THIS ISSUE, OUR COVER PACKAGE EXAMINES THE HOST OF CREATIVE and technical issues related to the staging of both Paul McCartney's and the Rolling Stones' recent tours. As you'll see when you get to page 34, both tours featured veritable orgies of light, color, sound, and of course, video. LED displays, to be more exact, on a massive scale.
Among other things, both stories illustrate the complete dominance of LED display technology in the touring concert world, and understandably so, considering the need for super-bright displays that are clearly visible to eager eyes in large, stadium crowds.
But this necessity also illustrates the “nichification” of display technology in the live-event industry: LED dominates live concerts, the occasional awards show, and other large-venue happenings, while projection remains the logical choice for most broadcast events and corporate shows.
Industry veteran David Taylor, who has supervised projection on shows of all flavors over the years, says there are simple reasons for this: LED's are significantly brighter, and therefore more suitable for large venues, while projection features far better resolution, and thus, works better in smaller venues and on television.
But, suggests Taylor and others, the evolution of widescreen projection technology might eventually blur some of those lines, giving creatives more options.
“Edge-blending, that's where it's at right now for projection,” says Taylor. “Technology to build huge, seamless images has grown quite sophisticated, especially for smaller, corporate shows. For larger, broadcast shows, it's almost there, particularly if what I'm hearing about the new Montage system (from Vista Control Systems) is correct. It's my understanding that technology is designed to address the big problem with current widescreen technologies — the minimal amount of inputs per screen area. That's the goal: the huge, seamless image with no limit on the number, or type, of elements. This might make it easier to use extreme wide screens on broadcast events, which has always been difficult because cameras tend to pick up seams.”
But it's the corporate world where, at the end of the day, video content means the most, Taylor emphasizes. “At corporate meetings, the entire show is about the screen content, so the priority is different, the video budget is different.” suggests Taylor.
Which brings us back to the Montage, and its potential contribution to the “denichification” process, at least in terms of video control for multiple systems, both projection and LED, at venues and shows of all sizes and shapes.
At press time, Vista officials were expecting the first systems to start shipping early in the year, even before splashy introductions at both Infocom and NAB. Andy Towers, Vista's sales and marketing chief, says initial clients are largely staging and rental companies interested in offering sophisticated widescreen capabilities to corporate customers. But that hasn't stopped Vista from working to bring the technology to the LED world.
“Many customers buying Montage regularly do LED wall shows also — massive LED stuff, and sometimes LED and projection at the same show,” says Towers. “Almost every one of them regularly asks us that question — could this system also drive a Barco or Lighthouse wall directly? The answer is, we are working right now to get a direct interface for LED walls into Montage. We expect to have that in place shortly.”
Hence, our ongoing obsession with humungous video displays. This issue: our display column offers a soup-to-nuts primer on selecting LED weapons for your inventory or show. Next issue: we'll take an intimate look at edge-blending techniques.