14 November 2014

Bring me another bottle of stout and a salted chocolate rye cookie, Barry

Photo: Chip Cutlan, satchmos@sbcglobal.net
Grove East Provisions dishes up comfort in the Tower Grove East neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri

By Judith Rubin

Grove East Provisions opened in early June at the corner of Arsenal and Minnesota and quickly distinguished itself with pressed sandwiches, homemade soups, freshly baked bread and savories, local craft beers and the friendly personality of proprietor and head chef Barry Kinder.

Casual, warm and welcoming, Grove East Provisions is for the person who wants to grab a bite, or a bite and a brew, or a glass of wine and a gelato in a congenial setting, and perhaps add on a few groceries or a six-pack of beer to go.

Note: This article was first published in the Tower Grove East neighborhood newsletter.

Looking around at our independently owned restaurants, eateries and shops in Saint Louis, each has a unique person driving it, differentiating it. At Grove East Provisions, it’s Barry. He’s a jack-of-all-trades, a Saint Louisan who studied music at Webster, has lived on both sides of the pond (Europe and North America), and had successes as a professional musician (percussion) a sous chef at a top French restaurant in London (the Village Bistro in Highgate), and a myriad of odd jobs in between.

Now all of Barry’s skills, talent and spirit – and his Saint Louis connections - have come to play in Grove East Provisions - and like the ingredients of his popular chicken soup, the combination is attractive and pleasing to customers.

There’s a big dose of comfort in this place – from the food and libations, to the snug booth seating, to Barry’s hospitality.

Two businesses are in fact housed here. Back of the Provisions building, near the herb and tomato garden, stands a brick oven operated by Red Fox Bakery. Sweat equity built it: Barry and the Red Fox team, Jake Marks, Chris Sheets and Jenny Wilson. Provisions sells the fresh bread, ricotta cheese tarts and other items such as the much-in-demand salted chocolate rye cookies.

Shelves and refrigerated cases hold dry goods, bottles of wine, Excel sodas and beer from 4Hands, Civil Life, Schlafly, Urban Chestnut, Crown Valley, Excel and a new guest beer all the way from Kansas, Tallgrass. “I just love beer and what’s happened in Saint Louis with beer, how craft beers have been adopted by the community,” Barry says.

Photo: Chip Cutlan, satchmos@sbcglobal.net
He wasn't sure the Excel sodas would catch on in comparison to the better known brands, but they immediately did. There are also produce, a few dairy items and other groceries and gelato. Behind the counter is a beer tap (the selection changes) and on the counter is a selection of locally made soaps from the South Compton Soap Company.

Barry already has plans to reconfigure the space to liven up the produce and grocery displays and add more tables, going for something more “bistro-like.” This will support the Sunday afternoon programming he’s begun, that so far includes a wine tasting and afternoon of live music. He’s adjusting the mix as he goes along and finds what works for him and for his customers.

“I’m happy that the balance has been about 70% sandwich/restaurant, and 30% grocery,” he says. Although it has been a few years since his professional cooking days, he’s taken on that role with enthusiasm and will continue to expand the menu. “I’m working the restaurant more, adding more hot food, starting with soups. My first soup was carrot and lemon ginger. Then the beer-cheese soup, then chicken noodle, and now chili. I plan to add stews soon, such as ham-and-bean, cornbread, curries over rice, and eventually, rotisserie chicken.”

The recipes are all his own, “made from scratch with real food,” he emphasizes. “The chicken soup is one of my own traditions: I have made it practically once a week for years, but now I make it with homemade noodles.” Before chicken soup came onto the Provisions menu and became the best seller, the most popular items were the meatloaf sandwich and the club. All the dishes are surprisingly, refreshingly un-salty for Saint Louis fare.

The spark of Grove East Provisions came to Barry in Dec 2012. Another local business owner, Chris Shearman of Gelateria del Leone, was a catalyst. “He introduced me to Jake & Chris [Sheets]. He thought Red Fox Bakery would be a great fit with my place, and it is,” says Barry. "I did research on bread, and they told me about the crazy, outdoor oven they wanted. It seemed like a good thing to me - I can’t have an oven in the kitchen because there’s no hood. I thought the city would never go for it, but it turned out not to be that big of a deal. Chris Sheets masterminded the design.” Barry makes use of the oven on Red Fox’s non-baking days. In addition to the oven, the group built an authentic, maple-topped baker’s table for the kitchen themselves.

The day was gray, damp and stormy as Barry and I sat discussing Grove East Provisions over a bottle of 4Hands Chocolate Milk Stout. A customer, Sharon Fowler of Compton Heights, volunteered a testimonial as she zipped up her raincoat. She had discovered Provisions the day before, and returned for more. “The wine is great, and the chicken soup is so inspiring. I will brave a thunderstorm for Barry’s chicken soup.”

Personally, I’m waiting for the rotisserie chicken.

Photo: Chip Cutlan, satchmos@sbcglobal.net

08 August 2014

Film-to-digital conversions in giant-screen cinema, GSCA and the "T" word

"Digital production of giant screen cinema remains controversial even as the 1570 film exhibition format on which the industry was originally founded is vanishing. Saying another's work looked like television was the big insult at the 2014 GSCA Film Expo." -- Judy Rubin
Steve Schklair at GSCA Film Expo. Photo: James Neihouse. ©GSCA 2014.

The GSCA 2014 annual conference convenes in Toronto Sept 20-23. In March, the 2014 GSCA Film Expo took place in Austin, Texas. This report by Judith Rubin was first published at IMERSA.org.

Of late, the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) Film Expo has been a showcase for digital technology as well as a market to bring together producers, distributors and exhibitors.

Within the giant-screen cinema specialty sector, the changeover to digital cinema technology is taking longer than it has in mainstream cinema. This is due to challenges in achieving a satisfactory digital replacement for the high visual standard of 1570 film plus the sheer size of the screen - and also because there is a powerful emotional legacy that the community struggles with.

Some giant screen theaters (mostly flatscreen) now have digital projection, but a goodly number still rely on film projection, and so the GSCA screening venue must accommodate 2D and 3D projection in both film and digital. Attendees were supplied with two different sets of 3D glasses (RealD and IMAX). This year’s digital projection system was a temporary installation furnished by Electrosonic in collaboration with RealD and Christie. The three companies have formed an alliance to provide giant-screen digital cinema systems for theaters converting from film.

Giant screen film domes have their own unique challenges when it comes to digital conversion. One of the companies specifically targeting this market is Evans & Sutherland. E&S touts the 8K edition of its new Digistar 5, recently installed and getting high marks at The Dome in the Science Museum of Virginia. An industry demonstration will be hosted in this location on Oct 22, 2014.

The technical session included a first-ever from 3ality Technica, the leading company in facilitating 3D live action capture for motion pictures and broadcast. 3ality Technica CEO Steve Schklair, who has a background in special venue cinema, appeared on camera himself in the premiere demonstration of a live 4K digital 3D theater broadcast. 

Production of giant screen content has likewise voyaged into the digital realm - not exactly a new development in the sector, but one that remains controversial, and the controversy seems to have intensified as the 1570 film exhibition format on which the entire industry was originally founded is on the point of vanishing. At this gathering, the worst thing one producer could say about another producer’s work was that it looked like television - and many were not shy about their use of the “T” word. What they are decrying is not the use of digital capture per se, but a lack of the sweeping visual language that characterizes classic giant screen cinematography. It takes more than a giant screen to make a giant screen experience.

(Cinematographer James Neihouse's Aug 12 article for GSCA, "Bring Back Our Wide Shots," addresses this directly.)

With the digital shift, there is new variety available to giant screen theaters - an array of choices that some appear to find a bit intimidating in its complexity. Distributors are likewise facing a brave new world in terms of competition for screen share. DCI compliant systems or inset projectors may be desirable in order to attain ultimate versatility. Some of those shopping for new digital systems view their spaces as something like today’s multipurpose performing arts centers – wanting accommodation for spoken word and traveling live shows as well as the ability to screen alternative content along with the main menu of educational shows.

The plenitude of titles presented with space and astronomy content - such as In Saturn's Rings, which will be distributed by Tina Ratterman's company, BIG & Digital - made it clear that giant screen distributors are actively cultivating the planetarium market, and most mentioned plans for their new titles to be available in fulldome versions. Planetarium operators were present – we spoke to representatives of Tycho Brahe and of Fels Planetarium. Lisa Samford of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival attended, looking for ideas, trends, and content to showcase at the Jackson Hole New Media Symposium in Boston, September 17-19, which will use multiple venues in order to meet its goal of screening everything in its native format – not just during the Symposium, but also for the judging of the Science Media Awards.

National Geographic's "Mysteries of the Unseen World" was a standout in its integration of science visualization and storytelling, with high production values. It is narrated by Forrest Whitaker.

nWave Pictures reported good success with its unique marketing approach for "Galapagos: Nature's Wonderland," a key element of which is a very active role for narrator Jeff Corwin, who has made numerous personal appearances to launch the film in theaters, and has enthusiastically promoted the film to his own following on social media.

At the National Geographic sponsored luncheon, Bryan Boehme of Christie, Tony Petruzziello of Electrosonic and Judith Rubin chat during the GSCA 2014 Film Expo in Austin, Texas

23 July 2014

Science Museum of Virginia revives interest in planetarium shows with "The Dome" and new 8K E&S Digistar digital video system

Attendance numbers are up dramatically and the Science Museum of Virginia is making the most of its new versatility thanks to a new Evans & Sutherland Digistar 5 8K system in The Dome, its renovated, 243-seat theater, open since March 15, 2014.

The attention of the museum and planetarium community will be on this 8K digital transformation of a dome that formerly emphasized IMAX films. My new article about The Dome and its new technology includes interviews with Jim Peck and Justin Bartel at the Science Museum of Virginia.

22 July 2014

The art of the press release: Distribution

It's a "press release," but are you, in fact, sending it to the press?

This is the first part of a new series on press releases and public relations, by Judith Rubin, editor, publicist and social media strategist for the visitor attractions industry.

You've got news to share and have written a press release. Where do you send it? Thinking about and planning distribution should be part of the process throughout, because your intended audience affects the language, emphasis and positioning of your announcement. Your target audience and your message should be clear to you (and they should be clear to your readers as well) and when you have that clarity, planning distribution will be simpler.

I'm an industry publicist and this discussion is from that perspective - which means I'm addressing the subject as if you had a business-to-business story - something about your company that you want to announce to your business colleagues and potential clients.

First, send it to the press
It's a "press release," but are you, in fact, sending it to the press?

Everyone is to some extent a self-publisher, as most have a website and/or blog and social media presence. As a result, you may not be fully availing yourself of the external media outlets that could be a source of additional visibility and support. Your own media streams are essential communications tools, but are you using them to compete with the media instead of collaborating with them?

Media outlets want to receive your news, and they want to publish it. Your news represents many things to them: fresh content for their publications, a relationship with your company, and material to share with their readers and inform their future coverage. They are competing with other publications in the field for readership, market position and advertising dollars.

In other words, media outlets have powerful incentives to help you get the word out. You can make them your partners.

Research and compile a representative list of media outlets, blogs and freelance journalists serving your industry. Make sure you are targeting the right people and that your email list is up to date. Share your press release with all of them. They will show you what they can do for you.

What about my own social media streams?
Your first impulses may have been in a different direction: to post the news on all your own social media outlets, then email the release to your client list. Eventually some members of the press will find it and pick it up... It may seem logical, but it's backwards. Why?

Think about the difference between taking the above approach versus deliberately reaching out to the media with the opportunity to spread your news for you, and in doing so, creating relationships that can benefit you down the road with further coverage. Those media outlets are set up to share information about your industry with as wide an audience as possible. That's their core business.

Give the media first crack at your press release: Let them compete to be the first out of the gate publishing your news, and to do the best job at building an article, slideshow or interview around it. Then, when you start sharing the announcement on your own social media streams, you can be sharing third-party links back to those media stories. Third-party links give a huge boost to your credibility and standing, and they help you build good relationships among the media. They're using your story, and driving traffic to you. You're sharing their coverage of your story, and driving traffic to them. There's a clear, mutual benefit. Meanwhile, you can focus more on your own core business.

Re the client list - Yes, of course you want to share your announcement with them. Think about whether it will have more impact when you can provide it with the added strength of third-party credibility. Your story as published in the media, versus your own version.

Another note about social media: If you have multiple pages and accounts you maintain yourself, it's easy to create what looks like a flurry of coverage and exposure by sharing your press release on all of them. But on closer examination you may well discover that this strategy has you mostly talking to yourself. Reaching out to the media helps you break out of your own bubble. And how your press release is received by them will help guide you toward the best way to create your next story.

What about exclusives?
The nature of a press release is that it is not exclusive - it's free content for the media to publish and share. Distributing too broadly (to outlets where there is no clear connection to your news) is counterproductive, as editors may start to see you as a spammer and filter them out. But all media outlets whose coverage is relevant to your industry and to your story belong on your distribution list. If you are overly selective in your distribution, you aren't making the most of the potential media coverage you could get, and you risk damaging your relationship with those who were left out of your information chain.

Foster and cultivate strong relationships with the media. Learn which are the best vehicles for your news and supporting your business goals. At the same time, keep your door open. Long term relationships are good for you - practicing favoritism is usually not. Don't burn bridges. Media outlets come and go. They change their focus and their formatting. So do their editors and writers. Keep the dialog going with all of them in order to maximize your coverage and reach the widest audience.

Your own backyard
In your quest for media coverage, remember to find and include journalists, bloggers, photographers, videographers and podcasters in your own metro area and region - or your project's. This includes your local business writers - and, in this age of freelance independence, your local pool of potential media partners could also include specialists in your own particular field. They'll attend your press events in person and be appreciative of the opportunity to meet with your people and chronicle your achievements first hand.

What about newswires?
If your story has a potential mainstream slant, you may want to consider adding newswire distribution, especially if you want to reach the mainstream editors in a particular region. Newswires, like media outlets, make it their business to share news and provide tools for targeting specific audience segments.

This continuing series of articles will in future also address writing and positioning press releases, as well as other aspects of public relations. -- J.R.

Judith Rubin is a freelancer serving the visitor attractions industry. She is co-editor of InPark Magazine and publications editor/social media strategist for the Themed Entertainment Association. In 2013 she was honored with the TEA Service Award.


17 July 2014

Some great, current Saint Louis projects

Saint Louis keeps getting better. Here are some of the ways --

Riverfront: Progress continues on the CityArchRiver rejuvenation project. The grounds are being revamped and the museums updated around the Gateway Arch, the city's famous icon designed by Eero Saarinen. The project was mounted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Arch in 2015. Here's an article I wrote about it last July that includes an interview with Bill Haley of Haley Sharpe Design. DJ Willrich Ltd. is providing AV services on this project. Here's a story from June 2014 about the Park over the Highway.

Midtown: The former Sun Theater has been fully restored to become the performing arts center for the Grand Center Arts Academy. Architect on the project was The Lawrence Group, which has its corporate headquarters in Saint Louis. This feature in NextSTL.com has excellent before & after photos by Michael Kelly.

The new Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum opened April 7, 2014 at Ballpark Village. The museum was designed by Saint Louis based PGAV Destinations. The $100 million first phase of Ballpark Village opened in late March. The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is holding a behind the scenes industry event at the new Cardinals HOF on July 24.

Union Station's new owner, Saint Louis based Lodging Hospitality Management is renovating the 120-year-old facility, and the Grand Hall has been transformed with an immersive, projection mapping experience provided by Jack Rouse Associates and Mood Media. Here's the story released July 17, 2014. Below is a video.

Transit: Saint Louis has a reasonably good public transit system that includes a light rail system (connecting to the airport among other places). Recently they added several newly acquired articulated buses to help alleviate crowding on the busiest bus line, the #70. Metro Arts in Transit, directed by David M. Allen, jumped into the act and had a public bus painting event for the occasion. This is my neighborhood bus, and I am an artist, so I joined my neighbors in the volunteer, paint-by-numbers exercise and was included in coverage by the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch:
Saint Louis Post Dispatch
"Judy snaps a selfie" Saint Louis Post-Dispatch

07 June 2014

TEA & AECOM release 2013 attendance numbers for world's top theme parks & museums - free report

Published by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the Economics practice at AECOM, the TEA/AECOM 2013 Theme Index & Museum Index is available free on the AECOM website at http://www.aecom.com/themeindex and on the TEA website at http://www.teaconnect.org/pdf/TEAAECOM2013.pdf. It will also be distributed in a print version and Chinese-language translation at the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo in Beijing, June 17-20.

Click here to see the press release.

This is the 7th consecutive year TEA & AECOM have collaborated to create and publish the report, and, I'm pleased to say, my 7th consecutive year in the role of editor. Thank you and congratulations to all involved in the making of this vital resource for the leisure and travel industries. -- J.R.

14 May 2014

Fulldome: an international network of high-end specialty theaters that keep pushing the technology envelope

Jeri Panek of Evans & Sutherland is presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from IMERSA, during the 2014 IMERSA Summit. From left: Michael Daut, Panek, Ryan Wyatt, Ed Lantz, Judith Rubin and Dan Neafus. Location: Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Photo: Ben Shedd.
By positioning the fulldome niche within the larger context of family leisure offerings, IMERSA strives to help dome theaters and content creators become more competitive. Over the past 15 years, hundreds of planetariums around the world have replaced or supplemented their opto-mechanical starball projectors with sophisticated multi-projector, 360 digital dome video (“fulldome”) systems - quietly growing an international network of high-end specialty theaters that keep pushing the technology envelope – some all the way to 8K stereo 3D at 60 frames per second.

With close to 200 delegates, the 2014 IMERSA Summit was at capacity. About half of the people who gathered at sessions and screenings in the Summit's four venues (Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Sie Film Center, Holiday Inn Denver East Stapleton, and Fiske Planetarium) represented exhibitors of one sort or another: planetariums, museums, science centers, educational institutions, and entertainment operators.  Delegates hailed from the Americas, Europe and Asia....

Click here to read the full report on IMERSA Summit 2014.

31 March 2014

Science Museum of Virginia's 8K fulldome theater upgrade gets good press

Inside the 8K dome at SMV - E&S Digistar 5 system
There's a new 8K system in the fulldome theater universe. It was unveiled officially to the public in Richmond at the Science Museum of Virginia in March. While there are now hundreds of digital dome video ("fulldome") systems around the world in planetariums, science centers and entertainment venues, very few of them (at this writing, fewer than 10) are 8K.

Very few cinema systems of any kind are 8K, in fact. This leading edge digital cinema technology has not yet been widely seen even among the industry, but in our observation, those who witness 8K tend to agree that it sets a new benchmark for visualization, and that it may even meet the very exacting standards of giant-screen film exhibitors planning digital conversions.

Evans & Sutherland, a leading provider of fulldome systems (background: E&S was one of the breakthrough pioneers in the heyday of computer graphics), boasts two recent 8K installations on two continents: in the US, at the Science Museum of Virgina (Richmond), and in Switzerland, at the Museum of Transport (Lucerne). (And if you're still wondering what the heck "8K" means in this context, check out this background article from E&S.)

One of the things a digital theater brings is versatility. For a planetarium, going digital means the ability to take audiences through data sets using real-time image generation, and to screen fulldome shows, which include astronomy and earth science titles created specifically for the 360-degree hemispherical fulldome display, as well as fulldome conversions of documentaries such as the two that SMV is currently featuring: Wildest Weather in the Solar System (produced by National Geographic), and Great White Shark (produced by Giant Screen Films).

In addition to this kind of traditional educational programming, digital systems allow planetariums and other dome theater operators to explore alternative content options such as concerts, opera simulcasts, live performance and multimedia shows - and to collaborate with local arts organizations for other creative and theatrical uses of the space.

In Richmond, the SMV upgrade has caught the attention of the press and enthusiasm of the community, as shown in this array of recent articles, below. -- J.R.

'The domed screen is part of the Science Museum’s $60 million fundraising campaign, which is aimed at rebranding the state institution as the “marketing agency for science.” More than half of that money — $36 million from public and private sources — is already in hand'... Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Science Museum of VA pulls wraps off 'The Dome,'" Louis Llovio, March 14, 2014

'You sit in comfortable rocking chairs with cup holders, surrounded above by a quarter acre of screen — the Old Dominion's largest — comprised of 480 fitted aluminum panels. The new, five-unit Christie projection system can throw out 29 million pixels' ... Richmond Magazine, "The New Hotness: The Dome takes The Hat over the Moon," Harry Kollatz Jr., March 14, 2014

'The Science Museum of Virginia invited members of the media and friends to an early morning preview on March 14 and the capabilities of the new Dome stunned and wowed us all...over and over.' ... Richmond.com, "Dome at Science Museum of Virginia outta this world," Phil Riggan, March 19, 2014

14 January 2014

IMERSA Summit 2014 "Shaping the future of digital immersive spaces"

The 8K fulldome theater at Fiske Planetarium in Boulder, Colorado USA
Many 2014 Summit details are now available from IMERSA, a trade group exploring the potential of immersive digital experiences, especially dome cinema (fulldome). March 6-9 in Denver. Headline speakers include Ian McLennan, Dr Donna Cox and SIGGRAPH president Jeff Jortner.


Dr Donna Cox, keynote
Planetarium Budgeting session with Ian McLennan and Mike Murray
McLennan & Murray (Clark Planetarium) will show how to plan for great content along with a facility's other needs.

IMERSA to share new research at 2014 Summit
Empowering "Research Bytes" from Paul Fraser (Blaze Digital Cinema Works), Mark Petersen (Loch Ness Productions), Dario Tiveron (Fulldome Database) and Mark Dvorchak (Pro Forma Advisors). Session produced by Chris Hill of Sliced Tomato Productions and Alan Caskey of Holovis.

Steering an immersive dome theater toward success
Brian Wirthlin (Seiler Instrument, Photo Alchemy), Ian McLennan, Berend Reijnhoudt (Omniversum), Dan Neafus (Gates Planetarium, Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

The Pros and Perils of 8K - IMERSA Summit 2014 Finale event
Transportation will be provided to travel to Fiske Planetarium in nearby Boulder on the evening of March 9. Fiske recently unveiled a new 8K Sky-Skan fulldome system. Refreshments, screenings, facility tours and a panel discussion are all on the program.
Ian McLennan

As there are only a handful of 8K fulldome systems in the world, the evening at Fiske is a valuable opportunity to see one of the first 8K installations in North America up close, and see screenings of 8K content and hear from 8K suppliers and 8K system owners and operators.

The 8K event at Fiske is part of the overall Summit program, but tickets will also be made available for those who wish to attend it as a separate event. Inquiries: info@imersa.org

Professional Development sessions, Thurs-Fri, March 6-7. Experts will discuss tools and techniques, and there will be case studies of recent award winning fulldome shows that are also featured in the Summit's evening screenings.

Dr. Donna Cox, keynote
Jeri Panek
The first lady of science visualization. She will be introduced by Jeff Jortner.

Jeri Panek of E&S to receive lifetime honors at IMERSA Summit 2014
She's credited in "Wrath of Khan" and she was part of the pioneering development of computer graphics and personal computing at the University of Utah in the 1960s and '70s. Sometimes called the "Queen of Digistar" in reference to E&S fulldome systems, Jeri's career will be celebrated.

More stories and links concerning IMERSA Summit 2014:
Award winning fulldome shows to be screened at IMERSA
"Dream to Fly" from The Heavens of Copernicus
Summit 2014

Full schedule overview: IMERSA Summit 2014

Registration, hotel & other basic info: IMERSA Summit 2014

Meet the IMERSA Summit 2014 organizers! 

Speaker gallery! IMERSA Summit 2014 (downloadable photos with bios)