James Brown statue snaps to camera-ready

After four months of planning and a few technical wrinkles, James Brown is finally ready for his close-up.

At 6 p.m. today, a cell phone-activated camera at the James Brown statue on Broad Street, opposite Augusta Common, will be unveiled.

The camera takes a picture when a cell phone number is dialed, allowing fans to be photographed with the statue. The image is loaded to a Web site within about 10 minutes.

"The way this came about was (Greater Augusta Art Council Executive Director) Brenda Durant was at a conference and saw that there was a similar thing being done at the arches at the University of Georgia," said Roger Duke, the project manager for the camera. "She thought doing it with the James Brown statue would be good because it is a unique and appealing landmark."

The project went from inspiration to completion in less than four months and cost less than $5,000.

Mr. Duke said local expertise made it possible to complete the project quickly and inexpensively. Project Management Institute, The Augusta Chronicle , RedWolf and CSRA Security Solutions collaborated on the project.

The original goal was to have the camera up and running by the Masters Tournament, but the radio technology used for camera communication proved a little tricky.

"We had our challenges," Mr. Duke admitted. "It's a very unique application of technology. Instead of going on a wireless network, we went with a radio frequency. That means having the transmitter and receiver in line of sight, and the trees around the statue were causing a problem with that."

Eventually the problem was solved with a new antenna. Mr. Duke said the radio technology is low-maintenance and runs independently, without networks or service providers.

The James Brown camera will be free, but Mr. Duke said the Greater Augusta Arts Council still hopes to reap some rewards from the project. The photos taken at the statue will be posted on the Arts Council's Web site, and the idea is that it will drive people to the site and encourage patronage of the attractions and events listed there. Mr. Duke said the combination of technologies, goals, and James Brown make the camera unique.

"I can't find another application of these technologies for something like this anywhere," he said. "I think this might be the only one."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.