Q&A: The importance of display tech installation planning and safety

Following the recent display technology accident at ESPN Columbia’s broadcast studio, we spoke with Kathy Skinski, general manager of broadcast, media and virtual production at Planar, about the installation process and safety protocols.

Skinski is the former director of operations and production at Turner Broadcast System. At Planar, she manages display technology installations at broadcast studios around the world.

As someone who works with many broadcast studios, providing display technology, what was your reaction to that accident?

Like everyone who saw that video, I was stunned and literally, my heart was in my throat. I was relieved to learn that he wasn’t seriously injured and I’m thankful for that. While Planar was not involved – that wasn’t one of our installations- it still sends ripples through the industry and provides us an opportunity to seriously take note of the importance of professional mounting systems. As anyone watching that video which has gone viral in our broadcast community, can see, properly mounted display technology is an absolutely critical component to any studio installation.

Granted you weren’t in the studio, nor are any of Planar or Leyard products involved, but as a display technology expert in the broadcast space, what do you think happened? How do accidents like the one at ESPN Columbia studio happen?

I can’t say for sure, and no one can, unless they are involved in the investigation of the accident, but I can assume that the display didn’t have the proper backing structure. We rely on the scenic vendors to provide the back support. Then, all parties, scenic, frame and our project team all communicate and coordinate to provide the best support and stability solution.

We have a few processes in place including a site document, a scope of work document that clearly outlines the requirements and responsibilities of each party prior to installation. We provide specifications on the Planar products and have a comprehensive installation guide which is a living document and constantly updated.

For broadcast, we have a dedicated project manager and a field trainer, both who travel to sites along with our own mechanical designer that reviews before the project commences.

At the end of the day, it likely comes down to a very unfortunate human error.

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Do the manufacturer or resellers of display technology also manage the mounting of the products during an installation?

Typically, the scenic and frame vendors come in first, build and then we install. Personal safety and the proper management of the installation are critical and always top of mind for all our projects.

Some companies might offer mounting systems as part of the product solution or package. For example, Planar offers our EasyAxis Mounting System for the Planar Clarity Matrix LCD Video Wall System but we still partner with professional mounting specialists for the installation.

At the end of the day, we are experts in visualization technology, and partner with mounting hardware experts for our customer installations. In any installation, no matter the number of experts involved, there is always room for human error and accidents. Taking every single step of the installation seriously is something we and many others in the industry practice on every single project. Whether it is in a broadcast studio with news anchors sitting or standing in front of the display, or a dynamic installation like the XXIII Winter Olympic studio at NBC, the mounting hardware is as critical to the installation’s success, and the safety of those around the technology, as the display itself.

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