Video Walls Can Be Amazing Even With Very Low Rez LEDs: Exhibit A

November 23, 2017 by Dave Haynes

The lion’s share of the buzz these days with LED displays is with the increasingly fine pitch modules that provide HD visuals even on outdoor jobs. But there’s a lot to be said for clever work that uses low-rez, anything but fine pitch, LED products to create a great visual experience.

This is the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience in Atlanta, which uses very low rez LED lighting modules and glass diffuser panels to create a massive video display that spans the whole facade of the building.

The project was put together by Innovative Show Design (ISD) and CYM Lighting Services. It is the largest deployment of Martin VC-Dot 9 video elements in the country, using more than 17,000 individual LED dots  to create the digital canvas. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what VC-Dot 9s are. I didn’t, ’til now: They are little squares with nine LED packages (lights) connected by ribbon cables, and they can do RGB colors.

This is what a VC-Dot 9 looks like …

“The easy route would have been to use video tiles and create one big video surface, but that would have been cost-prohibitive and introduce weight restrictions,” says Justin Garrone, Lighting Designer and President of Innovative Show Design. “When I approached Martin about the project, they were excited and very willing to support the project with system diagrams, system flow and selecting the right version of the dot. They were there to make sure from the start of the project to the day that we left that everything was right and working—and that I, as the designer was happy. The Martin VC-Dot 9 allowed us to be as creative as we wanted when we were distributing the dots behind the glass, and create something special and one-of-a-kind. I wanted this to be a centerpiece for downtown Atlanta, and I think we accomplished that.”

For the pro AV nerd set, here’s what a study says about the tech side of the project:

Measuring approximately 30 feet tall and 156 feet wide, the massive display features 78 individual glass panels divided into 26 columns. Each panel acts as an independent light box, which creates a mosaic of colors and patterns when viewed as a whole. 17,568 VC-Dot 9 elements are configured into strands using 522 Martin VC-Feeder multi-protocol driver boxes. Power is provided by the 78 Martin P3 PowerPort 1000 IP integrated power supply. The fixtures are controlled by 2 Martin P3-050 System Controller video signal processing units.

Lighting Programmer Andrew Giffin and ISD’s senior graphic designer Nate Mitchell were charged with programming the panels and creating original content for the wall. The College Football HOF supplied the team with a marketing style guide, which Giffin used to create a base package of eight colors. The wall is programmed in 10-minute cycles that move each panel through a random combination of the base colors. After nine minutes, the panels all fade to black and the wall plays one minute of video content. The panels change colors at different speeds depending on the time—faster during the day and much slower at night. In addition to the base looks, the team created specialized content for major holidays and sporting events.

“Conceptually, we started thinking about the windows as separate light boxes,” said Giffin. “Creatively, we had to constrain ourselves. We didn’t want to just play video. We wanted to create big, bold and bright colors, but when you have a canvas that big and you can play anything you want, there’s a tendency for things to get out of control. We wanted to stay true to the brand identity of the Hall, which is how we picked out the individual colors and created the base looks. We also programmed the system so that the building managers can change themes very easily using a touchscreen without programming anything. They can change to a school’s colors when they visit, or display welcoming text. We also set the system up for remote access, so we can continually create new content for the building from anywhere in the world.”

“When you look at the installation it’s somewhat daunting, with a lot of fixtures and cables and wiring, but it’s about as surgical as you can get,” concluded Bilbow. “Martin even flew in an engineer from Denmark to ensure everything was going smoothly. And it wasn’t just some guy. It was the guy who wrote the software for the solutions we were using. That’s a testament to how much they support their clients and believe in their products. We weren’t just buying lights—we were looking for a partnership. They had the best product and they had the best customer service, which are the two things we really needed. I can’t praise Justin, Kevin, Andrew and the folks at Martin enough.”

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