Speaking exclusively with Oil Review Middle East, Piet Vanhuyse – segment marketing director of Large Video Wall Experience at Barco, discusses the latest trends in video walls
Oil Review Middle East (ORME): What are the key visual display and audio playback technologies that make up a modern video wall, and how are the technologies improving and developing?
Piet Vanhuyse (PV): There are three dominant technologies in the visual display game, LCD, rear-projection cubes (RPC) and direct view LED. Each of these individual technologies has their own strengths and use cases, and it is important that potential customers match their needs to the technology. Vendors offering the full suite of solutions can cater for each customer’s individual needs, and as an industry we need to begin our thought process with the customer.
LCD is the most budget-friendly of the technologies, and is a great pick for somewhere like a workplace lobby, where you need sharp picture quality and a scalable solution. RPC is confined mostly to control rooms, and has endured mainly due to its robustness. In situations where companies need to constantly monitor their network, a solution that has a very long lifetime and an absence of burn-in effects is perfect for 24/7 monitoring in mission-critical scenarios. LED is often perceived as the rising star in the visual display world, and is the primary choice for creative processes when a seamless canvas is required and where the image needs to make an impact. While it is the most expensive technology, its colour reproduction and viewing angles make it the de facto option in places like broadcast environments.
LED is where the major innovations are coming from. Certain pain points throughout the customer journey are still to be resolved, with the inherent fragility of the product during handling, as well as batch compatibility requirements, high up on the innovation agenda. A continued evolution towards finer pixel pitches, thereby reducing optimal viewing distance and increasing resolution, can also be expected. In terms of LCD, we’ll see the main fulcrum of innovation come from the rivalry between LCD and OLED consumer technology, and that will in turn come to the industrial sphere.
When discussing creative applications, people are mostly talking about LED. Since the early 2000s, the size of the panels that you need to mount LEDs on have become a lot smaller, and unlike LCD or RPC, LEDs are also not restricted to a rectangular shape. That has opened a whole host of creative solutions, from the types of displays you see at concert halls, all the way to flexible LEDs. As LEDs are essentially single pixels that are mounted on surfaces, that allows for a lot of creativity in the way you can approach a video wall.
ORME: How are maintenance and repairs carried out, and how is this changing? And how do operators ensure the video wall continues to look its best without deterioration?
PV: Firstly, quality deterioration is not simply a post-care issue. Deterioration has a lot to do with the product design process, and it’s something that begins with the quality of the materials you choose. Deterioration is particularly important in mission critical 24/7 applications. If you have any deterioration in the video wall of a power company monitoring the grid, you might not know when a neighbourhood loses power. That’s why component selection, strict quality processes and embedded redundancy are key in designing and bringing products to market.
When service interventions do need to be made, you want to make them as safe and quick as possible. Service diagnostics can now be run from the cloud for an entire fleet of video walls, so by the time a maintenance expert needs to go on-site, the issue has already been diagnosed. In terms of physical servicing, you want to minimize the potential disruption to any operation. Being able to access the inside of an LED video wall from the front and back, as well as motorised extraction for the quick and safe removal of parts is one way this is already being done. In less than a minute an engineer can safely swap an LED module out in a way that is as unintrusive as possible.
ORME: Looking further ahead, what new developments can we expect to see in video walls in the future, and what advantages will they bring?
PV: One of the most exciting things that we’re seeing around video walls is peoples’ changing perceptions towards them. Video walls are no longer simple signage, they have come to be thought of as having a critical impact on a business’s functionality. Barco worked with a London-based company a few years ago who wanted to develop an internal meeting space that would facilitate cross collaboration and drive employee engagement across 120 countries. Through the installation of a touch screen 18-panel LCD video wall in collaboration with our partners, we created a centrepiece for the organisation and radically transformed the space the firm inhabited. In so doing, the video wall became a part of that company’s overall business journey and became reflective of their brand. Video walls are no longer a place to put the lunch menu, but a centrepiece around which workplaces and work cultures can be redesigned.