Industry Insights: Display technology for broadcast continues to evolve
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Broadcast studios today feature walls of LED display technology, driving storytelling and also bringing in the local scenery.
In this installment of our Industry Insights roundtable, our experts from the field of display technology and integration share their thoughts on trends, common issues and pixel pitch.
What trends should we be looking for this year in display technology?
“Samsung discontinued their OLED transparent displays. LG seems to have picked up with their version, which is good for some unique applications but expensive and a bit clunky if it’s more than one 55-inch display,” said Jim Landy, founder of AV Design Services.
“With the success of the Mandalorian series, the trajectory of virtual production studios has seen an amazing lift in the industry and people are embracing new platforms ranging from XR stages and augmented reality to LED floors and ceilings, creating innovative and immersive experiences for broadcasters, advertisers, film and associated audiences. We also see a shift away from green screen environments and toward solutions that provide real-time rendering, which can reduce overall production costs, allow talent to interact with content and especially during these times, provide a dynamic virtual environment versus an on-location set. Collaboration is naturally another key trend, demonstrating the importance of both internal and external communications in today’s work from home climate,” said Kathy Skinski, the general manager of broadcast and media for Planar.
“Tighter pixel pitches, i.e. higher resolutions as LED costs continue to decline. Also, look at virtual reality applications for LED studios rather than green screen technology,” said Charles Markovits, a national sales manager for Neoti.
“As LED walls have become more affordable and reliable our clients are expanding their use and incorporating them into larger parts of the set design. The flexibility the walls provide allows them to change their on-air look quickly, even allowing the same set to be used for news or lifestyle shows while giving the viewer a distinctively different look from the same studio,” said Alex Martin, CEO of Digital Video Group.
Is direct view LED technology right for broadcasters? If so, why?
“Yes if you actually pick the broadcast quality level of LED DV. There remains a lot of average LED for sale from a myriad of LED ‘manufacturers,'” Landy pointed out.
“Broadcasters continue to raise the bar on studio backdrops and set designs as they look for ways to engage viewers and present stories with compelling visuals. Direct view LED is one of the most sought-after technologies for an array of markets, broadcast included, because it delivers seamless, bright and ultra-sharp images that can be scaled to any size or shape. This, paired with a growing range of pixel pitch options, offers customers a solution that is ideal for improving viewing experiences and meeting individual needs,” Skinski said.
“When servicing, most LED Video Displays are easily and quickly repaired with the simple removal of a module from the front rather than an entire panel as in LCD arrays. With this ease, there is little downtime, which is especially beneficial when working on a set that is about to go live,” Markovits emphasized.
“In the past cost has kept LED technology limited to network and larger market stations, with reduced cost and creative use of placement it is becoming more available and will make its way down market in the coming years,” said Martin.
What misconceptions are you still seeing with broadcasters?
“In the past cost has kept LED technology limited to network and larger market stations; with reduced cost and creative use of placement it is becoming more available and will make its way down market in the coming years,” said Landy.
“The cost of LED display technology has commonly been prohibitive to many organizations, especially local TV stations, but today’s market offers a larger selection of more affordable and durable solutions. Further, there are financing options available that can help cost-conscious companies budget by turning a large, one-time capital outlay into a smaller, more manageable monthly expense. Our managed service program, for example, is a competitive, multi-year leasing program that simplifies the buying process by enabling customers to lease Planar display solutions at a fixed monthly cost, offering the control and flexibility required to meet their evolving needs,” Skinski noted.
“Many broadcasters still perceive LED video to be too costly for their studio. With the costs of LED displays going down and the benefits of this display technology in the studio space, broadcasters need to explore LED video as an option,” Markovits said.
What is now the standard pixel pitch you’re seeing for broadcast applications?
“Now that 1.6mm LED has become the affordable pixel pitch of choice for broadcast, actually displaying 4K content makes sense for any display that has 4K worth of pixels. That process can make signal distribution more complex when most studios remain 1080HD standard but we have integrated many in the past 2 years,” said Landy.
“LED video walls are increasingly finer, with some manufacturers offering pixel pitches as low as 0.6 millimeters and we expect to see the industry push toward even tighter pixel pitches in response to customer demand. There are a handful of factors to take into consideration when choosing the right pixel pitch for your broadcast application such as studio size and camera placement, but we generally find that a 1.5-millimeter pixel pitch is perfect for delivering powerfully effective stories in today’s mid-size studios. Additionally, more custom solutions such as convex or concave elements are being used to accent studios,” Skinski said.
“For anchor backdrops: 1.8 or 1.5. For interactive displays such as weather or election stats: 1.5 and 1.2. This is largely driven by two factors: available funds, and distance between talent to display. Refer to the attached diagram. The sweet spot is currently 1.5mm. It can cover almost any scenario by repositioning the talent or adjusting the camera’s iris,” Markovits explained.
“The pixel pitch can vary depending on the size of the studio and is really dependent on the talent distance to the wall in relationship to the camera. Depending on the customer’s budget and the aforementioned factors we are finding 1.5 to 2.5 to be acceptable in most locations with 2.0+/- being the sweet spot for most of our clients,” Martin recommended.
What integration challenges are you seeing with more screens and larger screens in studios?
“We are able to provide flat fixed, flat mobile, flex fixed and mobile, spheres, etc. We have yet to be asked to provide a solution that we can’t develop a solution for with our engineering team. We do work closely with the set fabricators to help develop any odd request together to figure the best structure for any ‘abnormal’ applications,” Landy said.
“Integrating LCD and LED video wall technology in the same studio poses challenges for color balancing. Because the technologies have different architecture, it’s difficult to match color and brightness across displays and deliver a visually appealing, uniform look for viewers,” Skinski explained.
“Multiple displays and ultra-high resolutions make content management more complicated. Detailed discussions surrounding content must occur to ensure all aspects of content delivery are being met through the LED Controller and graphic/content processors. Fitting a wall into existing scenic elements. Panels come in various sizes, but invariably they won’t be a perfect match which will require either modification to the scenic elements, or more expensive, custom LED panels,” said Joe Kipfer, Neoti’s lead technician.
“With the implementation of larger walls it is crucial to have the AV contractor work with the station chiefs and the building facilities at the onset of these projects to ensure the studio has the needed power capabilities and they are in the correct locations. This step is a crucial part of the process and saves time and headaches on the back end of the project by planning ahead,” Martin said.
Jim Landy, AV Design Services
Kathy Skinski, Planar
Charles Markovits, Neoti
Alex Martin, Digital Video Group