kittner)

The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater will be the venue for the Newseum’s signature film experience. (Sam Kittner)
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The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater will be the venue for the Newseum’s signature film experience. (Sam Kittner)

Viewers will see intrepid reporter Nellie Bly at the New York World. (Cortina Productions)
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Viewers will see intrepid reporter Nellie Bly at the New York World. (Cortina Productions)

German planes bomb London during the 4-D film. (Cortina Productions)
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German planes bomb London during the 4-D film. (Cortina Productions)

Newseum test audiences never know what’s going to hit them.

During a recent sneak preview, Newseum staff couldn’t stop grinning while guests gasped, giggled and yelped their way through the museum’s signature interactive film experience.

"That’s exactly the reaction we want," said film creator Joe Cortina, standing in the back of the darkened theater.

The film — the centerpiece of the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater — is a high-energy 4-D experience designed to introduce visitors to the power and importance of journalism.

Viewers go back to the Revolutionary War, when radical printer Isaiah Thomas reported from the Battle of Lexington; to the Blackwell’s Island asylum where reporter Nellie Bly went undercover in the late 19th century to expose cruel patient treatment; and to the London rooftop from which CBS correspondent Edward R. Murrow gave the first live broadcast during the London bombings in World War II.

Throughout all three stories — viewed in 3-D using special glasses — nearly 200 "effects seats" move, vibrate and perform a few other tricks that help immerse viewers in the film experience.

"The action in the film and theater is really fun," said Cortina, director of McLean, Va.-based Cortina Productions. "We want the audience to have a good time and remember this for a long time."

Production of the film, written by Jeff Blount and Robert Delapp and directed by Cortina, spanned the globe. Actors were filmed in Los Angeles, animation was done in India, and the score, composed by musician Michael Joseph, was performed and recorded in Prague, Czech Republic.

The film is nearly done, Cortina said. He and his crew are working on finishing the sound mix and the final programming of the effects seats, which were constructed by Maryland-based Oceaneering. The multimedia and design systems were created by Electrosonic. The theater’s lighting designer was Nancy Schertler, and sound design was done by Sound Deluxe.

In addition to the 4-D film, the theater will be used for digital cinema, live presentations and television broadcasts. Locations for TV cameras, podiums and microphones, as well as special lighting for TV, were built into the theater’s design.

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