Posts Tagged ‘Army’

The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience- Part Two

June 23, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part Two

70mm IMAX film is fed from a revolving platter to the IMAX projector.

Not only was the 70 mm IMAX picture on the huge screen, one of the largest in the Southeastern United States, an impressively immersive experience, the projection booth was also big and elaborate.  The two IMAX 70 mm film projectors filled the largest projection booth I have ever seen.  Now, the theater is showing a huge picture on the Giant Screen that is, in my view, just as good, or in some ways even better, with projectors that that don’t come near filling up the booth.

Giant Screen Christie Laser projectors use hard drives, DVDs, live digital presentations, anything on a computer instead of film.


Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwith said that instead of spending a lot of time loading the 70 mm film, the operator just inserts a hard drive and pushes a button.  He said, “The picture quality is a lot better. It’s way more sharper than film. It’s a lot more crisp.” When I pointed out that film resolution is still higher than 4K digital, he said the reason laser projection is clearer because laser light is brighter, especially when running 3D movies, and that “When the film runs over and over, you, of course, start seeing lines, you get dust. You get none of that with lasers.”

Another plus, he said, on the laser side is that 4K Xenon lamps last about a thousand hours, whereas laser lights will last ten years or more.  That’s one reason that the National Infantry Foundation decided the laser system would provide longer life and lower cost of ownership. Also, going totally digital saves thousands of dollars in shipping charges.  Film and film canisters are quite heavy. Hard drives and DVDs are not.

Now, all the theater needs is YOU.  The last two times I went, the theater was almost empty. That’s hard to understand because the documentaries that are being shown on a regular basis are really worth seeing in my view. Fortunately, the free movies shown in the summer for the kids draw good crowds. The museum comes out ahead on them because the concession stand does well.  Movies and popcorn go together.



The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience – Part One

June 22, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part One

The sea change in cinematic theatrical projection is the relatively recent switch to digital  systems. Just as the way film systems evolved technically, digital is doing the same thing.  Film went from grainy black and white flickering silent cinema to sound on film and color and from almost square screens to widescreens that got larger and larger.  Digital has gone from 2K definition which allowed some pixels to be seen to 4K which solved that problem and from and from light bulb to laser lights.  The National Infantry Museum has one of the very few theaters in the Southeastern United States with state-of-the-art Giant Screen laser projectors.  The museum’s theater also has one of the largest screens in the Southeast.

70 mm IMAX film projectors took up a lot space in the large NIM IMAX Theater projection booth. I took this photo in 2010.

Up until last year, the NIM still used  IMAX 70 mm film  projectors. IMAX 70 mm was as good as it got in theatrical projection until digital laser came along. When IMAX switched to digital laser, the museum dropped IMAX and switched to Christie 6P laser projection, and changed the name of the theater to Giant Screen.

When I saw the new documentary “Aircraft Carrier,” I was so impressed with the experience I decided I wanted to learn more about the Christie laser projectors. I wondered why the huge picture on the screen seemed so much more vivid and immersive than the one produced by 70 mm film projectors.  I was able to take a look at the projectors and get an interview with Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwirth.

I’ll take you inside the projection booth in my next post.





Retired Ranger Col. Ralph Puckett Gets Top Columbus Rotary Award

April 25, 2012

It’s not the top award he has received, since he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, second only to the Medal of Honor, twice, once for valor in Korea and once in Vietnam.  Among his other combat medals are multiple Purple Hearts for his battle wounds.  The honor retired Colonel Ralph Puckett received today, the Mary Reed Award for Service above Self, at the Rotary Club of Columbus was, however, the highest one that can be bestowed on a member of the club.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett and former Sec.of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway

He was surprised that he had been selected and was visibly moved. He was being honored by his peers, peers that include  not only some of the top  business and professional leaders in Columbus, but also a number of retired Army generals, and the highest ranking veteran in the room, retired Secretary of the Army Howard “Bo” Callaway, who was a fellow classmate  at West Point.  Both were members of the class of 1949.

Mary Reed, veteran Rotary Club secretary for whom the award is named, Ralph Puckett, Jean Puckett (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

He was also surprised when his wife Jean was escorted to the dais, because he thought she was out of town.  He said, “She is my hero, the wind beneath my wings. I would be nothing without her.”

This proven Army Ranger hero is no friend of war. I have heard him say more than once that war is insane and stupid, but there are times when they simply have to be fought to preserve our country’s freedoms.  One of the freedoms, the one I put at the top of the list, freedom of speech,  is courageously practiced by Col. Puckett.  He is not happy that our soldiers are being deployed too long and too often, and that  less than one percent of the country’s population is fighting our wars, while the rest of us are shopping in the malls. He made all of this clear in a talk to the Unitarian Univeralist Fellowship of Columbus. You can read my blog post about it at this link

He was given the most thundering and prolonged standing ovations I have ever witnessed at a Rotary Club meeting.  And, in my view, deserved them.

He continues to  give his time freely and makes many trips to Fort Benning to support our soldiers. And when he is honored as he was today, he quotes President Eisenhower’s comment on humility:  “Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

I can’t think of a person more deserving of the Mary Reed Award than my fellow Rotarian Ralph Puckett.

World War II Street Comes Alive Oct. 16th and 17th

October 16, 2010

World War II Fort Benning barracks, World War II Street, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

The World War II Street at the National Infantry Museum comes to life with reenactment groups showing us what it was like for a soldier to start his Army life during the World War II.  On October 16 and 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  you can see volunteer reenactors drilling, doing calisthenics, eating in a mess hall and doing all of the things they did in the 1940’s.

As I checked out the Street as a member of a tour, I, along with other vets with a lot of years on them, had to reflect on when we slept in those wooden barracks and did all of the things that basic trainees do. 

Ah, the memories of SOS and KP that this mess hall brings. (No, this SOS is not Morse code. Anybody not know what it means?)

I wasn’t in the Army until 1954, 9 years after World War II ended, but  being eleven-years-old when the U.S. got into the war,  I remember vividly what Columbus and Fort Benning were like then.  Soldiers were everywhere in Columbus and Phenix City, filling the sidewalks, restaurants, movie theaters, and U.S.O. facilities. Wikipedia says the post had billeting space for more than 90,000 troops during WW II.  That meant the population of the post was larger than that of Columbus. 

A lot of famous soldiers served at Fort Benning, including General George S. Patton, whose sleeping quarters and headquarters building are part of World War II Street.


The only building on the street that you could call beautiful is the chapel.  It shows what can be done aesthetically with simple wooden construction.

M1 rifles in WW II barracks

Yes, it did bring back memories, with the most powerful being how glad I was to move out of that environment and be stationed in Munich, Germany, where I had a private room in a former SS barracks building and where German civilians replaced military KPs.  Solders gladly chipped in a few bucks a month to pay the KPs.  Germany was still recovering from World War II and civilains were glad to get the jobs.

Herschel Walker Tells Ft. Benning Audience How He Overcame Mental Illness

May 14, 2010


Herschel Walker speaking to National Infantry Museum Parade Field audience

Herschel Walker talking with media following his talk to soldiers and middle school students at Fort Benning

Walker said he went from being a “special” student because of a speech impediment, who suffered a lot of bullying in his early years,  to becoming a martial artist and successful high school, college, and professional football player.  He made the point that everyone gets knocked down a lot in the game of life,  but getting back up and staying in the game is what is important.   Also, a big moment is when, like he did, you admit you need help in handling your mental problems and get it.  He was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.  He also emphasized repeatedly the important role that Jesus Christ played in helping him overcome his problems. Along with three writers, he has authored a book about his life, Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The Army brought Walker to Fort Benning as a “Guest Trainer” for the Suicide Prevention Awareness Training session which was sponsored by the Army Substance Abuse Program.  The suicide rate in the Army has been steadily increasing, hitting a record with 128 suicides in 2008. 

This morning’s event was definitely worth the trip to Fort Benning and the long, hot walk from the packed National Infantry Museum parking lot to the parade field.  It’s not everyday that you can hear probably the greatest running back of all time tell about how he overcame mental illness.

Behind the Scenes at IMAX at Patriot Park, Home of the New National Infantry Museum

March 16, 2009

Before last Thursday the only thing I knew about IMAX theaters is that the screens dwarf all other movie screens,  and the viewing experience is exhilarating,  and the IMAX 3D film experience is astounding.   I learned those things at IMAX theaters in Chattanooga, Atlanta,  Pensacola,  and at one other place that I can’t remember.  When I went to the sneak preview given for Columbus area media at the IMAX at Patriot Park in the Soldier Center section of the National Infantry Museum Thursday,  I learned how it works.

IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum,  Columbus, GA

IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

My former WRBL-TV co-worker and present friend Chris Joiner,  projection and audio visual manager of IMAX at Patriot Park,   which is part of the new National Infantry Museum on Fort Benning Boulevard in Columbus, Georgia,  invited me to join him in the projection booth.   There I got to see the two IMAX projectors that throw the incredibly huge and clear picture on the five story high and 70 foot wide screen. 

Chris Joiner, IMAX Projection and Audio Visual Manager, IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum

Chris Joiner, IMAX Projection and Audio Visual Manager, IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum

Each of these projectors costs  $600,000.   Only one of them is used for non-3D films.  It takes both of them for 3D.   These projectors and the 15/70 film, which is ten times larger than 35mm film used in ordinary movie theaters, produce a picture 9 times clearer than any other movie theater in the region.  It is so huge that you become immersed in it.

Becky Donovan, assistant projectionist, loads 15/70 IMAX film into $600,000 projector,  IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum,  Columbus, Georgia

Becky Donovan, assistant projectionist, loads 15/70 IMAX film into $600,000 projector, IMAX at Patriot Park, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

Many regular movie theaters use digital projection now instead of film,  and when IMAX at Patriot Park shows movies made in the conventional format,  it will use the theater’s $90, 000 digital projector.  Those conventional movies in the letterbox format will not fill the entire IMAX screen,  but will still be larger than in any other regional theater.  Many of the military oriented Hollywood films shown on Military Monday will be shown in the conventional format,  but the rest of the week only IMAX movies will be shown.

You’ll be able to particpate in the IMAX experience starting next Thursday, Marh 19th, when the Soldier Center, or first half of the National Infantry Museum, will open.   And,  if  you like,  you can eat in the museum’s full service restaurant.  Also,  on that day,  the first basic training class graduation ceremony will be held on the parade grounds in back of he musem.  That part of the musem complex is actually on the Fort Benning reservation, but the museum building is located in Columbus.  The grand opening of the entire musesum will be on June 19th.  Former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell will be one of the notables attending that event.

On Thursday the IMAX theater will show two documentaries,  Mysteries of Egypt starts at 5:30,  Everest starts at 6:30,  and the Hollywood hit The Dark Night, a Batman movie,  at 7:30.   Prices for films 70 minutes and under are $8 for general admission, $7 for seniors, active and retired military, and high school and college students,  $6 for children in non-school groups of 20 or more, and $5 for school groups of 20 or more.  (For double features add $4 for second film.)  Prices for films over 70 minutes long are $10 for general admission,  $9 for seniors, active/retired military and dependents, and high school and college students, $8 for children. 

Is it worth it?  Based on my experiences in IMAX theaters, including the sneak preview at this one,  I would definately say yes.

Fort Benning’s Olympic Gold Medal Winners

August 27, 2008

  Something special happened today. I got to meet and shake hands with two fine young soliders, both Olympic Gold Medal winners. Both were introduced and given standing ovations at the Rotary Club of Columbus. Both are members of the Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning.

  PFC Vincent Hancock, who hails from Eatonton, Georgia, won his in the skeet shooting competition. Spc. Gelnn Eller, of Houston, TX, won his for double traps shooting.

Spc. Glenn Eller, Oympic Gold Medal Winner for Double Traps Shooting
Spc. Glenn Eller, Oympic Gold Medal Winner for Double Traps Shooting

PFC Vincent Hancock, Skeet Shooting Gold Medal