Video Jackpot: Help your client hit it big through the integration ofvideowall tehnology.
Jan 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Mark A. Holm
Anyone who has spent time in a world-class casino knows that the experienceis a feast for the senses. A wide variety of electronic elements combine tocreate a stimulating and memorable experience for gamblers and non-gamblersalike. Making a significant contribution to all the lights, bells andwhistles found within the casino environment is a variety of video displaytechnologies. Probably the most flexible and eye-catching of these displayelements is the videowall. Perfectly suited to the fast-paced and glitzyatmosphere of the casino, a well designed and integrated videowall cancontribute a multitude of variable effects to the casino experience.
What is a videowall?A variety of configurations are available, but all include several basicelements: an assembly of video monitor devices (typically four or more), avideowall processor, video sources, a video source controller and acomputer.
The monitor devices are assembled in proximity to one another to create asingle display area. Each monitor can display an independent video image tocreate a mosaic effect, or all monitors can combine to create a singlelarge image. Through processing, a variety of effects and moves can beachieved with color washes and freeze frames.
The videowall processor is the network hub of the system. It accepts videosource material from as many as four video source devices, then digitizesand processes the video information so that it can be routed to theappropriate monitor device to create the desired effect.
Video sources are devices that supply original video information to thesystem. The most common pre-recorded source is a laserdisc player (becauseof its direct address capability and reliability during endless loopplayback), but videotape decks, computers, DVDs, TV broadcasts and livecamera feeds may also be used.
The video source controller controls the functions of video source deviceswithin the system so that they perform in sync. It coordinates playback ofthe source devices so that images will appear when required on screen.
The computer controls the overall functions of the entire videowall system.It communicates with the processor and source controller. It is the sourcefor program storage and execution. It can also be used to create avideowall program.
Monitor typeThe visible element of a videowall is the monitor assembly. Basically, twooption types exist for video monitor devices: direct-view monitor orprojection monitor (or cube).
Direct-view monitors are standard CRT tube monitors designed specially forvideowall use. They are built to be stackable and range in size from 20 to27 diagonal inches (508 to 686 mm). Monitor walls possess an importantcommon characteristic: large mullions. A mullion is the space between twoadjacent monitor tubes in a videowall assembly. It is created by thestructural material of each monitor and can span up to two inches (51 mm)between tubes. The effect is an area of dead space within the display areasurrounding all the monitor screens. Detailed information can be lost inthis dead space, so this effect should be considered when selecting videoprogram material. On-screen text can be particularly susceptible to thiseffect. Mullions will also have an affect when the videowall is set todisplay a single, large-screen image. A football game, for example, wouldnot display well on a monitor videowall because critical parts of the imagemight be blocked out by a mullion. For this reason, monitor videowalls arenot recommended when detailed information or text is to be displayed. Amonitor videowall is much better suited to an application where a flashy,eye-catching display is required.
Projection cubes are based on the same operational concept except, insteadof a CRT monitor, self-contained rear-projection enclosures are used. Thesecubes have screen dimensions of 40 to 50 diagonal inches (1,016 to 1,270mm) and are about 50 inches (1,270 mm) deep. At the front of the enclosureis a lens assembly. At the rear of the enclosure is a three-CRT projectionengine that projects onto the lens assembly. Cubes differ from direct-viewmonitors in that their mullions are much smaller, usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch(13 to 19 mm). This feature promotes the use of single, large-screen imageswhere little or no information is lost because of the mullion effect.Single, large-screen images display much more completely, and text issignificantly less influenced. The larger screen size of cubes alsopromotes greater general visibility.
Videowall applicationsThe nature of a videowall is movement. As such, there are certainenvironments and applications to which it is ideally suited. The casinoenvironment is one in which the flexibility and functions of a videowallcan reach its full capability. With its broad range of effects, a videowallcan create a fast-paced, non-stop array of visual imagery incorporatingcolor washes, freeze frames, live video and computer graphics. This effectblends seamlessly into the surroundings found within a casino.Strategically placed promotional information within the videowall programcan further enhance its value to a casino. In this scenario, the videowallwould be considered a background visual element viewed for short periods oftime while focus is on other issues, such as gaming.
In contrast to serving as a background visual element, a videowall can alsofunction as a primary visual element. When set to display a single, largeimage, the videowall can become a primary focus within the casino. In caseswhere a sporting event, promotional video or live video broadcast isdesired, the large screen display can be seen throughout the room.
Physical locationA casino environment can allow a great deal of flexibility and creativityfor videowall design and integration. Typically, casinos have large roomswith high ceilings making imagination the only limitation. A key designconsideration should be visibility. A target viewing area should beestablished and the videowall oriented to that area. This may involveelevating the videowall and tilting it forward a few degrees to maximizeviewing angle.
A unique integration of videowall technology into architectural elementsmay be desirable. In a casino environment, a designer doesn't need to thinktraditionally. Why be limited to a 3 x 4 aspect ratio? Videowallflexibility can accommodate a non-video aspect ratio monitor assembly. Ifthe casino has an Egyptian theme, a pyramid-shaped videowall may fill theneed. Videowall technology built into a sculpture, floor or ceiling or aflying videowall may well suit the tone of the room. No rule dictates thata videowall must contain monitors that are all the same size, or that theyall be color monitors. A casino environment is anything but traditional.
Videowall technology has a great deal of flexibility. Even the mostsophisticated systems fail to use all of its capacity. A unique environmentsuch as a casino lends itself to testing the envelope of technical anddesign capability.
AudioThe sounds within the casino are of endless variety. Among the bells,buzzers and cries of joy and disappointment are the house sound systems. Ofthese, audio from the videowall is just one audio source competing for theattention of the casino visitor. After all, what is the audio track fromsome video program to a gambler with big bucks on the line? Not much. Thatis why audio from the videowall source should be directed to an independentsound system serving the immediate area around the videowall. This systemshould have a volume control that allows adjustment without affecting theoverall house system.
Depending on the environment, it is conceivable that no audio may berequired from the videowall source. If the videowall is functioning as abackground video stimulus only, there may be no need for audio supportother than the house sound system.
Program materialSelection of program material is crucial to achieving the desired effectfrom the videowall. Video program material is typically committed tolaserdisc, from which it can be accessed efficiently by the videowallsystem. This program material may take a number of forms. Custom computergraphics may be produced to include casino promotional information or thecasino logo. Mood visuals may be incorporated to include pleasing videoimages, such as palm trees or sailboats. Live video feeds from local videocameras make an interesting visual, especially if the feed shows a casinopatron hitting the jackpot. The multiscreen nature of the videowall lendsitself well to the representation of a slot machine. Specializedprogramming can be created so that the vertical monitor rows seem to spinlike the wheels of the one-armed-bandit. It is possible to route a textcharacter generator to the videowall so that special announcements can bemade about casino activities or about a big winner. The possibilities areendless.
MaintenanceA videowall is a sensitive electronic system. It requires a complex setupphase and, once operational, requires regular maintenance, particularly ina demanding environment like a casino. A maintenance program should bearranged with a local certified service provider to perform regularpreventive maintenance and adjustment on the videowall.
The casino environment is perfect to test the boundaries of videowalldesign and integration. A well-thought-out system can help to create anelectrically charged atmosphere that will encourage gamblers to spend hoursand hours at the gaming tables. The hi-tech, whiz-bang look and feel thatvideowall technology creates is becoming a large part of promotionalcommunication and advertising. The videowall can be a valuable addition tothe casino environment if its promotional and entertainment capabilitiesare fully developed.