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ARMS in high-def

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ARMS (Army Museum of Singapore) opened its doors last month for the first time, and in the midst of the NSF sets and 500-odd artefacts we find a truly astounding display – an ‘extended’ cinema in full glorious high-definition, spread across five screens and complete with the sight, sounds and feel of warfare.

01arms.jpgTitled “Our Army Now”, the exhibit combined cinema with theatrics, a feat accomplished by a consortium led by Iceberg Design and One Dash 22. The concept was first proposed by Chief of Defense Force, Lieutenant General Desmond Kuek, and was chiefly carried out by five individuals, namely:

Iceberg Design‘s Francis Tan, Technical Director and Executive Producer;
One Dash 22‘s Jake Wong, Film Director;
Casey Lim, Stage Director (theatrics);
De Claffer Music Production‘s Tay Chee Wei, Musical Score and Surround Sound;
Kaleidoscope Art Productions’ Leslie Ng, Executive Producer.

Taking us through from pre-production to the final display is Iceberg’s Francis Tan, who pointed

out that “at the pre-production stage, already numerous challenges were apparent.”

arms4.jpgSet mainly in Singapore, the team flew to Thailand to film the live artillery firing using multiple cameras, which was a mix of Panasonic Varicams and P2 camcorders. One of the main concerts of the crew was if the camera could withstand the sonic boom generated by the Howitzer guns.

“Fortunately, none of the cameras were ‘fried’ and the only ‘mishap’ we had happened during the ferocious downwash whilst filming from underneath the twin-rotor Chinook [helicopters],” explained Francis.

arms2.jpgThe team also built a special rig to mount three P2 camcorders to record the super wide-angle vista shots. Parameters set beforehand by the DoP and post-production crew ensured that the dead zones were properly taken care of. The Varicams were also set to maximize the latitudes within the CineGamma features.

With the acquisition stage over, the crew gathered at Iceberg’s facility to start on post-production. Though the company has already brought many feature films to the big screen, this project required a custom-built Final Cut Pro HD offline editor capable of four independent outputs to separate 50″ plasma panels locked to a common time line. “No guess work,” was the mantra, and the outcome?

“It worked beautifully,” said Francis.

arms3.jpgWhile at this point a normal film would be about 80% done, this project was far from finished. The full HD source was remapped as a Cineon/DPX data file for optimum visual integrity, and 3D visual effects compositing and colour balancing was done in the Quantel eQ Cinema Suite calibrated to mirror the screens at ARMS. After numerous tests, the final colorimetry was set to 6500K at 12 fL (foot-lambert), instead of the cinematic standard of 16.

Even more unconventional was the sound design. Since the area of display was not your usual theatre and therefore not ‘clean’, the sound has to be mixed on-site, amidst the highly reflective metallic military hardware displays. Here, De Claffer’s Tay Chee Wei mastered a 12.1 channel surround sound stage locked to the pictures projected on the separate five screens.

arms5.jpgWith the visual and the audio set, it was time for theatrics, choreographed by renowned stage director/actor/artist Casey Lim, to come into play. As the film plays, the M114 Howitzer and the AMX-13 tank flanking you in the 12 metre square Object Theatre ‘fire’ on cue. The winds pick up as the choppers take off, and if you stand close enough, you’ll get a spray of water as the navy slices through the waters. Sonic vibrations, laser and smoke also add to the overall experience that you definitely cannot find anywhere else.

The Army Museum is open from 10am to 6pm daily, except Mondays and Public Holidays, and is located at 520 Upper Jurong Road (next to the Singapore Discovery Centre). Admission is free up till the end of the year. For more information, visit the official website.

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