CASE STUDY: Chicago Children’s Museum Story Hub

Jose Guay

Chicago Children’s Museum Story Hub: Case Study

Chicago Children's Museum Story Hub Photos courtesy of Chicago Children’s Museum

The Customer

The mission of the Chicago Children’s Museum is to improve children’s lives by creating a community where play and learning connect. Families and caregivers with children are encouraged to create, explore, and discover together through play. The museum features three vibrant floors of exhibits and activities. Each area provides sensory experiences. Guests engage in educational content with a focus on literacy, science, math, visual and performing arts, and health.



Story Hub gives its users the opportunity to create a mini-movie about their experiences in the different exhibits at the museum. Every visitor has access to an interactive multi media station. It features a high definition camera and audio system and an array of museum photos to enhance the movie. At the end of the process, all movies are available to visitors online. Thus, every family has their own unique story to share!

The Challenge

Movie making usually requires skilled film industry professionals. There are no such professionals to produce these movies at the Chicago Children’s Museum. An automated process was needed to take real time video and audio recordings from each visitor. These combine with their own selection of photos, video presentations, and a general museum introduction video to create a unique video. In the end, this high-quality video is available to enjoy online.

This process was an enormous challenge to create since there would not be anyone to edit and review the quality of each movie. There’s only one chance to produce the movie and do it right. Each step needs to happen successfully and there is no margin for error.


Story Hub Screen ThreeThe Solution 

Story Hub has three main components. The first one is a backend web system where the museum team handles the maintenance of exhibits and photos. They can adjust audio narratives and provide access to their research team. This web system was developed using Microsoft ASP.NET MVC and Microsoft SQL Server.

The second component is the kiosk. This is where visitors record real-time videos that become movies. The kiosk was developed as a web system with Microsoft ASP.NET MVC, Microsoft SQL Server, and JQuery. The many workflows allow for a visitor to produce their movie. The visitor video and audio capture function use an Adobe Flash component called HDFVR. It produces the streams that feed the third and final component to create the movie.

Story Hub Screen Four

The third component is the automated composition process which runs on a separate server. A visitor can choose to record audio for up to three exhibits. Depending on the selection, each exhibit can have up to 3 pictures. All this information, along with the video and audio recordings are sent to the server. This server runs an instance of Red5 Server, it captures raw video and audio streams to produce high-quality video files.

Story Hub Screen Five

The recordings move to the second mixing stage upon completion. This uses the open source tool FFmpeg. FFmpeg puts out a new video file with all the user content in their specific format. The video feeds into a tool called Handbrake to finish the Story Hub process. Some parameters of the video file are normalized and each resulting movie is finally ready for the visitor to enjoy.


The automated composition process takes under 15 minutes on average to produce a movie. So far, less than 5% of the movies had issues that required intervention from personnel at the museum. This is an extremely low rate of issues in the world of movie making.


Chicago Children's Museum Story Hub Screen Shot



Technologies Used:

· Microsoft ASP.NET MVC

· Microsoft C#

· Microsoft SQL Server

· Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 · Hdfvr  · Red5  · Ffmpeg