The Comcast Center, Philadelphia's newest — and highest — skyline addition, has a slew of modern amenities sure to draw leading office tenants. A new entrance to Suburban Station, 400-seat concourse-level food court, restaurants, bars, underground parking garage, and sustainable building design are just a few of the enticements. But when the new building, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, opened its lobby doors, spectators were treated to something they wouldn't see anywhere else: the largest indoor LED screen in the world at 83'×25'. Created from 7,000 Barco NX-4 black LED modules with a resolution of 10 million pixels, the screen dominates the seven-story glass atrium stretching across one wall and broken only by the halls leading to the building's three elevator banks.
The content of the wall, created and produced by David Niles of Niles Creative, who consulted on the project from its early stages and shot all the content in his New York studio, mimics the maple wood paneling that covers the rest of the lobby that isn't windows, but it doesn't stay “wood” for long. Out of the woodwork come images — everything from a piano virtuoso filmed at various angles taking up the entire screen, to approximately 1:1 scale people climbing the walls, to a Van Gogh painting that appears to seep out of the wall for its reveal, scenes of Earth from space, and the list goes on.
Niles, who says he's been shooting in HD for many years, uses a variety of cameras to film footage. “I shoot on REDs, Panasonic 900s, Sonys, Phantom HDs,” he says. He adds that this space is important as much for what it is as for what it's not. “It's a public space, with an audience that's maybe there for 12 seconds. What we wanted to achieve was to give something back in an unobtrusive way and have it be only for the public's pleasure. It's always surprising.”
To keep it surprising, the content delivery system uses artificial intelligence. “The system creates unique content on an ongoing basis without human intervention,” says Niles. In fact, the footage can loop unique combinations for up to two years, courtesy of the programming of Alan Anderson of Medialon. Jos Vancoppernolle, vice president of Barco's Media business, notes that content is delivered via a custom Barco Encore processing system “that stitches the images together from Medialon HD servers.” Dataton Watchout and Mediasonics servers are also on board to serve some of the content, as well as for back up.
The entire system is run via Medialon control and synchronized by an Evertz sync generator. “In addition, the system is modulated by time of day and the activity in the atrium, and hence, the screen's programming changes fairly dramatically from weekends to weekdays,” adds Niles. “I've done 35 years of projects — everything from Broadway shows to this, and this is truly unique. Barco's four millimeter LED screen made it possible to create a photorealistic screen in a close-to-daylight environment.”
“We are creating a destination, a space that feels creative, entertaining, and inspiring — a place that is representative of the spirit of Philadelphia and its people,” says John Dietrich, director and choreographer, who worked on footage including a musical plea to “Do The Mashed Potato,” complete with step instructions streaming across the screen.
A host of fun facts also surrounds this installation. The screen has a 30% higher resolution than an IMAX screen, and its 10 million pixels result in a resolution five times that of standard HD.