Ad “Spectacular” on Times Square

It’s not a sign or a billboard. At 17,000 square feet and 341 feet above street level, you can get away with calling it a “spectacular” — that’s what its creators, Gilmore Group, prefers. According to Variety, they wanted to go big:

Arthur Gilmore, brother of Sundance guru Geoff Gilmore and head of design and brand consulting firm the Gilmore Group, said the breakthrough is the sign’s height. “People told me it was crazy to put video up so high,” he said. “But my feeling was that if we’re going to do this, let’s do it big. Let’s make it work from as many sight lines as we can.”

Broadcasting & Cable got into the video details behind this recession-proof outdoor advertising venue:

The 125-ton mega-billboard, which was conceived by branding firm GilmoreGroup and designed and built by video billboard specialist D3, represents a full-fledged broadcast facility in and of itself, complete with a control room located on the 9th floor of the building and 16 miles of data cable. It includes some 11,000 electronic modules, each containing 1,024 to 1600 pixels. That equates to 12 million light-emitting diodes spread over 16,000 square feet, which are controlled by 20 computers. It also includes 13 street-level plasma displays, which are synchronized to display the same image as the LEDs.

The LED displays themselves are arranged into three tiers of different resolution, with the resolution going down as the sign gets higher. D3’s specialized software dynamically scales images to the different resolutions to create a seamless picture.

“There are 29 different faces that are all synchronized together to deliver one seamless image,” says D3 managing partner Jason Barak.

D3 makes the LED modules for the Walgreen’s sign as well as the proprietary computers that render the images displayed on them. It plays uncompressed HD video, created with graphics and compositing software like Adobe After Effects, off a server. It then runs it through a system it has created which takes the high-resolution DVI output and converts it to gigabit Ethernet, allowing it to be sent over an IP-based network consisting of Cisco switches and Ethernet cables. D3 then uses 12 Vista Spyder multi-image display processor systems to control the placement of video across the displays.

In all, D3 is pumping 150 gigabytes of information to the giant billboard every 30 seconds, making for a staggering amount of data that needs to be stored and managed on four RAID disk arrays.

Very cool, but I much prefer the “Comcast Experience” in Philadelphia, located in the Comcast Center lobby, which I found very well done.

Niles Creative of New York put it together:

The Comcast Experience at Philadelphia’s Comcast Center contains a remarkable LED wall comprising 6,771 Barco NX-4 LED modules with 4 mm resolution. Situated in a 7-story high glass atrium, The Comcast Experience is a joint gift to the citizens of Philadelphia from Comcast Corporation and Liberty Property Trust, and combines sculpture, architecture and technology.

From a technology standpoint, the atrium contains what is described as the world’s largest four millimeter LED wall, which is 83.3 feet wide by 25.4 feet high (25.38 x 7.74 m), and comprises 6,771 Barco NX-4 LED modules. With 10 million pixels mounted in a seamless flat array, the wall provides an extremely high degree of photo-realism — five times the resolution of high-definition (HD) television. LED displays with HD capability installed in outdoor locations such as sports stadiums typically have much larger pixel pitch.

The Inquirer is reporting a Christmas video opens on Thursday, 27 November 2008.

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