Forever Remembered

NASA Honors Fallen Astronauts in New Kennedy Space Center Memorial
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As part of the Forever Remembered exhibit, three multi screen Ultra HD video displays each depict a different stage of recovery in the aftermath of the accidents.

A new Forever Remembered memorial at the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla., honors the 14 men and women who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttles Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. The memorial opened in June 2015 and was a result of the collaboration between NASA and the families of the fallen crewmembers. The nearly 2,000-square-foot memorial features photographs, video footage, personal mementos of the flight crews, and, in a poignant tribute, recovered wreckage from both of the orbiters, which has never before been on display for the public.

As part of the Forever Remembered exhibit, three multiscreen Ultra HD video displays each depict a different stage of recovery in the aftermath of the accidents. “Emotional Recovery” shows children’s cards and letters that were sent to NASA after each accident. “Physical Recovery” includes NASA’s collection and analysis of debris from the two shuttles, and “Return to Flight” features footage of subsequent missions that followed the investigations into the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

EMPHASIS ON RECOVERY

Developing such an emotional and inspirational tribute was no easy task, but the background of Brian Karr gave him the unique opportunity to work on the exhibit.

After graduating from RIT in Rochester, N.Y., with a degree in electrical engineering, Karr began working at the Air Force Space Command in Florida. He then transitioned to defense contracting while earning his master’s in electromagnetics. Afterward, he spent 10 years designing radiation imaging products in the medical physics field before joining NASA as a contractor in the Space Shuttle program. He led the development of the Kennedy Space Center shoreline intrusion system, as well as NASA’s Advanced Imaging Lab (AIL) through the remainder of the Shuttle program, developing and testing next-generation imaging and control systems.

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Brian Karr, designer of the video portion of the Forever Remember memorial that commemorates fallen astronauts from the Challenger and Columbia orbiters.

After the completion of the Shuttle program, NASA and the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex approached Karr about creating the video portion of a memorial to commemorate the fallen astronauts from Challenger and Columbia.

In 2014, Karr left his role as a NASA contractor to start his own business, Rockledge Design Group (RDG), a Florida-based design and engineering firm, as well as to take on the Forever Remembered project. He held a dual role on the memorial: first, he was tasked with leading the engineering, design and development of the three large mosaic video walls and associated audio and 4K video players. Second, he led production on the 4K content that would play on each video display, working in collaboration with NASA teammates Luis Berrios and Mike Cianelli, and Daniel Gruenbaum of the Visitor Complex operator, Delaware North Inc. During his time at NASA’s Advanced Imaging Lab, Karr and his team of five engineers worked to develop and test digital imaging technologies and workflows, including high speed, high resolution, stereoscopic, infrared and high dynamic range. The high speed and 4K imagery used in the “Forever Remembered Return to Flight” video wall was a product of the work he and his team did at the AIL.

As president of RDG, Karr produced a turnkey 4K Ultra HD video wall solution for the exhibit, under contract with solution provider Vencore Services and Solutions. According to Karr, "It was an honor to be working as a team with NASA, Delaware North and Vencore to create this special memorial."

RDG recently built a new state-of-the-art Ultra HD production studio that was used in the content design of the Forever Remembered gallery. The Linux-based system allows for real-time processing, analyzing and color grading of 4K RAW images and video files. To edit and color grade the footage played on the memorial’s video displays, Karr used Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio.

“One of the challenges we had, which many people can identify with, was a strict schedule and budget,” Karr said. “I had used DaVinci Resolve Studio for color grading in the past, but had also been experimenting with the latest editing features. Rather than make a round trip through an NLE, I was convinced that we could work faster and save time and budget by using the editing features within Resolve for this project.”

EMOTIONS ON DISPLAY

Karr and the creative team began by centering the video content on the children’s cards that were sent to NASA after each accident. One of them read: “I know being an astronaut is dangerous. But they were brave enough to follow their dreams.”

“The cards were incredibly powerful and emotional, while also hopeful and appreciative of the crews, expressed as only kids can,” he said. “We storyboarded around those, using Resolve’s media management bins to organize the scanned cards along with the huge volume of stills and video clips that were provided. We saved a lot of time by being able to swap various media clips on Resolve’s edit page and immediately play with looks on the color page without having to make a roundtrip to an NLE.”

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The memorial opened in June 2015 and was a result of the collaboration between NASA and the families of the fallen crewmembers.

Karr noted that with DaVinci Resolve Studio, the team was able to natively use the wide array of Shuttle launch video that the NASA AIL team had previously captured, including files from many different cameras.

When it came time to color grade the footage, NASA lead exhibit designer Luis Berrios discussed with Karr how the color theme of each video wall should reflect the emotional state felt at each stage of the recovery.

“As we sorted through media and combined different clips on the edit page, I could easily switch to the color page and complete a quick first pass grade to see if we were achieving the look we wanted,” Karr said. “I think the ability to work quickly and flexibly within Resolve led to some important discovery moments in the content and allowed us to stay on schedule.”

Karr is also currently working on his PhD as part of the visualization group at the University of Warwick in England. His area of interest is the evaluation of quality throughout the high dynamic range workflow, and DaVinci Resolve Studio allowed him to experiment with the manual tone mapping of HDR data.

“The entire workflow of Resolve was very helpful for me on the video display feature [within the Forever Remembered project],” he said. “Being able to import video natively, organize clips in the media tab, and efficiently switch between editing and grading was of real benefit on this project as a result of the shear mass of material.

“It was an honor to work on the Forever Remembered memorial,” he said.

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