Near life-size, built to stress senses

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Published on: 12/07/2008
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Near life-size, built to stress senses
By Edward Lundquist
Training & Simulation Journal
October 29, 2007
The USS Trayer may not be a full-scale warship, but it has a full-sized mission. So the design team that created the Battle Stations 21 trainer used efficiencies of scale to get the trainees to suspend disbelief.
“To get recruits to buy into the notion that it is an actual ship, the façade is done at half-scale and minus the fantail, so that the initial point of view looks like an entire ship,” said Rick Bluhm, the Battle Stations 21 art director. “The elements used in training, such as the bitts, chocks, etc., are full size to meet training objectives, and the exterior elements at eye level, such as watertight doors, are also full size.
“The 5-inch gun on the forecastle was compromised at three-quarters scale, so that it didn’t seem too small when standing next to it. The superstructure is foreshortened, becoming smaller in scale up through the mast so that it can all fit into the building. An even distribution of the most iconic architectural elements, such as communications, weapons, fueling and firefighting systems, gives it a very realistic impression,” he added.

Sound plays a key role in keeping recruits engaged in the realism of being onboard. The ambient sounds in passageways and various compartments were recorded on actual destroyers and enhanced so recruits travel in and out of hot spots similar to those onboard a real ship.
The best example is in the engineering spaces. Each piece of equipment has its own unique sound, and when enhanced with subwoofers, they feel very much like live spaces as recruits travel through them. The ongoing “1MC” general announcements are heard throughout the ship and help to maintain the story thread. The complex layout of speakers and equipment servers for audio and video was designed for maximum flexibility by Edwards Technologies of El Segundo, Calif.
Video media were created by the team at Orlando, Fla.-based Bob Weis Design Island to enhance the realism through the use of continuing news updates and live announcements from the commanding officer. Video is also used effectively in the windows of the bridge and lookouts to convey the sense of being in port vs. underway. Big Eyes binoculars contain internal video magnifications of vessels that are seen in the distance to the naked eye, and these vessels travel in real time in relation to the Trayer’s movement.
In general quarters scenarios, the realistic lighting and audio soundscapes are augmented by special effects. Actual fire and flooding water, plus smoke, steam blast and electrical arcing effects, are enhanced by point-source sound effects and smells. These effects were created by the team at Advanced Entertainment Technology, based in Monrovia, Calif., and known for its similar undertakings in major theme park attractions.
Recruits use real hand-held props such as battle lanterns, firefighting equipment, medical kits and Reeves Sleeve stretchers to perform their rescue skills. These are staged among other realistic-looking but nonpractical props that are used to enhance the environment. Much of the set dressing was salvaged from decommissioned destroyers berthed at the Philadelphia shipyard, but most was fabricated from materials such as wood, foam and fiberglass by Chicago-based Scenic View.
The mass casualty scenario combines the best of these elements into a story-driven environment.
“The story we created to help define this space is that a missile has breached the hull and exploded in the officer’s mess, which has caused that deck to collapse on the berthing compartment below,” Bluhm said. “These story elements are all visually defined in the first compartment that recruits enter for this scenario. The mangled mess and galley equipment has slid down the collapsed deck and become lodged in the tables, which are fixed in place, and are juxtaposed with the berthing racks below that have been smashed by the deck.”
The recruits discover casualties that are obviously dead, adding to the nightmarish confusion that is grounded in reality.
“Moving out of this space down the sloped deck, recruits then enter a less-damaged portion of the berthing compartment, which provides a natural maze among the confines of the racks. They must check each rack for survivors, and when they discover one, it, too, provides a level of reality to keep recruits engaged,” Bluhm said.
Rather than the standard-issue rescue training dummy, this “survivor” has realistic skin, eyes and hair, and has a point-source moaning sound coming from his chest. Weighing the same as an average recruit, the dummy is fully articulated to challenge the rescuers in their transport.
One recruit remarked that although he knew a dummy was used to simulate an injured shipmate, he found himself talking to the mannequin to offer encouragement while he was rendering assistance.

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