Canada’s National Arts Centre Switches On North America’s Largest Transparent LED Wall

January 1, 2018 by Dave Haynes

Last night, on a very frigid New Year’s Eve, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada officially switched on a three-storey signature LED display called the Kipnes Lantern.

It is the largest transparent LED screen in North America and fills the windows of the newly rejuvenated building in the capital city. It is using Vancouver-based ClearLED’s display tech and running content developed by Montreal’s Moment Factory, which seems to be in the middle of many of the world’s top digital display projects these days.

The transparent mesh LED screens have been installed on four sides of the NAC’s main tower. The LED grid allows views into the building interior, when off, and create a high-definition video wall when switched on.

Here’s a good tech video about the project:

Says a press release on the installation:

Made possible by a transformational gift of $5 million from Edmonton’s Dr. Dianne Kipnes and Mr. Irving Kipnes, and by an NAC project team led by Bridget Mooney and Chris Dearlove, the Lantern tells Canadian artists’ stories in a bold, new way using cutting-edge, transparent LED screens.  

The idea for the Kipnes Lantern comes from Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre, as part of his vision to make the NAC more transparent and inviting to Canadians. The Lantern will showcase productions presented, not only on NAC stages, but also on the stages of national partner organizations such as Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre, Ballet BC, Edmonton Opera, Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, National Ballet of Canada, Canadian Opera Company, Quebec City’s Théâtre du Trident, and Halifax’s Neptune Theatre, to name a few.

“The Kipnes Lantern is a beacon for the performing arts, showcasing the breadth and excellence of the music, theatre and dance being produced across Canada,” says Peter Herrndorf. “The Lantern represents the National Arts Centre’s ‘Fifth Stage’ and perfectly symbolizes our slogan, Canada is our Stage.”

In addition, the Kipnes Lantern’s digital “shorts”, which draw inspiration from the performing arts, will convey moments of wonder and whimsy throughout the year. The Lantern will also recognize events of national importance such as Canada Day, Remembrance Day, and National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The lighting of the Kipnes Lantern also marks the beginning of an exciting partnership with Moment Factory, well known for its innovative multimedia attractions ranging from Ottawa 2017’s immersive underground experience Kontinuum and the Miwaté sound and light show on the Chaudière Falls, to the Mosaïka spectacle on the Parliament buildings.

“The Kipnes Lantern reflects the NAC itself–as a platform through which Canadians can share their culture and innovation with each other and the world,” says Moment Factory co-founder Sakchin Bessette. “It’s an exciting start to the next 150 years of Canadian storytelling.”

Very, very nice. This is the same tech you may have seen touted as room dividers in auto dealers and used for promo signs in QSRs and c-stores, but in just 2-3 years it is being shown as capable of this sort of thing. It’s attraction is the ability to clad windows of a building while still letting light in, and not having in the same kind of weight and engineering implications of “regular” outdoor LED.

Jin Fan, the CEO of ClearLED, spoke recently about this project on my podcast:

I also like that the money was pulled together to do really good creative, from one of the world’s best at it (and just up the highway from Ottawa).

It’s Jan. 1 and I think we already have a top contender for the 2018 Digital Signage Awards.

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