One of the trends we're seeing in the integration Biz is the meteoric rise of LED video walls. As few as 5-7 years ago, video walls really only made sense for outdoor sports stadiums and really big churches with really big budgets. Here we are in 2016 however, and the calculus has changed.
A question we're fielding a lot lately is, "When does it make sense to consider a video wall instead of a projector?" I wish there was a hard and fast rule for that, but I'm not sure there is. But here are a few parameters we look at.
Ambient Light Levels
In the past year or so, I've worked with churches that are not the modern "black box" style of sanctuary. One had a giant 300 sq. ft. stained glass window right next to their screen. And yeah, it faced south. My first thought was video wall for them for two reasons. First, it would have the punch that no projector ever would making it possible to actually overcome all that ambient lighting. Second, and maybe more importantly for me, the blacks would actually be black. You see, a screen will only ever be as dark as the white screen ever gets. When there is that much ambient light in the room, it's never going to be darker than light grey.
That destroys contrast which makes the already not bright enough projector seem even more washed out. By contrast (see what I did there?), the background of a video wall—the space between the pixels—is black. And when the LED is off, it's black. I don't care what the contrast ratio spec says about a projector, it only matters if the room is very dark. In a full light situation, the screen looses.
This one is a little more subjective, but we're finding that if a church wants to talk about a projector in the 12-14K lumen range or higher, we should probably start talking about a video wall. Now, I should make it clear that a video wall is not going to be the same initial cost as a 14K lumen projector. It's going to cost more up front. However, when we do the math, often the delta is low enough that it makes sense to go with a video wall.
Video walls don't need lamp changes, they can be mounted to the wall or flown and don't require a clear path from viewing screen to projector. The overall service life of a video wall is likely to be longer, and they generally require less maintenance. At the end of the day the wall may still be more money, but the extra value it brings is often worth it. Not every time, but sometimes.
Some churches want to use a big screen as a backdrop to their stage. Projectors can be problematic because if people get too close to the screen, they'll cast shadows unless you do rear projection. But rear projection requires a big backstage area. If you want to do a wide screen, you'll need to blend the projectors, and that can be tricky and may need adjusting from time to time. And the screen will still be competing with stage light.
When we switched from a 16K projector to a video wall at Coast Hills, the biggest thing we all noticed was that the stage lights had no effect on the video image. Whereas before we had to be really careful where we pointed the lights, how much haze we used and even where we hung fixtures, the video wall had enough power to punch through all of it. And the blacks stayed black no matter what.
Like I said, there are no hard and fast rules. Yet. Video wall technology is advancing at breakneck speed and almost every year we're seeing an increase in pixel density, and a decrease in weight and cost. Brightness isn't changing much; they're already bright enough. But we're also seeing refresh rates go up, and processing quality improve all the time.
All of that to say, if you're thinking about replacing or upgrading some projectors, especially larger ones, it's worth looking into video walls. They don't make sense in every case, but when they do, they're a big win.
This post is brought to you by Nemosyn. The guitar player practices, the keyboard player practices, the vocalists practice, how does a sound guy practice? Nemosyn record. Practice. Perfect your mix. Visit their website at Nemosyn.com.
We’ll continue our InfoComm 2016 coverage today, wrapping up video and moving into lighting! Lots and lots of lighting…
Ross Carbonite Black Solo
Speaking of small switchers that pack a punch, we saw the new all-in-one switcher from Ross again at InfoComm. Boasting 6 HD-SDI and 3 HDMI inputs, along with 5 HD-SDI and 1 HDMI output in a compact chassis, the new Solo is a small powerhouse. It has 4 fully functional keyers, a transition keyer, 1 UltraChrome keyer, and 2 MiniMEs with two keyers each. Because the switcher can be controlled from Dashboard, it opens up some exciting opportunities for system building. At NAB, we said, “This is cool; it would be great if there was a rack mounted version with no control panel for just Dashboard control.” They said, “Yes, we have that, too.” Pricing is looking like it will be surprisingly low for this much power in a small package.And, since it’s from Ross, it will actually work. We like this one.
There were so many new products at the Chauvet booth, it’s hard to know where to begin. Maybe we’ll just go in the order we looked at them so I can keep it straight.
The Ovation B-2805FC is a new strip light that features a crazy-bright RGBA-Lime color engine. I know, lime, right? Well, turns out there’s some science going on here. If you look at a color space chart, you’ll see a long line between red and green. Smack dab in the middle of that is lime. When they add lime to an RGBA color engine, it’s possible to get really good colors in between red and green, along with very smooth dimming. It’s almost 6’ long, has a very well thought out stand and can do some pretty cool tricks with it’s 32 possible personalities. I won’t even try to cover all of it here; just go look at it online. It also comes in a shorter version, the B-565FC.
Then there’s the COLORado 3 Solo, which features three 60W quad-color engines for a fully homogenized beam. It zooms from 8° to 40* (and it’s fast) and in addition to being quite bright, looks very good. It’s also IP65 rated, so if you have a need for some bright outdoor lighting, this could be the ticket.
Another cool new product is the Strike 1. It’s a tungsten-looking blinder driven by a powerful 260W warm white LED source. It can act as a blinder, wash or strobe and puts out a smooth, even light. They even built in some red-shift to make it look even more like a tungsten source. The CRI is an impressive 93, and with a 30° beam angle and 51° field angle, it might even make a nice front wash light in the right situations.
Most of you have probably heard me talking about the Ovation E-190WW ellipsoidal fixture; it’s pretty much all we sell any more when we need an ellipsoidal front light. I’ve been impressed with them since I first installed some two years ago, but with an output that mimics a 575x lamp, sometimes they aren’t quite bright enough. That’s about to change with the introduction of the E-260WW. Whereas the 190 was powered by 19 10W LEDs, the 260 is powered by a single 202W warm LED source. I guess E-202WW didn’t sound like enough of a change. While it may not sound like much, some improvements in the lensing bring the output up to the equivalent of a 750W HPL (not long life, a full 750). The output is super-bright, and dead even across the field. They also raised the color temp up from the 190’s 2700K to 3150K, which I think is a welcome change. This one will be the new standard for us, I think.
Now, you might think a white LED ellipsoidal is fine and all, but what about a color one? Welcome the new E-910FC. It houses the same RGBA-Lime engine of the B-2805FC, and I gotta say, it looks great. Color mixing is fantastic, and the output great. It has 91 3W LEDs and can be ordered with a variety of lenses, both zoom and prime from 19°-50°. CRI is said to be “high,” I’ll have to find out what that means. Standard color temp with all LEDs up is 5850K, but they included white presets from 2800-6500K to make matching easier. This is another great option for front light.
That’s pretty much it for the static lights, but InfoComm was the first time we got to see the new Maverick line up close and personal. We’ve been hearing about these for a while and I’m glad they are out and we could see them. The line currently consists of three fixtures; the MK1 Hybrid, the MK2 Spot and MK2 Wash. Let’s take them one at a time.
The MK1 Hybrid fixture is powered by a 440W Osram Sirius reflector lamp and is both a beam and spot fixture. In beam mode, it can do a 1° beam for those cool aerial effects. In spot mode, it offers a 3°-18° zoom range. It offers overlapping prisms, full CMY color mixing and dual rotating gobo wheels. It can also handle Art-Net, DMX, W-DMX, sACN natively. It’s a cool fixture.
The MK2 Spot is similar and features a 13°-37° zoom with variable CMY and CTO color mixing. Like the Hybrid, it has two rotating, indexible gobo wheels and handles all the IP-based protocols. The same lamp as the Hybrid means it’s also crazy-bright.
The MK2 Wash is powered by 12 40W Osram RGBA LEDs and zooms from 7° to 49°, which means you could do some aerial effects one song, and wash the whole stage in color on the next. Because the LEDs can be controlled internally, they built some quasi-gobo effects into it, which is pretty slick. Also built in are a ton of pre-mixed colors for easy and fast programming. Like the other Maverick fixtures, it takes all the IP-based protocols, and adds Kling-net. Like the other Maverick fixtures, the Wash is bright, fast and looks great.
Finally, there was the new Rogue R1 FX-B. This little fixture is so cool it’s hard to describe what it can do. Just go watch the video on their website. It features four pixel mappable 15W RGBA heads with a 5° angle. It’s a continuous movement figure so you can start it spinning and never stop. The programmed dozens of macros into it, and you can combine them into thousands of effects. This one definitely falls into the “flash and trash” category, but it’s some insanely cool flash and trash.
Chauvet just keeps cranking out new stuff. I had dinner with them one night and got the skinny on some new fixtures that are coming out soon that will be just as cool as these. This is a company to watch for sure.
This post is brought to you by Shure Wireless. The new ULX D Dual and Quad wireless systems feature RF Cascade ports, a high density mode with significantly more simultaneous operating channels and bodypack diversity for mission critical applications. Visit their website at Shure.com.
Back to our InfoComm 2016 coverage today. Probably my favorite show of the year, it has something for everyone. Today, we’ll look at laser-phosphor projectors and some cool new stuff from Marshall.
Frickin’ Laser Beams
Another thing we saw a lot of was laser beams. Or, more accurately, laser phosphor projectors. We may finally be on the cusp of those big, expensive, hot and fragile projector bulbs going the way of the dodo. Christie showed off their new HS series projectors, which pack 13K lumens into a small, quiet package. They have two models, a WU 1920x1200 pixels and HD 1920x1080 pixels. They had them set up in “Christie Arena,” and they looked quite good. Plenty of color, punch and contrast. Being 1 DLP units, they didn’t quite blend as nicely as the 3 DLP units across the booth, but for single screen applications (or if you’re using an external blending unit), they would rock. Pricing is getting better for LP units as well.
Also on the LP (laser phosphor, if you forgot) bandwagon is Hitachi. The new LP-WU9750B sports 8000 lumens of 1920x1200 single DLP power. They’re doing some cool stuff with the blue light, running it through a phosphor rod to get better accuracy. Hard to tell for sure, but they looked good in their booth. Hitachi has become our go-to affordable mid-size projector, and we think these are going to be good options for a lot of churches.
What’s better than a laser driving your projector? How about a laser driving your 4K projector! That’s right, Barco showed off the F90-4K13 projector. 11,800 lumens (not 12K…11,800; I appreciate the accuracy, though maybe it should be called the F90-4K11.8?), 3840x2400 pixels, and an engine that meets the full Rec. 709 color space. I’ll admit, it looked really nice. Now, if you don’t really need that many pixels (or have that large a budget), the F90-W13 also looked very good. It delivers 13,000 lumens in the center of the screen at 1920x1200 pixels. Like most LPs (maybe all) it’s a single chip DLP and delivers somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 hours of light source life. On both those product pages, Barco offers a good white paper on how LP projectors work. Might be worth the read.
Marshall has been coming on strong the last few years with the introduction of their Lynx series of monitors, the small HD POV cameras with HD-SDI out and the mini converters. This year, we saw a 17” engineering monitor that had full color space capability, the ability to be fully calibrated and great metering and signal quality monitoring capabilities. The V-R173-DLW looked very accurate and like many Marshall products offers tremendous value.
One of our favorite little problem solvers is the VSW-2200. It’s a deceptively simple 4 HD-SDI in, 1 out seamless switcher/scaler. What makes it super-cool is that it also incorporates a built-in quad-view display (on a separate HDMI output), and can be set up and controlled via software. It’s a vertical interval switch, but more than that, it scales every input to a common output resolution so you can switch completely seamlessly. If you only need to switch a few sources, this is a cool solution.
More to come next time!