Immersive Floor-To-Ceiling LCDs Greet Lift Users At Edinburgh Shopping Mall

March 1, 2022 by Dave Haynes

My introduction to digital signage was almost 23 years ago (23 years???!!!) when I walked into an office tower elevator in downtown Toronto that had been kitted out with a small LCD screen up in one corner, and having seen how people all stared at that screen, I was convinced there was something there and joined the company putting them in.

I ended up running ops for that company (Elevator News Network, which then merged with Captivate), and learned a whole bunch of lessons about the technical, budget and certification challenges of putting sensitive electronics in the grimy, dusty, bumpy and unstable electrical environment of elevator shafts.

All those years later I still look around elevators when I get in them, wondering where a screen might go. But I never, back then, thought that screens would effectively take over an elevator, as is the case with the “lifts” at a new shopping center in the city centre of lovely old Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Manchester, UK creative technology shop FIX8Group was engaged to go up the M roads to Edinburgh to ideate and deliver an immersive experience for the new Edinburgh St James shopping centre.

The decision by the property owners, says Fix8, had been made to fit-out a number of lifts within the centre providing customers a unique experience as they travelled between floors – Something which would rival any other similar project seen around the world.

FIX8Group’s broad range of expertise meant we were an ideal fit to execute the project from initial concepts through to launch; producing engineering drawings; designing the automated control systems; physically installing the technology; and creating spectacular content, all whilst working safely within the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company does a nice job of explaining the thinking and process, including a decision to use 98-inch LCDs instead of fine pitch LED, which would probably be lighter and a little more rugged, but didn’t have the desired resolution:

This was a project with no margin for error. The team set about building a full-scale replica of the lift car within our own facility in Manchester. The developed solution included five screens installed around the walls of the mock-up lift, creating a visual canvas 11,000 pixels wide which would host the content designed by our own in-house studio team. Very early into the development we realized that to create an immersive environment which could really stimulate the passenger, we could not achieve the pixel density from an LED module-based product. 98” UHD displays were the order of the day and were perfect for the height required within the lift car.

So that’s the display, but what about the control system?Integrating with a lift control system is not something we had done before and with all the necessary health, safety and rigging compliance needed, it was a very steep learning curve. Months of testing within our facility certainly made it possible for us to develop our own, bespoke, logic processing unit. These units sit in the top of each lift shaft allowing us to register, log and translate messages from the lifts internal control system and recast into data that was useable for the video and audio playback systems. From the doors being open to direction of travel and even the speed of each lift car, this can be used as automation data for the vast array of content.

The physical installation was another hurdle to overcome. Time was spent creating custom 98” wall mounted plates, which were laser cut for accuracy, allowing the screens to be supported and crucially help pass the all-important “drop test” required by building regulations, for final lift installation sign off. Getting the screens into the lift car, past the doors and in the correct orientation with just 10 mm to spare needed a bespoke dolly to be made, that could hold the weight of the screens and give the manoeuvrability required to install the screens in the tight space.

When it comes to delivering creative and outside the box content, our in-house studio team of 3D artists and graphic designers don’t need asking twice. For the SJQ project they created an eclectic mix of visual experiences from virtual time travel and space walks to calming, animated landscapes and weird and wonderful abstract pieces. The sheer size of the canvas itself brought its own demands in terms of how fast-moving content was, whether the content could induce motion sickness and of course the time needed to render these massive landscapes. Thankfully having built a prototype lift car, we were able to test this within our facility, collaborating with the client using 3D spatial software, CAVRNUS

This entire project took many months to deliver, dovetailing into the overall construction programme of a truly amazing shopping centre.

This is NOT the first time full-sized LCDs have been put in elevator cars, and some of the visuals done, like making the walls seem like windows to outside, are likely inspired by other projects. But those other projects have tended to be attractions, class A office towers or very expensive hotels. This job is at a shopping mall.

My guess is that, with time, this sort of thing will grow more common, particular if the big elevator manufacturers like TK and Otis make them premium options.

  1. ben kutner says:

    Who is the OEM of the 98inch?
    Why is the firm called Fix 8 ??

    1. Dave Haynes says:

      OEM – study does not say
      Fix8 = fixate, I assume

      1. ben says:

        Not sure what relevance is number8 It is relevant to our IP for 8 channels of HDoverIP

      2. Dave Haynes says:

        Fixate – direct one’s eyes toward. That’s kind of the point of creative shops. It doesn’t work unless people want to look at the creative, and ideally keep on looking. Perhaps be fixated!

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