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George C. Wolfe, chief creative officer
Jeremy Keith, Design and Production Inc., software engineer
Dale Panning, Design and Production Inc., technology director
Cliff Hahn, sound designer
Adam Casini/Catherine Fischer/Tim Kovolenko/Russell Steward, batwin + robin productions, associate producers
Megan Gargagliano, batwin + robin productions, producer
Valerie Chin, batwin + robin productions, line producer
Robin Silvestri, batwin + robin productions, executive producer
L. Sue Lepp, Design and Production Inc., project manager
batwin + robin productions, production company
Rockwell Group, project design and development
David Mandel/Doug Shipman, Center for Civil and Human Right, clients

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“I think empathy is the single strongest mechanism for positive change. This project evokes empathy with a highly dimensional, visceral delivery that is unprecedented and chilling.” —juror Tali Krakowsky

“This is one of most creative, emotionally impactful and sobering uses of sound and interactivity I’ve ever experienced. It’s hard not to be deeply moved by it.” —juror Winston Binch

Overview: The Center for Civil and Human Rights shares stories of courage and struggle from around the world in order to give visitors a deeper understanding of the role they play in helping protect the rights of all people. The center created an interactive exhibit based on the lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement, one of the simplest, yet most effective protests of the movement. The unique experience of binaural audio was chosen as a way to evoke an emotional and physical reaction, particularly in a younger generation that is immersed in video technology. The exhibit tests how long visitors can endure the physical and verbal abuse that sit-in demonstrators confronted.

The majority of audio tracks were recorded using the Neumann KU-100 binaural microphone with a Sound Devices 552 recorder and mixed to stereo on a ProTools 11 digital audio workstation.
The final track is a distillation of 36 stereo channels comprising 57 takes recorded at a sound stage.
Bass shakers are triggered by 20-Hz square wave bursts of 10-decibel sounds that are mixed into the program material.

Comments by Robin Silvestri, Valerie Chin, George C. Wolfe, Dale Panning, Cliff Hahn, David Mandel and Megan Gargagliano:
What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “The lunch counter was the stage for perhaps the greatest drama of the civil rights movement. Millions of Americans watched well-dressed, well-mannered black students be beaten and degraded on the national news, which inspired a strong sense of empathy and public condemnation. Our ambition was to craft an exhibit that was as viscerally potent as possible so that the visitor might begin to understand and appreciate the mental, emotional and spiritual discipline—not to mention bravery—that was required of the early participants of the nonviolent sit-in movement."

What techniques helped you create an authentic experience?“We used archival footage to better understand what this experience was like for protestors. The production was recorded on a sound stage using real props, including an actual lunch counter. Director George C. Wolfe worked with a fight coordinator to choreograph the action so that any physical contact sounded realistic and dynamic.”

What software, back-end technology and programming languages were used? “Each station of the lunch counter is controlled by a networked single-board Raspberry Pi computer running on a Linux Raspbian operating system, programmed in Python. The RPi boards feed the binaural audio files to the headsets and direct sub-bass to bass-shakers, which are mechanically connected to each stool to provide a loud hitting and kicking feeling. Phidget hand sensors are embedded in the lunch counter, and when a visitor is seated and ready, BRG ST425 count-up timers run until the participant lifts his or her hands off the counter when they can no longer stand the verbal abuse.”


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