Historic building required careful advance planning and special treatment on the installation
On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles gets with Gerald Reeves, Project Manager at Facility Solutions Group (FSG) about their installation of a 75ft. Nanolumens LED news ticker display in the lobby of the Dallas Morning News headquarters. Gerald outlines the careful preparation for the project and the challenges presented by working in historical building with architectural restrictions.
The Dallas Morning News was moving into a historic building downtown to make their new headquarters. They wanted a huge news ticker to scroll above the lobby. Facility Solutions Group teamed up with Nanolumens to get the spectacular result. FSG’s Gerald Reeves will tell us all about it next on the SVC Podcast.
Gerald, really glad to have you here with us from Facility Solutions Group, FSG, where you’re the Project Manager, I believe.
Yes, sir. I am.
And we’re going to be talking about the big Dallas Morning News headline ticker display that you installed but first let’s hear about Facility Solutions Group.
Great. Thanks again for having me. Facility Solutions Group was started over 30 years ago by a couple of brothers and a friend. And they sold lightbulbs for distribution to different people around town. It grew to a contracting business for electrical and then they jumped into the low voltage market about 10-12 years ago. And they have different elements that we provide in terms of signage, both physical and digital, and we do kind of a lot of different things. But we’re a $600 million company now that provides both local and national electrical lighting technology and signage solutions to multiple partners, both Fortune 500 companies and higher as well as mom-and-pop shops around the corner. [Timestamp: 1:33]
That’s plenty to take care of but this was a local job since you’re in the company’s Dallas office.
That is correct. We’re in the Dallas office. Our corporate location is based in Austin, but Dallas is our largest market. [Timestamp: 1:46]
OK and I looked at your web site and it looks as though you have offices all over the country.
We do. And every once in a while we’ll see a new one pop up and we enjoy watching who we are grow as a group and know that we’re tackling more for the right reasons. [Timestamp: 2:01]
It looks like you’ve got plenty of experience in corporate digital signage projects and that has become a very dynamic industry. You did a job for the Dallas Morning News installing a fairly large scrolling news headline display. So what did the Dallas Morning News specify when they came to you with this idea?
They were looking to sort of have the same feel as you would maybe a downtown Times Square visual for a news organization and bring that to the Dallas market. And they wanted to develop a classic downtown newspaper motif but use the latest technology to do so. [Timestamp: 2:36]
I can see how that would provide a very attractive centerpiece once that thing has headlines moving across it all the time. It would certainly announce to everyone around that you’re a news organization.
Absolutely. And the content that rolls across the digital signage display there actually comes from folks in the organization and they’re basically live messages that are going live there on the system. So it’s no old content it’s very much in the moment. [Timestamp: 3:01]
Digital signage is a very competitive field. You had a lot of companies to choose from so what gave Nanolumens the edge on this one?
You know there’s a lot of different factors technically that we could compare to other organizations, but I think what took it over the top for us was their customer service and flexibility. Their staff was real easy to work with. They were very flexible and willing to even fly people out ahead of time to work with us. And they relied heavily on our field expertise and it seemed like a good match. [Timestamp: 3:30]
It appears to me from the wide angle shot I saw of it that it’s mounted overlooking the lobby so it would definitely be the first thing you notice when you walk in.
Correct. The building itself is the old Dallas Library. It was built in 1954. And there’s a mezzanine around the structure there in the lobby and around the side. The fascia of that mezzanine is where we mounted the digital signage display – the ticker, so to speak. And so one of our challenges there was to get approval from the historical society because that building is a historical monument. And so given those factors we had to jump through some special hoops to make this all work. [Timestamp: 4:08]
I’ll bet you did and that must have complicated things above just having a brand new construction project where you can just bring all your stuff in and do it.
That is one of the things that we kind of pride ourselves in is we’re not just a ground-up construction company. We have people from all walks of life working here that have all kinds of experience. Combined it’s thousands of years of experience in different aspects and different avenues and markets and siloes. So we capitalize on what we do know and try to learn from what we don’t. And this case was one of those where we really knocked it out of the park and not knowing what we were going to be dealing with, at least on the front side of it. [Timestamp: 4:46]
Did you have to make any sort of architectural modifications to allow the old structure to support this new display in addition to the historical politics involved? What about the building itself? Did you have to reinforce the wall to hold this big news ticker?
Correct. Yeah, we were hindered from the historical society from actually mounting to the fascia from both a structural and historical perspective. So what we were able to get them to approve is making penetrations in the plaster on the front of the fascia and basically floating our ticker on the fascia. It doesn’t actually touch the fascia anywhere structurally. It actually protrudes through it through mounting brackets that we designed and that mounts to the underside of the mezzanine in the concrete. So we had to come up with a pretty detailed plan and engineered solution to mount the actual ticker to the mezzanine but not touch the fascia, which was what was protected mostly by the historical society. [Timestamp: 5:42]
That would really be something you’ve got to get exactly right the first time dealing with the old structure. The display looks just like it’s firmly attached right to the wall. How did you get prepared for that to work? I believe you did some 3D modeling to get the perfect idea on how it would fit.
Yeah. We worked with both folks from the contractors there onsite as well as Nanolumens and our team. We designed a mounting system that we thought would work and we went back and forth a few times with the folks at Nanolumens to ensure that we were mounting in a place that was actually okay with their structure itself as well as what was going to be mounted to the mezzanine. So we created 3D modeling there with what was existing in the space along with what their dimensions were for Nanolumens and we created a full 3D mockup to make sure it was going to work right. And then we also obtained a structural signoff to make sure we weren’t going to be, you know, any kind of an issue with too much weight there in the space. [Timestamp: 6:28]
That thing is right out there in the middle of everything and a news organization is going all the time so how did you manage to keep the work flow going without your crew and the news staff getting in each other’s way?
Well luckily this was installed prior to them taking ownership and possession of the building. There was a lot of renovation that had to occur and you can imagine with the historical society involvement we were just one of the people that were affected by that. So there was quite a bit of coordination that went along with planning and the process of getting everything installed. I think our biggest hurdle was working with other contractors and construction teams onsite, dodging the scheduling and that of all the other trades. But really what helped, I think, was really good communication on the front end in advance with both Nanolumens, our schedule and theirs as well as what was going on with the construction schedule. But we also had consultant-assisted buy-in from everyone involved. That was really a really big asset for us. [Timestamp: 7:36]
And what are the specs on this board? You’ve got a continuous display that has to be readable from close up and far away in addition to a very wide field of view so what are the actual specs on it?
Well, it’s a 6 mm pixel pitch. And we chose that size for various reasons. It was more of a combination. But we felt like that was the best solution. We teamed up with Nanolumens in that regard to make sure that we really were going to get the most bang for the buck in that case. The unit itself is 75 feet long. It’s essentially 30 feet on the front side of the fascia and 45 on the side of the fascia which is where most of the newsroom folks are sitting. And then the ticker itself is two panels tall or 12 inches tall. And so it’s a running ticker. We toyed with the idea of a curved ticker which is very possible. Nanolumens has done that before. And it kind of mimics what you see in Times Square. However, that didn’t quite match the architecture so we wanted to make sure we didn’t take away from the architectural piece itself and the motif that’s there and we wanted to keep it simple as well. [Timestamp: 8:42]
Yeah, I went through some of Nanolumens projects and it’s remarkable that they can make these sort of stick to the architecture no matter what shape that is and come up with some kind of a solution that’s always impressive.
Right. They do some great work and they do some very good custom solutions for folks. And we were able to capitalize on their expertise in this situation. [Timestamp: 9:08]
Well, when we get back together in Part 2 we want to talk about exactly what you did when you got in there and the way it’s controlled and some of the more technical elements of it. It’s been good of you to get with us and give us the lowdown on this. We’re talking to Gerald Reeves, Project Manager with Facility Solutions Group in the Dallas office and the Dallas Morning News ticker display. Thank for getting with us on it.
Thank you, sir. I appreciate your time.
FSG and Nanolumens got the job done for the Dallas Morning News and the result is a continuous attraction for staff and visitors with its giant streaming headlines. Gerald will return next week for a step by step story on how the big display was set up and checked out. Be back here with us for that on the next SVC Podcast.