Artistic Video Walls

LED video walls are a sure way to create a one-of-a-kind showpiece

A distinctive look is getting harder and harder to achieve using digital technology. Even the most carefully designed video wall might not capture the attention of busy people today. As a result, companies have begun to turn to an unconventional alternative: the artistic video wall. Also known as an art display wall or artistic canvas, such a wall can play a single video across all the displays for an astoundingly dramatic effect. One can also overlap displays, tilt and turn the displays in various orientations and utilize negative space (the empty space between displays) to achieve a final creation that best presents the material you’re displaying.
Dramatic video walls are popping up all over, in high-end hotels, retail stores, sports arenas, museums and universities. “For the longest time, people were moving toward bigger and bigger video walls. Now, the trend seems to be toward some-thing different, something distinctive,” said Daniel Griffin, vice president of Userful (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), a digital-signage-platform provider. Recent installations reveal how artistic walls can tell a story as an unsuspecting traveler walks through an airport, impress a person visiting an interior furnishings firm, or greet a celebrity at the world premiere for one of the most anticipated film debuts in recent history.

Art tells a story
“The Long March” (Fig. 1), an exhibit at the Birmingham-Shuttles-worth International Airport that depicts movement and migration through Birmingham’s history, is a striking example of a well-executed art canvas. The installation consists of two long tracks of displays, nine on each side, that merge together in a center starburst of displays in the shape of a camellia (Alabama’s state flower). The migratory theme is carried out by images that scroll from both sides of the “tracks” to the central area where they burst in a kaleidoscope, signifying growth out of movement. The photographs were taken from various points in the city’s rich history, including the Selma marches, the building of the railroads, the Trail of Tears, the Civil War and modern events, as well. (Video may be viewed at “The Long March” art wall utilizes 27 Mosaic LED-backlit LCD displays from Planar (Beaverton, OR). Planar offers its industrial displays for artistic video walls in 22-in.-diagonal squares, as well as 46- and 55-in.-diagonal rectangles. In this case, there is a 22-in. display in the center of the kaleidoscope, and the rest of the canvas consists of 46-in., LED-backlit LCD displays. Some of the advantages to this particular approach include the ability to program one video across all displays regardless of orientation (or play different videos on different displays), off-board power supply for each individual display (allowing the wall to run quieter and cooler), front-display accessibility for maintenance, and a single content source for all displays (personal computer, media player or digital signage system). The thin, 3.6-in. profile makes it easier to overlap displays on a single wall. Power is supplied via a single daisy-chained cable from the remote rack room, simplifying cabling and outlet positioning. Industrial displays are built for 24/7 operation and are rated for 50,000 hours of life (>5 years).

Art sets the mood
Corporate branding initiatives benefit from artistic signage that communicates a company’s philosophy and brand. Take Tangram Interiors (Santa Fe Springs, CA), which provides workplace furnishings, flooring and design services. So when it came to upgrading the lobby of Tangram’s headquarters, the staff designed an eye-catching art canvas (Fig. 2). This elegant video wall sets six ViewSonic video displays at 45 degrees in a mirror image arrangement with minimal seams between the displays. Userful Corp. (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) provided the Network Video Wall Platform for the project. This Linux-based platform allows management from any browser-based device, requires only one PC for up to 40 displays, includes an integrated color-calibration tool, and can accept video content from a range of sources from Cloud content to media players. Userful’s platform can be used with displays from any vendor.

Art captures the moment
Many artistic video walls are created as semi-permanent installations with the idea that they will remain in place for the foreseeable future, perhaps the next 3-15 years. But there is also significant demand for temporary art video walls. What was billed as “the hottest ticket in town” last year, the world premiere of “Star Wars, The Force Awakens” in Los Angeles on April 14, 2015, was also the site of exciting art-canvas technology. The premiere’s entryway utilized 388 MicroTiles from Christie Digital System USA (Cypress, CA) to create a dynamic display that welcomed celebrities and press to the high-profile Holly-wood event (Fig. 3; see the video at The two sides flanking the canopy entrance each contained almost 200 Micro-Tiles along with rear-projection LED cubes that provided high-resolution video and stacked with near-seamless (0.7mm) precision. The cubes measure 20 in. diagonally by 10 in. deep and weigh 20 pounds (Fig. 4).
The technology behind the tiles is a rear-projection RGB LED system that uses DLP (digital light processing or micrometer-sized mirrors on a chip) to modulate the light and project it through the front screen of a projector cube. The display delivers very saturated colors, including up to 115% of the NTSC color gamut, and has a maximum brightness of 600 nits (candela/m2). According to Christie, the Micro-Tiles also feature 50% better color reproduction capability than standard LCDs and, with a 0.56mm pixel pitch, they deliver 70 times more pixels than a 4mm surface-mount LED display. However, unlike LED displays that must be viewed from a distance, the Micro-Tiles are designed to be viewed up close or at a distance, even in high-ambient light. “What really sets us apart performance-wise is our spectacular colors and super-fine resolution. Also, automated calibration allows us to deliver the most uniform palette every time,” said Dave Veroba, marketing programs manager for Christie Digital.
Additional features of the Micro-Tiles include rapid assembly and hookup to a PC or digital media player, automatic color and brightness matching between displays, 65,000-hour LED engine lifetime (the only consumable), front panel accessibility, remote control and an eco-power operating mode.