Video walls are a much-discussed subject nowadays, as it becomes increasingly feasible to achieve large video displays without resorting to projection. And certainly direct-view LED walls are receiving most of the attention; they are beautiful, seamless, and prices are falling. Twice though in the past week I’ve looked at current projects where LCD walls remain the solution of choice. What is it that continues to be attractive about them?
Cost is an obvious answer; despite dropping prices, direct-view LED still carries a price penalty. And there’s a resolution penalty as well, for even sub-millimeter pitch LED doesn’t approach the resolution achievable with 4K LCD panels. With its roots in large outdoor advertising displays, LED is still challenged in applications involving very close viewing distances.
But there’s another factor as well, and one which we as designers contribute to. If I think of my desktop computer monitors, I can drag and place as many windows as I like wherever I like. Sure, I could place them in a regular 4×4 grid if I want to, though I never do. Why then do I go into conceptual design sessions with a new client, and present them with a gridded wall and say “You could put 16 individual displays up if you like?” I’ve immediately created a perception that the wall is constructed in pieces, with each piece independently addressable. And of course, the wall, of whatever technology, is constructed in pieces, and they can be independently addressable, though that’s rarely our goal. But once created it’s a very hard perception to move beyond – some buyers can do that, but some get stuck.
We need to move our clients into thinking of the wall as simply a canvas. Sure, put rectangles on it if needed, but don’t stop there. There are many fine examples; here are a couple. Saleforce headquarters, https://vimeo.com/175865167, and Crown Fountain in Chicago, https://jaumeplensa.com/works-and-projects/public-space/the-crown-fountain-2004. Neither is particularly recent, but they show an imagination we can all learn from. And enjoy!