Posts Tagged ‘National Infantry Museum’

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.





Tanks in the National Infantry Museum

June 16, 2014

My stepson Ken Champion and a group of men and boys from his church in the Kennesaw area recently came to Columbus to see the new IMAX documentary, D-Day, at the Patriot Park IMAX and tour the museum.  I gladly joined  them to  see the movie again because it’s one that you can enjoy more than once. 

When we toured the museum, I was very pleased to see an exhibit I  hadn’t seen before, the relatively new Gallery of the Armor and Cavalry.

Armor 007

Before there were tanks, trucks, and jeeps,  there were horses, and that’s represented in the gallery.

Armor 002

Tanks came on the scene during World War I.  That’s repesented by a WW I French Renault that was unearthed in Afghanistan.

Armor 004

You can learn all about how that happened and see other tanks and artifacts that show the evolution of the U.S. Army’s Armor branch.  Since Fort Benning is  now the home of not only the Infantry School, but also the Armor School, which moved from Frot Knox to Fort Benning in 2011, the National Infanttry Museum added this gallery which will display armor artifacts until money can be raised for a seperate building for the National Armor Museum.


June 29, 2012

The IMAX Experience at the National Infantry Museum is going to do what I thought it needed to do a long time ago, run a top-notch first-run IMAX movie. The Dark Night  Rises is going to open at IMAX the same day it opens nationally, July 20th.  Maybe this will attract enough people that the word will get around about the power and enjoyment of an IMAX experience. Of course, in my view, you get close to that experience when you watch a BigD movie at the Carmike 15.    

Go to this link to read all about it:  IMAX 

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.

IMAX at Patriot Park Revisited – Part 3

June 23, 2010


Since I really enjoy the IMAX experience, I want to see the theater at the National Infantry Museum succeed.  With that in mind, I decided to get a progress report on the first year in operation. 

Ben Williams, Executive Director, National Infantry Foundation, in the lobby of the National Infantry Museum's IMAX Theater

National Infantry Foundation Executive Director Ben Williams, who is also managing the theater at this time, told me, “It has been moderately  successful.” Attendence since the theater opened was 107,800.  He went on to say that financially it broke even for the first year.   Maybe that’s not so bad since the first year has been a learning experience.

When it first opened in March of 2009, along with the stunningly beautiful IMAX documentaries, a Hollywood feature movie was shown every day.  The problem was they were second-run.  They had already had long runs in Carmike Cinemas’ theaters in Columbus. Ben told me that the foundation decided that since theirs is a museum IMAX, and since first run movies are really expensive, anyway, they wouldn’t get into the first-run game.

However, they learned that some second-run films do well for them so they will continue to run them from time to time.  It depends on the movie. During the Christmas season, Polar Express attracted large crowds. During its run it attracted  7,400 people , “Our best film so far.” A lot of folks were there the night we attended. Probably one of the reasons is that seeing it in a conventional theater is entertaining, but seeing that movie in 3-D on the huge IMAX screen with the theater’s incredible sound system is really spectacular. Also, the marketing was creative.

"Conductor" Owen Ditchfield punches 3-year-old Cliff Tankersley's ticket, as mom Ann looks on

In the theater lobby, volunteer Owen Ditchfield dressed in a train conductor’s uniform and delighted kids and their parents by punching their tickets.  The foundation plans to do it again this Christmas.  Why not?  It’s a Wonderful Life draws audiences every Christmas when it’s run on TV.  Some movies are evergreen.

Just started its run. Showtimes are at 1:30 and 6 p.m.

The theater just started running another Hollywood feature film, How to Train Your Dragon in IMAX 3-D.  It has gotten really good reviews. Maybe the IMAX experience will do the same thing for it that it did for Polar Express.  I plan to check it out to see.

While the full-length feature films will run from time to time, the theater’s mainstay will continue to be the shorter documentaries.  When people come to visit the museum, they are more likely to be willing to take 45 minutes to see a documentary than sit through a movie that can last more than 90 minutes, Ben said.  

Since that is the case, it is really fortunate that the documentaries that are shot with IMAX cameras are so well made.  Stunning and spectacular are not hyperbole when applied to those docs.  When “members” of the Lewis and Clark expedition shoot the rapids, you feel as though you’re in the canoe with them.  Ben tells me, by the way, that the Lewis and Clark film is the museum’s most successful documentary.

However, Hubble 3-D could give it a run for the money.  It’s pulling in good audiences.  It deserves it.  You’ve never seen the galaxies in a more spectacular fashion than through the Hubble space telescope images projected on the IMAX 5-story tall, 72-feet wide screen.  It’s magical.

The theater’s newest doc is Fighter Pilot” Operation Red Flag. It follows a fighter jet pilot, the grandson of a World War II ace, as he participates in the most challenging combat training course for fighter pilots.  We’ll probably feel like we have flown the course ourselves since a lot of it is shot from inside the cockpit for an F-16.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I will.

Sometimes when I go there are only a few people in the theater and that concerns me, but, then I have to reflect on the fact that that also happens sometimes when I go to a Carmike Cinemas’ movie.  I’ve been to the Peachtree Art Theater when I was the only person there.  After watching some of the movie, I realized why. However, I’ve also seen decent crowds and really fine movies there. You can’t judge by just one visit.

When I went to the National Naval Air Museum at the Naval Air Station Pensacola IMAX, I saw a Blue Angels documentary, The Magic of Flight. Since that amazing Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is stationed next door to the museum, what could be more appropriate? 

Blue Angels in Diamond formation (Photo by Jon Sullivan)

And what could be more appropriate than an IMAX documentary about the United States Army Infantry at the National Infantry Museum? It would be a natural and should be highly successful if done well.  The National Infantry Foundation folks know this and want one.  The problem is cost.  We’re talking millions.   Actually, though, it would seem to me that it shouldn’t be hard to get someone to sponsor it.  For instance, The Magic of Flight is sponsored by aircraft manufacturer and defense contractor McDonald Douglas, which merged with Boeing in 1997.  Fighter Pilot, the doc we told you that is now playing at the Infantry Museum, is a Boeing sponsored film. You would think defense contractors would line up to sponsor an IMAX U.S. Army Infantry film.  But, the sponsor certainly wouldn’t have to be a defense contractor. 

As I said, I want the theater to be successful.  One of the ways to help it is to go and enjoy it, which I have done and will continue to do, and I hope you join me.  Or, even better yet, get up a group to go.  I did that once.  20 of us saw a movie, and then had dinner at the Fife and Drum. It was fun.

IMAX at Patriot Park Revisited – Part 1

June 21, 2010

Wendy Banks, National Infantry Museum IMAX Theater projectionist

Wendy Banks says, “I love my job.”  Her job is operating the highly sophisticated and very expensive movie projectors at the IMAX Theater at the National Infantry Museum.  She says her first job was as an usher in a movie theater.

“They moved me out of ushering and into selling popcorn when they found out I wasn’t a good bouncer. You know, ushers have to kick rowdy people out of the theater. But I loved working there then, and I love doing this now.”

I told her that I did know about the perils of being an usher since I was one.  I ended up being promoted to Assistant Head Doorman, and, at age 14, did indeed manage to keep order.  It was during World War II and the crowds were huge, which meant I had to learn about crowd control. Also, I broke up some smooching in the balcony, and made people get their feet off seats in front of them; however, I never “kicked” anyone out of the theater, but one guy thankfully left of his own accord after threatening me with physical violence.  

I also remember that projectionists were the elite pros. Back when I was an usher, they were unionized, made good money, and were not to be “bothered” by the likes of people like me.  That means Wendy has made it almost to the top of the movie theater pecking order, especially as a projectionist who operates IMAX projectors.  They definitely are not ordinary and are top of the line. 

Since my hit meter tells me that I continue to get multiple hits almost daily on my posts of more of than a year ago about behind the scenes at IMAX, and the greatest interest is in the projectors, I asked Ben Williams, Executive Director of the National Infantry Foundation, to allow me back into the projection booth to learn more about them.   He accompanied me there and I’ll take you there  for a close-up look at those technological marvels, and a progress report on the IMAX Theater.  Stay tuned.

Infantry Museum’s IMAX Theater Shows “To Hell and Back” Sunday, Audie Murphy’s Birthday

June 19, 2010


Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II. The military's top award, the Medal of Honor, was one of the many he was given. After the war he became a movie star and played himself in "To Hell and Back." He was killed when his private plane crashed in 1971. His grave at Arlington is the second most visited, with John F. Kennedy's being most visited. (U.S. Army photo)

The showing of “To Hell and Back” is a benefit screening for the local Audie Murphy club.  Proceeds will go to the club and the museum. The public is invited. Tickets are $10.

Though shown int he IMAX Theater, it will not be an IMAX movie, shown instead on the theater’s digital projector which is similar to the ones in Carmike Cinemas.  

Speaking of projectors, we’ll take a closer look at the IMAX projectors and how the theater has fared in its first year of operation starting Monday. Stay tuned.


December 28, 2009

You won’t find “yearender” in the dictionary. It’s a term used by broadcasters for reports and documentaries at year’s end to feature the big stories of the year.  That’s what this podcast does, except, being a blog, it get’s personal.

Just click on 2009 YEARENDER

The Tradition Started with Armistice Day

November 11, 2009
Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1477

National Infantry Museum on Veterans Day, November 11, 2009

A lot of folks showed up on this Veterans Day at the National Infantry Museum.  The fact that 280 members and guests of the Rotary Club of Columbus held their weekly meeting there today certainly contributed to the heavy volume. 

Rotary Club of Columbus meeting at the National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GAThe program for the Rotarians was to tour the museum.  Since I had already done it about four times, I decided to concentrate on a new exhibit that just popped up in the lobby.  It contained artifacts from World War One. 

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1470

Matt Young demonstrates U.S. Army World War I gas mask

Matt Young, educational director for the museum, and Jack Reed, weapon’s curator supplied most of the artifacts from their own collection.  The light machine guns –  the British Lewis  and the French Chauchat – were furnished by the Army.

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1473

French and British World War I light machine guns

Young Fort Benning soldiers found the exhibit especially interesting since they could compare the weapons, gas masks, toilet and mess kits, and other accoutrements of war used in World War I with what they use today. 

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1472

Matt Young shows young Fort Benning soldier trainees how World War I weapons and equipment differ from what they use

Matt, who is a very enthusiastic teacher of history using museum props – previously he was director of education for the National Civil War Naval  Museum, where he often wore Civil War uniforms – was continuing his tradition of making history live by wearing a World War 1 Uniform.  He told me that this one-day exhibit was so appropriate because it represents Armistice Day, the forerunner of Veterans Day.  Armistice Day celebrates the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. It was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. 

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1476

Jack Reed wearing World War I Scottish uniform

As I surveyed the exhibit I had to reflect on the colossal carnage of that  war.  It just about wiped out a generation of Europe’s young men.  The United States did not lose a generation to it, because our country was only in it for a year.  But, it did cost more than 116,000 American lives.

(I took all of the pictures but the one of the Rotary Club meeting. Jim Cawthorne of Camera1 took that one. Thanks, Jim.)