Chelsea company shows off new technology

MediaMerge, a company that provides services for giant-screen theaters, recently unveiled its ShowSource 3D system at the 2008 Giant Screen Cinema Association International Conference.

Giant screens can include dome screens, such as in Birmingham’s McWane Center, or flat screens that are around 70 feet tall, such as in the Tennessee Aquarium.

The ShowSource system combines a digital sound and video playback source with theater automation, which means the system can control all the different devices in a theater, such as the lights or the projector. This is brand-new technology, said MediaMerge President Ken McKibben.

“It’s sort of the heart of the entire system,” he said. “By having this all in one box, it’s simple and cheap.”

Conference attendees were clamoring for demonstrations, McKibben said.

“There was a lot of interest from filmmakers and distribution companies interested in understanding how this technology would allow them to package their products,” McKibben said. “We didn’t really know what the reaction would be. We knew we had a really cool product, but we really didn’t know because it was out of the box.”

MediaMerge designers began discussing the idea of such a system about a year ago, but development didn’t start until four months ago.

The system will be installed at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in a month. MediaMerge began renovating the theater system at the Chicago museum in June.

McKibben plans to show the ShowSource system at the Association of Science-Technology Centers annual conference in Philadelphia in October.

The staff at MediaMerge is hoping to pursue several markets, including giant-screen theaters and museums that show educational 3D films, with their new technology, McKibben said.

“People are really beginning to understand how powerful ‘edutainment’ can be,” he said. “We’re expecting it to really take off in the next few years.”

MediaMerge is trying to fill the void for education-centered theaters in a time when IMAX has moved on to more Hollywood-centered fare, McKibben said.

“The theaters wanted to go in a different direction. IMAX is really focused right now on their commercial division and their Hollywood films,” McKibben said. “We had several theaters that said, ‘We really need this. Can you do this?’ And we felt like we really needed to take care of them.”