Q Media: Audio Tour Experts

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To Dream of the Stars

In April 12, 1981 was a Sunday.  On that day, about a 100 miles away from my central Florida home, at 7:03 in the morning, the shuttle Columbia lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, a fiery ball of wonder lit the morning sky and new era was born. Even as  14-year old girl, seeing that distant light, I knew the world had just changed. For the next four years, every time a shuttle launched, my rural high school would pause classes long enough for the students and faculty to watch that single line of smoke blaze a trail into our imaginations.

After graduating from FSU, I moved to Orlando, FL, and in all the following years, whenever I could I would stop what I was doing on launch days (or even better, nights!) and look toward the east, just to see it rise again and again. The Shuttle Program has been part of my life for the past 3 decades. Who’d have thought, all those years ago, that today I’d be working with Kennedy Space Center and the NASA team to honor this extraordinary achievement: NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and Atlantis, the last shuttle to fly in space. I am beyond giddy with joy!

Jeff Stuckey (DNC Content Specialist), Stasha Boyd (Q Media Writer/Producer) and Eric Stiles (NASA specialist) standing beneath Atlantis while she was still wrapped in protective plastic.

Jeff Stuckey (DNC Content Specialist), Stasha Boyd (Q Media Writer/Producer) and Eric Stiles (NASA Content and Exhibitions Specialist) standing beneath Atlantis while she was still wrapped in protective plastic.

Last year, Q Media developed, wrote, and produced Audacious Vision: The Kennedy Space Center Audio Tour covering the history of KSC from Atlas through the Apollo programs and beyond. Soon  we’ll complete the expansion to include the unprecedented Shuttle Program and Atlantis Exhibit. The tour is offered in English, Spanish, German, Italian, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, and Mandarin. It will also be available in American Sign Language and Audio Description. In addition, we’re providing synchronized foreign language translations of four of the exhibit’s film components as well as adding a foreign language option, via the audio guides, to the videos which play on the tour buses that shuttle guests from the main Visitor Complex, around the secure launch facilities, to the Apollo / Saturn V Visitor Center.

By the time all is said and done the Q Media production team will include dozens of dedicated professionals — translators, directors, coordinators, voice talent, and engineers — all working towards a common goal: telling the KSC/NASA story. And while we’re not so lofty as to think our contribution is on the scale of the great space missions, we’re thrilled to do our small part to honor the men and women who moved us light-years forward in scientific knowledge and understanding.

Q Media producing audio tour for Kennedy Space Center

The Command Capsule of the Apollo 14 Mission. Named 'The Kittyhawk'.

We hinted about a big project in our last blog and here’s the news:  Q Media is working with NASA and Kennedy Space Center to produce a new audio tour for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Readers of this blog may remember a few years ago when we announced we were entering into a revenue share partnership with Kennedy Space Center by providing new Orpheo audio guides to allow them to provide their tour again to the public. The JVC audio guides they had were originally installed in the 1990’s, were broken down and worn, and no longer supported by the manufacturer.  We took that content and loaded it onto Orpheo Classic audio guides and the tour was again a viable money-making aspect to their operations.  Although the content was originally produced in 1998 at the time when we installed the Orpheo guides there wasn’t a focus to update it so we moved forward hoping that we could some day produce new tour content.

Forward in time to 2012. NASA finally felt it was important to update the content of the tour since so much of it was geared towards the Space Shuttle program and many exhibits had changed since the tour was originally produced.  Q Media President and Executive Producer Stasha Boyd has been writing the script and the challenge for her this time is thus:  In many of our past tours she wrote about what was – many tours are in facilities that have historic artifacts and information and much of the focus is on the history and the items/location and how it may relate to today.  The challenge with KSC is that NASA wanted the artifacts chosen to be significant for just what it is, but why it is important enough to be chosen and most importantly how it relates to the future.  Eric Stiles, Communications director for NASA stated ‘… the ending of the Shuttle program wasn’t the end of space exploration for both KSC and NASA.  Space exploration will continue and it will continue from here.  We want to stress how the need to discover is a human trait and we as human beings will never stop trying to explore what the next thing is.  Yesterday the Moon.  Today possibly Mars, tomorrow Jupiter and beyond.  We will go beyond because with each step achieved there is always a new frontier to discover and reach for’.  Well said, Mr. Stiles.

Walk though of the rough draft of the KSC audio tour. From left to right: Mike Lutz of Q Media, Eric Stiles and Layla Dowdy of NASA, Stasha Boyd of Q Media and VO Narrator Chris Hurt.

The review of her rough draft has been very positive from all involved so far and Mr. Stiles has said that this project has ‘been the best process of a creative project he has been involved with’.

The tour will be produced into eight languages:  English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Japanese and Mandarin.  There will also be a visually described tour and a sign language tour available on Orpheo Neos.  Q Media is also working with Orpheo to produce the tour as an iPhone and Android App using their new MyOrpheo service and the tour is slated to go live on July 1, 2012.

So we’ll be busy here at Q Media for the next few months helping to get KSC’s message into the present and into the future.  Please check back again to see more updates from us about this very exciting project.

Till then!

Mike and Stasha

Q Media in Rome!

We realize we haven’t updated our blog since September.  Many things have happened since then and we’d like to share with you what they have been and what we’ve been up to.

First off October 2011 found Mike and Stasha attending the Orpheo Partners Meeting in Rome, Italy. Q Media is an Orpheo partner and every two years Orpheo invites their partners from around the world to attend a meeting to catch up on what’s new with Orpheo and each other. This year’s meeting in Rome had attendees from Italy, Hungary, Russia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, France, Austria, Japan, Malta, Poland, Sardinia, Greece and Portugal. It was great to see folks we hadn’t seen in a few years and hear what other members of the Orpheo Network are doing with audio tours in their countries.  One great aspect of being an Orpheo Partner is that we are involved with a world-wide network of skilled, experienced audio tour producers and our combined strengths allow us all to prosper by assisting each other.  When you hire Q Media you don’t just get a team of award-winning audio tour producers with 10 years experience producing tours: you also get the benefit of many others who assist us in many ways in producing and equipping audio tours.

Besides the experience of traveling to Europe and seeing our partner members we also found out what Orpheo has been up to with developing their equipment. One of the exciting new things we learned about was the MyOrpheo App for both iPhone and Android. We’re now adding that as an option for our clients.

As for Q Media projects the end of last year and the beginning of this one have been busy times for us. We completed the audio tour pilot program for apartment rental industry leader Aimco and Q Media produced tours are now operating at apartment complexes in Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Also a project for The Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, FL is soon to be launched. This project was written and produced by Q Media and is being offered on iPhones that will be GPS triggered. One of the exciting aspects about this tour is that the visitor will always be immersed into a sonic environment and the audio tour stops will trigger automatically as they wander the grounds. A new, novel approach for tours and we’re really excited to be a part of this new application of technology.  But it isn’t all ‘sets and lights’.  The Kingsley Plantation allowed us to tell a story of slavery in the American South that is compelling, moving and novel.  We’re really proud of this one and the telling of the Kingsley story allowed us to touch upon greater human themes.  There are some wonderful performances from character actors in the production that really help to bring a sense of the people who lived there to the listener to allow them to imagine what life at Kingsley was like for them.

We’ve also been busy continuing to produce visually described audio tours for the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers.  More Q Media visually described tours are now operational at facilities in Wyoming, New Mexico, New York City and Missouri.

This winter also had us updating the MillerCoors Brewery tour in Golden, CO in English, Spanish and Mandarin.  MillerCoors likes to be sure that they are staying current in their tour with developments and improvements to their facility and products and Q Media is happy to be a part of making the audio tour at the largest single site brewery in the world the best it can be.

For other repeat clients we’re busy this Spring producing the audio tour for Mt. Rushmore into French to be launched and we’re also working again with Friends of A1A to add another component to their cell phone driving tour with a tour of Bird Island in Ponte Vedra, FL

Lastly there’s BIG news coming from Q Media and we’ll need to let you know about that in another post dedicated to it.  We promise we won’t make you wait as long as it took up to update our blog from our last post in September and we’re REALLY excited about it.

Until then!

Mike and Stasha

Audio Tours for the Visually Impaired

Institutions are using audio guides to comply with government mandated ADA requirements to provide interpretation of their information for all visitors.  Recently Q Media has been producing audio tours to allow some US Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service facilities meet their ADA requirements by providing visually described audio tours of their facilities.

Visually described audio tours are just that – an audio tour where the script is written to describe what is there for the visitor to experience and to also provide directions and other information that the sighted world sees and they may not.  Visually impaired individuals better experience a facility with these types of productions and they also allow a facility meet ADA requirements by providing interpretive experiences that are produced to directly serve their needs.

Stasha Boyd – Q Media’s president, primary writer and producer – is certified to write visually described tours and she has been using her skills, in combination with Q Media’s  award-winning production capabilities, to create meaningful audio experiences for visually impaired visitors.  When we produce a visually described tour we usually produce two tours –  one for sighted visitors and a visually described tour.  This way both sighted and visually impaired visitors get to experience a facility with audio and both tours incorporate high production standards to create a rich sonic experience for the listener.  We go on site to gather research, interview subject matter experts and record natural sounds that are specific to the location.  We produce tours that accomplish what a facility wants to convey so all of its visitors, sighted and visually impaired, will have the opportunity to experience the interpretation that leadership desires.

One visually described audio tour that Q Media recently produced was for the visitor center at The Audubon National Wildlife Refuge in Coleharbor, ND.  According to Jackie Jacobson, Director of Audubon It has been a pleasure to work with you… seriously, it was so nice to work with professionals on this task, as I had never used or seen one of these devices before. Thank you for all your patience! In working with clients Q Media strives to make sure that all facets of a production are equally cared for and that includes extensive communication with decision makers.  Many times they’ve never been involved in producing an audio tour and we pride ourselves in effectively communicating what it is that we do so everyone is aware of our process and how we achieve their goals.

Look for many more productions this year from Q Media producing visually described audio tours.  If you are a facility that is required to meet these ADA requirements, or cares to serve this facet of your visitors, please contact us so we can produce and equip a visually described tour for your location.

Q Tours – Q Media’s new iPhone app

Q Media is proud to announce our new iPhone application for Audio Tours Q Tours.   As you probably already know, the mobile device revolution is changing the way we interact with our world;  and now Q Media offers our clients this new technology option.

If you’ve read our blog posts, you know we always say an audio tour has two components — what you’re listening to (the content) and how you’re listening to it (the delivery method).  In the past, the technology standard for audio tours has been audio guides.  These dedicated audio tour devices have many great features and are still an outstanding option for facilities who want to offer a point-of-purchase revenue generating tour or who need advanced features like infrared, GPS, or radio frequency triggering (especially to provide devices for ADA compliance) and quality audio fidelity. However, the expense, staffing, and maintenance required for these devices can be a hindrance for some organizations.

Recently, cell phone distribution has become a popular way for organizations to offer tours. Some of the benefits of this distribution is that a facility no longer needs to invest in dedicated hardware like audio guides nor the maintenance they require.  But setup and monthly service fees to cell phone tour providers can become expensive (especially for large volume tours) and there are still issues at some locations with reception and visitors not wanting to use their minutes to listen to a tour.  Also because cell phones operate at limited sonic bandwidth the audio quality suffers from compression.  Furthermore, in most instances, cell phone tours are often only offered as value added (free to the visitor) tours and not as revenue generating enterprises.

Which leads us to the Q Tours iPhone tour and its many benefits. First, the visitor brings their technology with them so there isn’t any dedicated hardware to purchase and maintain.   Second, pictures and text can be displayed as well as maps to help visitors find their way.  Third, quality audio production can be incorporated into the tour allowing a richer sensory experience than other devices.  Fourth the tour is available to the public 24/7 without the need to have a localized distribution point – visitors can access the tour from any location at your facility as long as cell service or wi-fi is available or download it beforehand.    However, the main benefit is revenue. An iPhone tour can be sold to the public to generate revenue. This technology and distribution method combines all of the best features of audio guides and cell phones by offering a potential revenue stream combined with decreased upfront technology investment.

So how does a  Q Tour generate revenue for the facility?   If your facility qualifies with enough annual attendance Q Media will produce a tour, or host your current tour, as a revenue share Q Tour.*  Once the visitor purchases the tour through our Q Tours iPhone app (either through cell  service or wifi) the revenue is split between Apple, us and you.  Many of you reading this are aware of the way Apple sells applications for the iPhone from its App store — the App is offered via iTunes and a percentage is paid to Apple with the remaining percentage distributed between Q Media and the facility.  The visitor accesses the tour through their iPhone (or iPod Touch) and you receive a percentage of every sale with no equipment to purchase, no staffing required to distribute and collect hardware, no hosting fees or other middle-men costs.  It’s that simple. All we require is that the promotion and marketing of the tour is handled by you to your visitors at your location so they are aware the tour is available.

So look for our Q Tours app to soon be available on Apple’s iPhone App Store.  We are ready create outstanding tours for your guests while reaping the benefits of generating revenue that audio tours traditionally provide.  To find out more on how we can produce and host a Q Tour for you please contact Stasha Boyd or Mike Lutz at Q Media.

*For qualified facilities only.

Happy Birthday To Us

Hello Q Media blog reader.  In June 2010 Q Media will celebrate eight years in business producing audio tours so in reflection I’d like to share with you info about the driving personnel here at Q Media, the story of how we came about and why producing audio tours is what we chose to focus on.  I hope you find our journey interesting and happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us, happy birthday Q Media, happy birthday to us.  And many more…  -M

Q Media Productions was started in 2002 by principals and married partners Stasha Boyd and Mike Lutz.  Stasha and Mike always shared an interest in museums and since Mike is an audio engineer he always gravitated to taking the audio tour when one was available.  Both Stasha and Mike had jobs in entertainment before starting their company – Mike as the aforementioned audio engineer and Stasha has a theater degree and made her living as an actor for many years – so they were always interested in experiencing audio tours when they encountered them in their travels.  Some tours were very well produced (both the Alcatraz and Ellis Island tours they took really impressed them) and others, well, not so good.

They found that after they had taken a tour their appreciation and review of it came from two differrent perspectives — being an audio engineer Mike focused on the production aspects of the tour.  What was the ‘feel’ of the production?  How were sound effects and music used to craft the sonic experience?  Being on the writing/performance side Stasha gave focus to the writing and its delivery.  What was the emotional theme and how well was it consistently told?  Did the actors used in the production convey an effective and emotional impact with their performances? And so on.  They would compare their opinions about the tour and what they thought about it and they always looked forward to find an audio tour offered no matter where they were to see how it was produced and how it helped them to appreciate and understand the place they were experiencing.

Which leads us to how Q Media came about.  In October 2001 Mike and Stasha decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, FL which is located near where they live in Florida.  Fantasy of Flight has the largest privately held collection of vintage aircraft in the world and many of the airplanes on display there are kept in flying condition.  You may think Fantasy of Flight is a strange place to celebrate a wedding anniversary but truth be told Mike has been an aviation enthusiast since he was young and even at one point suggested they get married there “between the propellers of some of the planes with a 40’s theme and a jumping swing band!”  Sorry to say that vision didn’t quit sit right with many persons involved (especially his future mother-in-law who was writing the check for the whole she-bang) so sadly it didn’t come to pass.  Anyway, going to Fantasy of Flight that day was the catalyst that started them on their journey.  You see while Mike and Stasha were touring the facility Mike was letting her know some of the things he knew about the planes.  “That’s a P-51 Mustang painted in the marking of Maj. George Preddy, he was the leading Mustang ace of the war only to be shot down by friendly fire on Christmas Day, 1944”.  Or “…that’s a B-25 Mitchell – a land-based bomber.  Gen. James Doolittle modified and flew one like that off the carrier USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo in 1942”.  After a while of this Mike turned to Stasha and said “you know what this place needs is an audio tour.”  At that point Mike and Stasha looked at each other and thought out loud  “who produces them anyway?”  That’s how they got the notion to get into producing audio tours and have been doing so ever since.

In the past eight years Q Media has gone on to produce audio tours for many types of facilities.  Whether it’s an art museum like The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL, or an iconic structure like Mount Rushmore or even Fantasy of Flight (Q Media eventually produced an audio tour for them in 2006), plus many more, Mike and Stasha have been the main, driving force behind Q Media and their talents have been on each and every one of Q Media’s productions.  Stasha has written most of their tours.  Mike has recorded and produced the audio.  They take pride in the fact that when a tour is completed it was from their hands-on creative choices and endeavors that made it so:   When a contract is signed for a tour to be produced by Q Media it is them that have not just the oversight of the tour’s success but their sweat, toil and care go into each one because ultimately they are the ones crafting the tour with their talents for their clients.

So there you have the Reader’s Digest story of Q Media on this anniversary of its conception and inception. Mike and Stasha love what they do and as Mike says “…each time we produce a tour is like taking a class.  Beer Making.  American History.  Aviation.  Japanese Garden Design.  Nature and Wildlife.  Our projects have exposed us to new things and have taken us all over the country.   We always look forward to what is next on the horizon to learn about.”

So please contact Q Media if you are considering providing or upgrading the audio tour at your facility.  Mike and Stasha would love to be the company you choose to provide you with our award-winning approach and capabilities to bring your vision ‘to ear’.

Q Media to provide new audio tour equipment for Kennedy Space Center

NASA LogoJuly 16 2009 – Q Media is proud to announce that they have been contracted to update the audio tour equipment at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Kennedy Space Center, FL. The KSC Visitor’s Center originally had an audio tour installed in 1998 utilizing JVC audio guides. However, time has taken its toll on these players which are no longer supported by JVC and the number of players available to the public has been in sharp decline over the last few years. Q Media is providing Orpheo Classic audio guides to KSC along with the current tour content so once again visitors can enjoy the information previously developed.

The tour will be available to the public in 7 languages–English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish. Q Media is also incorporating Infrared triggering of the Orpheo audio guides for some of KSC’s interactive exhibits.

Orpheo system engineers Antoine Eisenstein and Sylvain Plaetevoet will also be on-hand during the installation to assist Q Media Technical Director Mike Lutz. The new tour hardware also includes Orpheo Desk Manager which allows KSC’s staff to expedite audio guide operations and visitor registraion without the need to hold personal identification.

The tour will once again be available to the public on August 1, 2009.  For more information about Q Media and their project for the Kennedy Space Center Vistor’s Complex please contact Mike Lutz at Q Media at mike@qmediaproductions.com.