On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles completes his talk with Jason Ault, COO & co-founder of Coffman Media, regarding the installation of a 600-module, 50-cabinet, 60ft. by 7ft. LG 4mm Direct View LED video wall for video art at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Using a Peerless-AV custom mounting solution, the project was completed with amazing speed and is now showcasing video arts for visitors using the busy “Connector” hallway in which it is located.
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This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor with Jason Ault of Coffman Media. For show notes and product links on the SVC podcasts go to svconline.com and click Podcasts at the top of the page.
As part of a renovation of the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, they needed a new video art display for a main hallway. Digital signage experts at Coffman Media came in to install a huge 60 by 7-foot LG 4mm Direct View LED video wall. Co-founder Jason Ault of Coffman Media is here again this week to finish his story on the project.
Jason, good to have you back with us this week on the SVC Podcast from Coffman Media in Dublin, Ohio and that’s right there in the Columbus, Ohio area.
It sure is. And great to be back, Bennett.
Last week we were talking about the Greater Columbus Convention Center and a big connecting hallway they have there, a high traffic area. They wanted a huge video art display for the wall directly facing a wall of windows. Coffman Media came through with an LG 4 millimeter Direct View LED wall 60 feet wide. For a project this big with the place already open to the public, what was the first thing you had to do when you actually got your people in there ready to go to work?
Yeah, so the total process was about 13 weeks and there was a lot of prep work that had to be done before the actual installation day. Starting from carving out the wall, blocking it to ensure we had enough structure to attach and affix the mounting solution to, and then also cabling in the additional power requirements that was going to need to come from the power demark locations. As well as the extra data, because the actual ribboning configuration happens through a system of data cables that come from the IDF closet. But on the actual day of installation we had the site fully ready to go. We unloaded the crates containing all the video wall cabinets. We installed the Peerless frame. We worked hand-in-hand with Peerless and their modular mounting solution and installed the 50 total cabinets that comprise the 600-plus individual panels in a 2 x 25 cabinet-long configuration. And the total installation was actually complete in just one day. [Timestamp: 2:20]
That sounds like a lot of advance planning because one little glitch somewhere could have held everything up. There’s a lot of weight and a lot of power and you already had things going on around you. The place was open for business and not closed off to where you could work in private.
It definitely wasn’t there was a lot of spokes, if you will, to ensure – that kind of fell in the domino effect from getting freight on time. We actually had to air freight from California a couple of crates of the video wall because they missed one of the other shipments. So definitely a lot of moving parts in order to hit the timeframe and we had a really hard date because the grand unveiling of the total $140 million renovation was on August 30, 2017. So we didn’t have much leeway outside of the 13 weeks that we had to build this thing out. [Timestamp: 3:09]
It wouldn’t have been possible without the great support from Peerless-AV who provided all the mounts. That’s a big part of this just getting all of those mounts installed right.
Absolutely. And we actually preconfigured the Peerless mounting solution off-site in our warehouse to ensure that everything would come together correctly. And that also was a big factor in ensuring we could install all the hardware, mounting and the cabinets in one day. And then Reese Brothers was phenomenal to work with as well. We worked with them hand-in-hand to ensure that the content they wanted to use from day one was going to be able to place seamlessly without any issue because at 7 feet by 60 feet, that’s kind of an odd resolution when you break it down. It’s 480 pixels tall by 4,500 pixels wide. That’s definitely not your standard 16 x 9 ratio. [Timestamp: 3:54]
Reese Brothers are the art curators you mentioned last week. Were the content ideas still evolving as the project went on or did they already know what they wanted to present to the public on this as soon as it was ready to go?
They had an idea, I would say, two to three months prior to us being selected as the vendor to execute their vision. So they kind of had a formation of what they wanted, but then they had to work within the confines of how the software accepted the content with the right file extensions, you know, stay within the right video codecs, etc. So while they had that kind of framework in mind we had to help them along to ensure that we executed their vision properly. [Timestamp: 4:32]
And how is the video path set out on this wall. How does the video signal get through to everywhere it has to go?
It’s actually quite interesting. It really operates as one large display. So within our control room and our server rack we have one media player that’s a windows-based system running Signagelive, as I mentioned in the first episode. And outside of that we’re coming out of that media player with three outputs – three video outputs. Each of those outputs go into a single LG controller and each one of those LG controllers is mapped pixel by pixel to appropriate the video outputs to the respective area on the video wall. So it took a lot of programming at the onset, a lot of mapping out the pixels, but at the end of the day through Signagelive you’re able to see it as one display so thus we could take a full 480-pixel tall by 4,500-pixel video image, web page, what have you, and display it very easily. We don’t have to worry about chopping up pieces of content and syncing them together, which makes it very, very nice for the video creation folks. [Timestamp: 5:35]
Once all this was set up and you had it all working, what was the display testing process on this huge video wall?
We really just tested out the inaugural day content before the construction walls came down. We had about 48 hours to run through content tests, run through calibrations. That’s driven by three different controllers, so we had to make sure each of those controllers were configured properly for red, green, blue, the brightnesses were set and calibrated correctly, and then set the overall calibration to bring in enough of the nit brightness to facilitate the western sun that we get in the later part of the day. [Timestamp: 6:10]
Yeah, that would be a real challenge with the lighting conditions changing so much during the day with that entire opposite wall being all glass open to the direct afternoon sunlight.
But of course the weather you happen to have going on would also have a big impact on the ambient light level.
That’s absolutely correct. And you’re able to see – it’s such a bright piece and we have it configured to adjust automatically. You’re able to see it from High Street, which is the main thoroughfare through downtown Columbus, or one of the main north/south thoroughfares through downtown. And then across the street at the Hilton Hotel, you can also see it from some of the windows that face outward to the convention center. So it becomes quite the spectacle piece through all those windows. So while the ambient light was a factor we had to kind of battle with initially, it really has opened the doors to allow a lot more public than just the passerby traffic inside to see this element. [Timestamp: 7:00]
These things have to have maintenance once in a while and as far as access do you have access from behind the wall or is it all from the front of the display screens?
Yes, so LG makes it very easy to do maintenance on this type of display. Each of the modular 12-inch LED panels can come off the cabinet. With earth magnets, there’s a special tool that pops each one of those elements out. We’re able to go in, vacuum out, clean, brush out with some antistatic brushes, and yes, once a year we go in and configure. And it’s all front-serviceable so we should never have to get behind any of the displays, whether it’s changing out a power supply, a control board, or some other ribbon cable that may fail over time. We should be able to service it from front side only. [Timestamp: 7:44]
And Coffman Media has plenty of experience in doing this that you had to fall back on with a very tight timeline. This is certainly not the project to have any sort of part time digital signage outfit come in on and try to figure out.
No, it’s definitely not. It’s something that we’ve done many times over, whether it’s inside or outside. This just happened to be LG’s first North American install and we were happy that we chose LG to kind of bring over to market and be this actual solution we installed for the Greater Columbus Convention Center. [Timestamp: 8:14]
It’s all done and the images of this thing look just amazing and we’ve got some video links also. Now that you do have this finished what sort of digital signage projects are coming up for Coffman Media now?
We’re continuing to grow our footprint into the direct-to-LED marketspace, again leaning to the forefront with LG. We think their product is second to none in this category. As well as we’re an inch wide/mile deep into digital signage so we’re out there continuing to garner new quick service restaurant rollouts for a 900-unit pizza chain, and we’re also working with another 600-unit sub shop as well. And then doing a lot in the educational and retail space. And then the direct-to-LED’s are also making a splash into the corporate lobby environment. So we’ve got a few projects kicking off in that arena as well. [Timestamp: 8:58]
Everybody staying busy there and I know this one is a project that should certainly help your own marketing and promotion. Thanks for giving us the story on how you came in and got this one done. We’re talking with Jason Ault, the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Coffman Media in Columbus, Ohio and the new 60-foot video art display at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Enjoyed hearing about it.
Thank you, Bennett. It’s been a pleasure and look forward to speaking with you again.
Video art is front and center at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and Coffman Media, LG, Peerless-AV and Reese Brothers have a project they can all point to with pride. Thanks to Jason Ault for the story. Be back here again with us next week for another AV installation project on the SVC Podcast.