Archive for ‘NAB’ Category
DEKTEC: DekTec introduced the DTA-2180 low profile PCIe H.264 encoder. The DTA-2180 is a low latency — 150 to 600 ms — H.264 hardware encoder based on the Magnum chipset. It supports MPEG-2 and H.264 and up to 16 channels of audio. Audio can be encoded as AC-3, AAC or MPEG-1 Layer 2. The DTA-2180 offers a 10 bit 4:2:2 option for contribution encoding.The DTA-2180 has a 3G –SDI and HDMI input and an ASI output. The compressed stream output — TS encapsulated H.264 or mpeg-2 — is also available on the PCIe for real time streaming, processing and recording.
NIMBUS: The WiMi6400T and WiMi6400R provides high quality Full HD encoding/decoding function with low latency of 40ms for encoding and decoding, each. It supports wide range of encoding rate from 1Mbps ~ 30Mbps for the high quality video for video broadcasting. WiMi6400T provides RTSP streaming server functionality. WiMi6400T also can be used as an real-time MPEG-2 TS/UDP streaming server with linear PCM audio for IPTV network. It supports one-to-many multicasting function over Ethernet LAN or IP network. So, there is no restriction on the numbers of receiver in Ethernet LAN or IP networks.
VIOLIN MEMORY: Violin Memory’s 6000 Series flash Memory Arrays are all-silicon shared storage systems built from the ground up, harnessing the power of flash memory and delivering industry-leading performance and ultra-low data access latencies. A single 3U array delivers more than 1 million IOPS with consistent, spike-free latencies in microseconds. Violin Memory is uniquely positioned to deliver flash memory systems that can compete with performance disk from a cost for raw capacity perspective, even before taking into account the potential benefits of features like deduplication. This is possible because 6000 Series flash Memory Arrays are purpose built with flash components sourced through Violin Memory’s unique and strategic alliance with industry leader Toshiba. The core of the 6000 is the Flash Memory Fabric. The Flash Memory Fabric is a resilient, highly available deep mesh of thousands of flash dies that work in concert to continuously optimize performance, latency, and longevity. All of the active components of the Flash Memory Fabric are hot-swappable for enterprise grade reliability and serviceability. 6000 Series flash Memory Arrays connect natively to existing 8Gb/s Fibre Channel, 10GE iSCSI, and 40Gb/s Infiniband network infrastructures.
TOSHIBA: ExaEdge™ by Toshiba is a next generation SSD-based edge streaming server with extra low power consumption. It allows you to stream large numbers of concurrent high quality video streaming sessions with low host CPU and memory resource utilization. ExaEdge™ adopts Toshiba’s NPEngine™, the world’s first direct SSD-to-IP embedded hardware technology. ExaEdge™ ExaEdge offers direct storage access from SSD as an embedded hardware solution, in 2RU compact-size server. The resulting performance is capable of sending up to 64,000 simultaneous sessions with the total host CPU usage at less than 12%. Modern video distribution over IP, like OTT streaming, leverage the existing HTTP-based caching functionalities. Unlike the traditional IPTV network which is basically adopting specialized network architectures, in adaptive bitrate scenarios HTTP chunks can be cached by traditional cache server at the edge to be then redistributed with lower latency.
NHK: NHK was at NAB this week, quietly showing off footage shot with a Super Hi-Vision 8K camera, affectionately known as the Cube. The Cube camera is surprisingly compact at 2 kg, since, it records to one of the only 8K HEVC real-time encoders in the world. It’s essentially a housing where the mammoth sensor and lens mount live, along with necessary connections. But even though it’s a simple design, it delivers an amazing resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels. 8K is a great format that could rival IMAX and be excellent for big events that can be beamed around the world and give spectators who can’t make an event the opportunity to experience it in a way that all other formats before it could only dream to do. And NHK is planning on broadcasting the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio in 8K.
4EVER: 4Ever showed demos at NAB 2014 of MPEG DASH. The DASH demo featured a way to deliver content that’s adaptive, bit-rate streaming. It has four different HEVC encodes of original 4K content that it encoded at several bit rates, including a 14.5 and 11.5 Mbps for 4K content, 5.8 and 3.7 Mbps for a 1080 version, and a 720 version of that, which can stream at 2.9 or 1.8 megabits per second. The monitor runs a Chrome browser with HTML5 support which can only show a 4K/30 frame image. To show adaptive streaming, they randomly switched from one bit stream to the other, showing this data on the monitor. The changes were seamless, but you do see a change in picture quality.
VISION 3 IMAGING: Vision III Imaging demonstrated 4K 60p parallax scanned imagery and its Real Shot™ parallax induction technology. Parallax scanning is a technique for capturing three-dimensional depth information over time using one camera and one lens. V3 imagery can be displayed on a standard display without 3D glasses or special screens. Real Shot is a parallax induction technique that also embeds three-dimensional parallax information into Internet or mobile digital advertising. Parallax scanning is accomplished using a digital parallax scanner (DPS). The DPS is a moving iris mechanism that is inserted into the optical path of a lens. When the iris is moved off the center of the lens, it records a different point of view at the plane of focus. The DPS iris scans in a circle around the center of the lens, making it possible to capture 360° of parallax information using a single lens.
RENEWED VISION: With its new Multiple Screen functionality, ProVideoPlayer 2 ($999) makes it easier than ever to create multi-screen presentations from a single computer with support for multiple graphics cards and easy mapping within each card and across multiple cards. Users can also add external graphics processors to each one of these graphics card outputs for even more screens, as well as add outputs that are not yet connected to a physical output, allowing shows to be pre-built off-site prior to the event. PVP 2 supports Multiple Layers, which afford the flexibility to create unique looks and allow the user to take full advantage of multiple screens. A layer is merely a video channel, so multiple layers are also great for a single screen environment where layering, textures, or PIPs are desired.
SILICON POWER: Silicon Power Thunder T11 is not only the lightest but also the smallest Thunderbolt™ SSD on the market. Featuring extremely small and featherweight design, Thunder T11 is half the size of ordinary storage devices and only weights 65g. Silicon Power’s Thunder T11, which enhances storage solution with Thunderbolt™ SuperSpeed I/O technology, is three times the speed of USB 3.0 HDD and delivers transfer rates up to Read/Write 380MB/340MB/sec.
360HEROS: 360 degree shooting Hexacopter using 3-D printed Go-Pro3 mounts.
ERICSSON: Showing 100 Mb/s (4x25Mb/s) live UHDTV broadcast using DVB-S2 extensions to broadcast true 4Kp60 over the air.
LACIE: The LaCie 8Big Rack is the company’s first Thunderbolt 2 rackmount storage solution, featuring up to eight 6TB 7200RPM hard drives and delivering speeds of up to 1330 MB/s. The 8big Rack also features easy access to components and tool-free maintenance of the included power supplies units, fans, and disks, all while offering a cooling system with three fans that conducts heat away from vital components. The 8big Rack will be offered in 4-disk (12TB) or 8-disk (24TB and 48TB) configurations.
SKYPE: Skype has been an essential tool in the production of podcasts and newscasts for years, and today Microsoft has announced a professional-grade version of the app designed specifically for the media industry. It’s called Skype TX and is intended to be used in studio environments; you won’t be using this to record a podcast in your bedroom. Skype TX is described as an “easy-to-use hardware and software combination that allows Skype video calls from anywhere in the world to be seamlessly integrated into any production.” It plays nice with industry standards by outputting calls in full-frame HD-SDI formats.
LIVESTREAM: Livestream announced a pair of production switchers: the HD510 and HD1710. The HD510 is a portable version with an integrated touch display, yet it’s still full featured with 5 SDI inputs. The rack mounted HD1710 is at the other end of the spectrum. It features up to 17 inputs and can drive 4 displays. They also announced Livestream Studio Control Surface a modular control surface with 5 assignable tracks, T-Bar and audio mixer and USB connection to Livestream Studio.
AJA: CION™ is the new 4K/UHD and 2K/HD production camera from AJA. Record directly to Apple ProRes 422 and 444 at up to 4K 60fps or output AJA Raw at up to 4K 120fps.
DIGITAL BOLEX: Digital Bolexs’ new monochrome 16mm camera, dubbed the D16M, has the same form factor as the original D16, but there’s a significant change under the hood. D16M sports a native black and white sensor for highest quality monochromatic capture without the need to debayer, retaining a higher sensativity to light and preserving the full dynamic range of the sensor.
Here are the technical specs:
BLACKMAGIC: The new Blackmagic 4K URSA camera is weird, featuring a 4K Super 35mm global shutter sensor, real camera form factor, a built-in 10.1″ 1920 x 1200 fold out display, and two 5” 800 x 480 displays. Not only that, but it has both interchangeable lenses and sensors, meaning you’ll be able to upgrade to a better sensor at home removing a few screws when a better one is available. Here are the specs:
Blackmagic also seeks entry into the broadcast-camera market with its newly announced Studio Camera, available in Full HD and 4K (Ultra HD) models. Designed for live broadcast applications, the Blackmagic Studio Camera sports a unique design with a massive 10″ LCD screen, built-in 4 hour battery, and a set of features you’d expect to see in large studio cameras, such as built-in talkback and tally indicators. Intended to meet the needs of a variety of live broadcast applications, the Blackmagic Studio Camera provides the connections required to fit into those environments. Connections include SDI (3G on the HD version and 12G on the 4K version) and optical fiber video inputs/outputs, XLR audio connections, reference, LANC remote control, and a 4-pin XLR power input. The camera features an active Micro Four Thirds lens mount that is compatible with a wide range of lenses via third-party adapters, opening the door for the use of common DSLR lenses to PL-mount cinema lenses, and even B4 ENG lenses.
SOLOSHOT: The surprisingly affordable soloshot 2 ($399) will follow a tracker that someone can wear or you can slap on something so you don’t have to do a thing. Put on the tracker, set up your camera with SOLOSHOT 2, and catch a wave with the perfect video. It features vertical tracking, automatic zoom, and the kit even includes a tripod for you to get started. It’s got a range up to 2,000 feet and 360 degree horizontal tracking.
BRUSHLESSGIMBALS: Gimbi™ is a lightweight, easy to carry, simple to use, power-and-go, 2 axis handheld brushless gimbal for the GoPro. With Gimbi™, you can shoot videos and photos as smooth as the pros.
JIGABOT: Jigabot’s AIMe is a pill-shaped tripod mount that automatically follows your subject—keeping it in frame—in case you’re shooting video by yourself. It uses infrared markers and swivels and tilts using complex algorithms powered by a quad-core ARM processor.
CEREVO: Crevos’ LiveWedge ($999) provides easy control via smartphone/tablet app. The rotary control unique to the app enables slow transition, which is more difficult with a physical T-Bar. LiveWedge supports PiP and chroma key as well as all the basic transitions such as wipe, fade, cut and etc. Livewedge has a SD card slot and users can record 1080/30p (H.264) Full HD Video on it while switching! You can also use videos and images from the SD card as the video source. Streaming is built into LiveWedge. 720/30p HD Live streaming and 1080p HD video switching are available in one device! Supported streaming platforms include Ustream, Youtube Live and your own servers are all supported.
PESA: PESA showed their brand new Xstream Live Streaming mobile solution, co-developed by Ryerson students. They also received the NewBay Media Best of Show Award at NAB.
COMREX: Comrex LiveShot™ delivers live video over a range of IP networks. LiveShot is used by TV stations and networks to deliver high quality, low latency (200ms) video from anywhere Internet access is available. LiveShot is especially optimized to perform well on challenging IP networks like 3G, 4G and satellite links. For optimal video quality, LiveShot encodes with H.264 HIGH profile. In addition to standard AAC audio coding, LiveShot utilizes HE-AAC and AAC-ELD audio coding, both reducing network bandwidth and lowering delay. LiveShot can encode and decode an audio/video stream with less than 200mS delay. LiveShot delivers full-duplex video and stereo audio between the field portable and studio rackmount systems. In addition, a full-duplex cue channel is available between the portable and studio units. On the portable, the return audio/video channel is delivered via output connectors. The cue channel is accessible on the portable via wired headset or Bluetooth audio to a wireless headset
PANASONIC: The Lumix GH4 camera body and its 16MP CMOS Micro Four Thirds sensor will cost $1700, while the optional YAGH pro audio/video interface unit is available for an extra $2,000. The GH4 can shoot 4K at 30/25/24fps at 100Mbps using ALL-Intra compression. At 1080p that rises way beyond broadcast standard to 200Mbps. There are two 4K formats available too: the standard 3840 x 2160 resolution at 30/25/24p, or the cinema widescreen 4096 x 2160 resolution available at 24p only. When writing to SD card the camera captures 4K video with 8-bit colour and the data rate is limited to 100Mbps. Use an optional accessory – the Panasonic DMW-YAGH, which is about as big as the GH4 body – and its four SDI ports that can be used in tandem to extract uncompressed 4K at 10-bit colour. Power input, independent volume adjustment and twin XLR sockets ensure everything a broadcast pro is here – but only via the DMW-YAGH.
The HX-A500 shoots a resolution of 3840×2160; so ultra HD. Sub 4K resolutions include 1080 up to 50p, and 720 up to 100p. Un surprisingly it shoots to an MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 codec in an .mp4 wrapper.
The camera has a perhaps slightly disappointing variable bit rate, half that of the GoPro Hero 3+. Here’s the breakdown:
The camera has a fixed focal, fixed f/2.8 aperture lens. It has a few different white balance presets including Auto / Indoor1 / Indoor2 / Sunny / Cloudy / White set. The shutter is listed as variable, from 1/25th-1/12000. The HX-A500 has an in-built image stabilizer, with an angle of view currently listed as only 160°.
JVC: JVC has now also entered the large sensor market. And that this intriguing little camera covers super35mm on an MFT mount. In terms of specs the JVC GY-LSX2 has some really intriguing figures to offer. Not only is it very small and looks very ergonomic to handle, but it offers 4K with frame rates up to 30p as well as a slow motion feature at 2K resolution that will go up to 240fps. The footage is being recorded internally with an h.264 kind of codec. The JVC GY-LSX2 is announced with a price point “under $6000″ and to come at the end of 2014.
The bigger brother, called GY-LSX1 will feature a higher framerate (60p) at 4K resolution, offer a shoulder-mount form factor and seems to come in at around twice the price of the small one.
That’s it for now……This years buzz words: 4K, UHDTV, HEVC, H.265, OTT (Over The Top)….see you all next year :-)
NAB2009 – Valley of Fire, San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tombstone, Bisbee, Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson Museum, Mount Lemmon, Pima Air and Space Museum, Titan Missile Museum, Aircraft Boneyard, Kitt Peak National Observatory
Posted on 23:06, May 4th, 2009 by Many Ayromlou
Our NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) trip this year started with a pre-trip to Valley of Fire State Park on Sunday, April 19th. Valley of Fire State Park is Nevada’s oldest State Park. It covers an area of 34,880 acres (141 km²) and was dedicated in 1935.
The Park is located 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Las Vegas, at an elevation of between 2,000 and 2,600 feet (610 and 790 m). It abuts the Lake Mead National Recreation Area at the Virgin River confluence. It lies in a basin 4 miles (6 km) wide by 6 miles (10 km) long, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Clark County, Nevada. The rough floor and jagged walls of the park contain brilliant formations of eroded sandstone and sand dunes more than 150 million years old. These features, which are the centerpiece of the park’s attractions, often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun’s rays.
The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.
On Thursday (April 23rd), upon completing NAB, we took a short flight to Tucson, AZ and used it as our starting point to a couple of trips to nearby attractions. Friday morning we started at San Xavier del Bac Mission near the Airport.
Mission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish Catholic mission located about 10 miles (16 km) south of downtown Tucson, Arizona on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. Named for a pioneering Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order), the Mission is also known as the “place where the water appears” as the Santa Cruz River (which runs underground) surfaces nearby. The Mission is situated in the center of a centuries-old Indian settlement of the Tohono O’odham (formerly known as Papago), located along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.
The mission was founded in 1699 by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, who often visited and preached in the area. The original mission church, located about two miles (3 km) away, was vulnerable to Apache attacks who finally destroyed it in about 1770. Charles III of Spain banned all Jesuits from Spanish lands in the Americas in 1767 because of his distrust of the Jesuits. From this time on, San Xavier mission was led by the more pliable and “reliable” Franciscans. The present building was constructed under the direction of Franciscan Fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz mainly with native labor working from 1783-1797 with a loan of 7,000 pesos and serves the Catholics of the San Xavier District of Tohono O’odham Nation. Unlike the other Spanish missions in Arizona, San Xavier is still actively served by Franciscans, and still serves the Native community by which it was built. The San Xavier church and its Indian converts were protected from Apache raids by the presidio of Tucson, established in 1775.
Outside, San Xavier has a white, Moorish-inspired design, elegant and simple, with an ornately decorated entrance. No records of the architect, builders, craftsmen and artisans responsible for creating and decorating it are known. Most of the labor was provided by the local Indians, and many believe they provided most or all of the artisans as well. Visitors entering the massive, carved mesquite-wood doors of San Xavier are often struck by the coolness of the interior, and the dazzling colors of the paintings, carvings, frescoes and statues. The interior is richly decorated with ornaments showing a mixture of New Spain and Native American artistic motifs.
The floor plan of the church resembles the classic Latin cross. The main aisle is separated from the sanctuary by the transept or cross aisle, with chapels at either end. The dome above the transept is 52 feet (16 m) high supported by arches and squinches. At least three different artists painted the artwork inside the church. It is considered by many to be the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States.
We continued our day by visiting Tombstone, a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then the Arizona Territory. In the summer of 1877 prospector Ed Schieffelin was working the hills east of the San Pedro River in the southeast portion of the Arizona Territory, when he came across a vein of very rich silver ore in a high plateau called Goose Flats. When Schieffelin filed his mining claim he named it “The Tombstone”, after a warning given him by a passing soldier. While telling the soldier about his rock collecting experiences, the soldier told him that the only rock he was likely to collect among the waterless hills and warring Apaches of the area would be his own tombstone.
The town of Tombstone was founded in 1879, taking its name from the mining claim, and soon became a boomtown. Fueled by mineral wealth, Tombstone was a city of 1000 by the beginning of 1881, and within another year Tombstone had become the seat of a new county (Cochise County) with a population between 5,000 and 15,000, and services including refrigeration (with ice cream and later even ice skating), running water, telegraph and limited telephone service. Capitalists and businessmen moved in from the eastern U.S. Mining was carried out by immigrants from Europe, chiefly Ireland and Germany. An extensive service industry (laundry, construction, restaurants, hotels, etc.) was provided by Chinese and other immigrants.
Without railroad access the increasingly sophisticated Tombstone was relatively isolated, deep in a Federal territory that was largely unpopulated desert and wilderness. Tombstone and its surrounding countryside also became known as one of the deadliest regions in the West. Uncivilized southern gangs from the surrounding countryside, known as “cow-boys”, were at odds with the northern capitalists and immigrant miners who ran the city and mines. On October 26, 1881 this situation famously exploded in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, leading to a continued family and political feud that resulted in multiple deaths.
On December 25, 1881 the Bird Cage Theater opened, and in 1882 the New York Times reported that “the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.” Since Tombstone was in the desert, a company built a pipeline to supply the town with water. No sooner was this pipeline built than Tombstone’s silver mines struck water.
As a result of relative lack of water and quick wooden construction, Tombstone experienced major fires in June 1881 and May 1882. The second fire was particularly destructive and signaled the end of the classic old boomtown mining city. After the mid-1880s, when the silver mines had been tapped out, the main pump failed, causing many mines to be flooded with deep groundwater, and Tombstone declined rapidly.
We finished our first day in Bisbee, AZ. Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine. In 1929, the county seat was moved from Tombstone, Arizona to Bisbee, where it remains. A syndicated television series which aired from 1956-1958, Sheriff of Cochise starring John Bromfield, was filmed in Bisbee.
On Saturday April 25th, we visited the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in the early morning. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of the most visited attractions in Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1952, it combines the attractions of a zoo, museum, and botanical garden.
Its focus is the plants and animals that live in the Sonoran Desert, and it was a pioneer in the creation of naturalistic enclosures for its animals. The Center for Sonoran Desert Studies, founded in 2005, conducts the educational and scientific functions of the Museum and is a hub for research, education and conservation of the Sonoran Desert. Over 500,000 people visit the museum each year.
One of the most interesting things about the desert museum is the people who work there, particularly the youth volunteers. The Junior Docents of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum are some of the most generous and hardworking teenagers the United States have ever seen. Each Junior Docent gives up one day out of their weekend to volunteer at the museum and present certain Sonoran Desert-related kits and animals to the visitors of the museum.
The ASDM was created by William Carr and Arthur Pack as one of the first naturalistic zoos in the United States.
We then went to the nearby Old Tucson Museum. Old Tucson Studios is a movie studio and theme park just west of Tucson, Arizona, adjacent to the Tucson Mountains and close to the western portion of Saguaro National Park. Built in 1939 for the movie Arizona, the studio was opened to the public in 1961. Old Tucson Studios was originally built in 1938 by Columbia Pictures on a Pima County-owned site as a replica of 1860s Tucson for the movie Arizona, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. Workers built more than 50 buildings in 40 days.
Many of those structures are still standing. After Arizona completed filming, the location lay dormant for several years, until the filming of The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Other early movies filmed on this set included The Last Round-Up (1947) with Gene Autry and Winchester ’73 (1950) with James Stewart and The Last Outpost with Ronald Reagan. The 1950s saw the filming of Gunfight at the OK Corral (1959), The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1967), and Cimarron (1959) among others.
In 1959, entrepreneur Robert Shelton leased the property from Pima County and began to restore the aging facility. Old Tucson Studios re-opened in 1960, as both a film studio and a theme park. The park grew building by building with each movie filmed on its dusty streets. John Wayne starred in four movies at Old Tucson Studios. Rio Bravo (1959) added a saloon, bank building and doctor’s office; McLintock! (1963) added the McLintock Hotel; El Dorado (1967) brought a renovation of the storefronts on Front Street; and with Rio Lobo (1970) came a cantina, a granite-lined creek, a jail and a ranch house.
In 1968, a 13,000 square foot (1,208 square meter) soundstage was built to give Old Tucson Studios greater movie-making versatility. The first film to use the soundstage was Young Billy Young (1968), starring Robert Mitchum and Angie Dickinson. The park also began adding tours, rides and shows for the entertainment of visitors, most notably gunfights staged in the “streets” by stunt performers. Old Tucson served as an ideal location for shooting scenes for TV series like NBC’s “High Chaparral” (1967-1971) where the ranch house survived the 1995 fire: Little House on the Prairie, and later Father Murphy, featuring Merlin Olsen and “Petrocelli”. Three Amigos was a popular comedy shot there in the 80s, utilizing the church set. From 1989 to 1992 the show The Young Riders filmed here and at the Mescal sister site. The main street appears prominently in 1990s westerns such as Tombstone and The Quick and the Dead. A partial mirror set exists at Mescal,AZ and featured in scenes particularly used for “Tombstone”.
On April 25, 1995, a fire destroyed much of Old Tucson Studios. Buildings, costumes and memorabilia were lost in the blaze. The origin of the fire is still not known. Most suspect that arson was the cause, however, several factors contributed to the degree of devastation. Fire control efforts were hampered by high winds. A 25,000 gallon water reserve was inaccessible and water had to be brought in from areas up to 40 miles away. Most of the buildings in the studio were classified as “Temporary Structures,” meaning fire prevention devices such as sprinklers were not required. Liquid propane and gunpowder stored near the fire area demanded the attention of firefighters and much of the scarce water supply.
So much water was used in the attempt to prevent an explosion that the surrounding areas became flooded, further impeding the firefighters as they attempted to wade through the mud. When the fire began, 300 guests and employees were forced to evacuate the park. After approximately four hours, the flames were finally extinguished. Damages were estimated to be in excess of $10 million, with 25 buildings destroyed including the sound stage. Among the memorabilia destroyed was the wardrobe from Little House on the Prairie.
After 20 months of reconstruction, Old Tucson re-opened its doors on January 2, 1997. The sets that were lost were not recreated; instead, entirely new buildings were constructed, and the streets were widened. The soundstage was not rebuilt. In 2003, Old Tucson reduced its hours of operation, opening from 10am to 4pm. Focusing on seasonal events, Old Tucson hosts the popular Nightfall event for Halloween which runs through the month of October, Wednesday through Sunday nights.
Sadly, since the fire, Old Tucson has never been able to regain the glory it had in its heyday. It is still an alluring tourist attraction, especially for Western movie buffs, but is no comparison to something such as Disneyland. It is important to note that the entertainment is generally the greatest part of visiting, whether through the historical tours about the movies filmed there, or the valiant efforts of the live cast with their stunt shows and shoot outs.
To finish the day we drove up to Mount Lemmon along the Catalina Highway, but we got there 20 minutes late and the Pub at the top was closed (again). Catalina Highway spans the 40 mile distance from the Sonoran Desert floor in Tucson to the village of Summerhaven near the top of Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The Catalina Highway is also known as the General Hitchcock Highway in honor of Taft administration Postmaster General Frank Harris Hitchcock who served from 1909 to 1913 and was instrumental in bringing together the elements necessary to construct this piece of highway.
The roadway rises from about 3,000’ above sea level to approximately 9,100’. Work was begun on the roadway in 1933 using prison workers housed in a federal prison camp located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains for the purpose. It was finally completed in 1950. It is the only paved highway to the upper reaches of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It was recently designated as one of America’s National Scenic Byways and named the “Sky Island Scenic Byway”. Recent improvements following the Aspen Fire in 2003 have made the trip an easy “Sunday Drive” for residents of Tucson seeking to escape the summer heat of the desert.
In under an hour, this scenic drive from Tucson leaves the saguaro cacti, mesquite trees, and cholla plants of the Sonoran Desert, passes through stands of oak, juniper, and pinyon pine, enters pine forests at about 7,000 feet, then fir and aspen on the cooler, north-facing slopes above 8,000 feet. With some humor the trip has sometimes been referred to as a drive from Mexico to Canada in less than an hour.
The beautiful, curving road is a favorite drive for tourists, for locals escaping summer’s heat, and for motorcyclists. The highway has been improved recently. Following this improvement the speed limit was reduced to 35 MPH (56 km/h) for most of the road up the mountain.
On Sunday we visited the Pima Air and Space Museum. The Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, is the world’s largest non-government funded aerospace museum. The museum was opened to the public in May 1976 with 75 aircraft on display. It now contains a collection with over 250 aircraft occupying 80 acres (320,000 m²) of land. The entire museum property covers about 150 acres (610,000 m²).
The museum houses a major exhibit dedicated to the 390th Bomb Group in its own building, and to the 330th Bomb Group in Hangar 4. The first hangar has a plane, which tourists can go into, mock-ups of a control tower, one WWI plane, an unknown plane, & a desert storm F/A-18 flight simulator. The second half of the hangar has an SR-71 Blackbird, an A-10 Warthog, a hall of fame, the air force through the years, & a few other planes.
We followed it with a visit to Titan Missile Museum. The Titan Missile Museum, also known as Air Force Facility Missile Site 8 or as Titan II ICBM Site 571-7, is a former ICBM missile site located at 1580 West Duval Mine Road, Sahuarita, Arizona. It is located roughly 12 mi (20 km) south of Tucson. It is now a museum run by the nonprofit Arizona Aerospace Foundation which includes a Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile still in its silo as well as the original launch facilities. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
The Titan II was the largest operational land based nuclear missile ever used by the United States. The missile had one W53 warhead with a yield of 9 Megatons (9,000 kilotons).
At launch, orders from the National Command Authority would have specified one of three pre-programmed targets which, for security reasons, were unknown to the crew. The missile base that is now the Titan Missile Museum (complex 571-7 of the 390th Strategic Missile Wing) was at the time of closure, programmed to strike “Target Two”. The missiles computer could hold up to three targets, and the target selected was determined by Strategic Air Command headquarters. To change the selected target, the crew commander pressed the appropriate button on the launch console. Target 2, classified to this day, was assumed to be within the borders of the former Soviet Union, was designated as an impact blast, suggesting a hardened facility such as a Soviet missile base. Targets could be selected for air or ground burst, but the selection was determined by Strategic Air Command.
On our last day, monday, we took a bus tour of the Aircraft Boneyard. The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), often called The Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG was previously Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, AMARC, and before that the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposal Center, MASDC.
It takes care of more than 4,400 aircraft, including 700 F-4 Phantom IIs, whose total original purchase price is estimated at $27 billion. An Air Force Material Command unit, the group is under the command of the 309th Maintenance Wing of Hill Air Force Base, Utah. AMARG was originally meant to store excess Department of Defense and Coast Guard aircraft, but has in recent years been designated the sole repository of out-of-service aircraft from all branches of the US government.
We spent the monday afternoon visiting the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) is a United States astronomical observatory located on 2,096 m (6,880 ft) Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Tucson. The observatory is considered to be part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), although some of the telescopes located here, like those at the MDM Observatory, belong to other groups such as the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory. With 23 telescopes, it is the largest, most diverse gathering of astronomical instruments in the world.
Kitt Peak was selected in 1958 as the site for a national observatory under contract with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was administered by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. The land was leased from the Tohono O’odham under a perpetual agreement. In 1982 NOAO was formed to consolidate the management of three optical observatories – Kitt Peak, the National Solar Observatory facilities at Kitt Peak and Sacramento Peak, New Mexico, and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.The observatory sites are under lease from the Tohono O’odham Nation at the amount of a quarter dollar per acre yearly, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Council in the 1950s. In 2005, the Tohono O’odham Nation brought suit against the National Science Foundation to stop further construction of gamma ray detectors in the Gardens of the Sacred Tohono O’odham Spirit I’itoi, which are just below the summit.
The principal instruments at KPNO are the Mayall 4 metre telescope; the WIYN 3.5 metre telescope and further 2.1 m, 1.3 m, 0.9 m, and 0.4 m reflecting telescopes. The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope located on the facilities is the largest solar telescope in the world, and the largest unobstructed reflector (it doesn’t have a secondary mirror in the path of incoming light). The ARO 12m Radio Telescope is also in the location. Kitt Peak is also famous for hosting the first telescope (an old 91 cm reflector) used to search for near-Earth asteroids, and calculating the probability of an impact with planet Earth. The Observatory also runs what it calls the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program (AOP) for advanced amateur astronomers.
All in all we spend four fantastic days in Tucson. There was more to do and see, but this was I think some of the best highlights. Arizona now is my second favourite space in U.S. right behind New Mexico. As usual, the entire picture set is here on flickr .