The lobby of international media company IAC has long been a mainstay of striking digital signage installations in New York City. By 2018, the lobby had undergone a few refreshes and sustained continued wear, including significant damage when the Superstorm Sandy swept through the city in 2012. IAC was ready for a complete revamp, and they called upon the expertise of Video Corporation of America.
IAC’s lobby contains two separate video walls. One marks the east side and rests above the security reception desk, spanning 20 feet wide by 10 feet high. The other nearly spans the entire city block that the Frank Gehry architectural landmark rests on, approximately 120 feet wide by 10 feet high, 1,200 square feet. This west wall overlooks Manhattan’s West Side Highway where passersby can admire the view from the open glass windows. Due to the west wall’s impressive scale, one might even catch a glimpse from across the Hudson River.
The client had simple goals: deliver the ultimate quality with cutting edge technology that was both simple and familiar to operate. “They wanted to build a system that would be state-of-the-art for a long time,” according to Craig Tepke, CTO, VCA.
While the goals may have been simple, the engineering was highly complex. They knew they wanted to continue using the space as they had been for years, renting it to corporate clients for high-end live events. They had a flow going with established clients who were comfortable using pre-defined shows and elements. IAC wanted to maintain that experience while updating the video wall technology. They wanted to increase the video resolution to display content at 4K 60, 12-bit color depth, supporting HDR and 12G SDI—all routed by an IP system transported over 10G Ethernet. Additionally, they wanted to improve the system’s reliability and the sound system.
The first challenge approached in this large venue installation was selecting the LED solution. As there are many large-format, Direct View LED providers to choose from today, VCA led IAC through a wide-ranging interview process to demonstrate a range of solutions. IAC ultimately landed on Christie’S CorePlus Series, 1.4mm pixel pitch, paired with Christie’s brand new Spyder X80 processors. This is the third generation of Spyders at IAC. An Evertz 10G network-based AV distribution was selected as an upstream switcher to Spyder while rp Visual Systems engineered a custom floor-to-ceiling support structure. Content is managed by Dataton’s WATCHOUT as the media server software.
At this scale, the combination of high resolution, advanced processing, and routing required VCA to perform extensive testing of the system. The result is truly state of the art, and as such, there were many instances where these components were being integrated together as industry firsts.
The west wall is comprised of 77 CorePlus LED cabinets in length while the east wall is comprised of 13; both walls rise 6 cabinets high. The CorePlus LEDs feature Macroblock driver integrated circuits. They are designed for high image uniformity, efficient power usage and precise output control with onboard surge protection. Each CorePlus solution is UL 60950 certified, ensuring that all the components have been tested to work together.
Christie’s Spyder X80 processors are purpose built for managing large amounts of video content. A single X80 can handle the 53 million pixels required for IAC’s west wall. In the interest of fully protecting their investment, IAC opted for two additional X80s for complete redundancy of each video wall. Since the Spyder X80 is modular, IAC and VCA were able to choose the amount of inputs and outputs required for the project with the ability to add more in the future if required. Since every channel is 4K capable, a larger amount of inputs and outputs was not required. The Christie solution also includes E600 LED controllers, 7 for the west wall, 2 for the east.
IAC’s desire to display content at 4K60 with 12-bit color is unique for this type of installation. The choice adds complexity with significant bandwidth consumption, yet, “It’s going for the ultimate quality,” Tepke notes.
Evertz IP routing was selected due to VCA’s prior experience integrating it in other projects, so they knew it could support IAC needs, not only for 4K but for 12G SDI. This broadcast standard is used by IAC clients for IMAG at live events where a speaker might not be visible from every vantage.
The Evertz MMA-10G is an end-to-end network-based distribution and routing system tailored for Pro AV applications. With this solution, Evertz has blended the predictability of the baseband world with the flexibility and scalability of the networking world. The solution uses 10G Ethernet to transport packetized video, audio, and control data, allowing all of these signals to be carried over a single 10G Ethernet port. The IAC solution uses a 128-port switch with 50 4K modular gateways of varying HDMI inputs and outputs. There are also 13 standalone 4K gateways with six bidirectional 12G SDI inputs and outputs.
The interfacing between the router, processors, and controllers proved to be the biggest challenge in this installation. Both Evertz and Christie offered unlimited support to VCA and IAC in perfecting the system.
Custom floor to ceiling support structures for the two video walls were designed and engineered by rp Visual Solutions (RPV). These custom steel structures weigh in at over 27,000 pounds and were designed with both front and rear service capabilities, per the application requirements. These mounting solutions allow precision adjustments, thus making the seams of the LED tiles virtually undetectable.
RPV’s mounts are designed to remove the building tolerances from the equation of the finished installation. RPV can achieve a true and level surface as structural walls are not typically flat, so they may distort or flex over time. Using RPV’s backer frame as part of the custom mounting solution provides stability, ensures smooth installation and precise alignment. Tepke notes that this is a critical feature, as a substructure built by a general contractor, would not be truly plumb. Quite simply, he notes, “If your substructure is not perfect, then you’re not going to get those tiles perfect.”
IAC now has one of the most advanced video wall systems ever built, serving to entice high end clients for unmatched live event experiences. Both video walls boast an extremely tight LED pixel pitch, IP routing, complete redundancy for any failure mitigation, and precisely aligned structural support. VCA also enhanced the sound system with custom line arrays and subwoofers, so the lobby sounds as good as it looks. Additionally, VCA’s unrivaled support team is on call for IAC 24/7/365 with a comprehensive Total Care service contract.