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Project Description

The Alcatraz Cell House Tour for the National Park Service was our first audio tour production. Still in use today, it remains the world’s most popular tour with over 3,500 people enjoying it every day.

As the only onsite interpretation, the entire experience at Alcatraz is choreographed along with the audio and is an integral part of the visit. From the very beginning, every movement is driven by what the participants are hearing.

Created specifically to guide visitors in a linear path, the tour assists with both easing navigation and alleviating congestion to increase visitor flow; the exact times and paths create effective crowd control at this popular national landmark.

Stories told by actual past prisoners and prison workers who lived on the island during the infamous Federal Penitentiary Era—in rare interviews we conducted—are deeply moving. For instance, a prisoner shares his personal experience looking out of the windows to see the San Francisco shoreline and hear a New Year’s celebration—a teasing reminder of life just beyond the prison walls.

The immersive sound design of the production is most similar to an environmental documentary. It delivers a chilling combination of real life experiences and enhanced sound effects, such as the eerie sound of cell doors sliding shut. The sound effects were recorded in the prison, overnight, using specialized equipment. An empty, quiet feeling transcends the audio and produces an unusual byproduct: an audio tour which preserves the true experience of the space.*

Photo courtesy of Alison Taggart-Barone and the National Park Service