Industry Insights: LED display experts shed light on trends, innovations

By NewscastStudio

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In this installment of the Industry Insights series, we gather vendors from the broadcast technology sector to explore the latest advancements and challenges in display technology, particularly focusing on LED video walls.

The discussion highlights innovations in pixel pitch, the growing adoption of flip-chip LED technology and the integration of hybrid studio setups for traditional and virtual production needs.

Our experts also delve into the complexities of choosing the right display technology, addressing concerns like moiré effects, power consumption and the critical importance of in-camera performance. Join us as we unpack the future of broadcast displays and what it means for the industry.


Key takeaways from the Industry Insights roundtable

  • Pixel pitch importance: Fine pixel pitches, such as 1.2mm and below, are essential for better on-camera performance in smaller studio spaces.
  • Flip-chip LED technology: This emerging technology offers deeper black levels, lower power consumption, and cost-efficiency, making it increasingly popular.
  • Hybrid studios: The rise of virtual production has led to more broadcasters requesting hybrid studios that combine traditional functionality with advanced features like camera tracking and augmented reality.
  • Moiré mitigation: Advances in scan rates, refresh rates, and camera-specific LED parameters help reduce moiré effects and other on-camera artifacts.
  • Processing considerations: Investing in processors designed for on-camera content is crucial for achieving the best results, especially with non-standard aspect ratios and high-resolution content.
  • Maintenance and longevity: LED video walls have a lifespan of up to 100,000 hours, with proper maintenance ensuring long-term performance. Investing in spare parts and regular upkeep is essential.

What advancements are folks interested in this year?

Tom Petershack, director of media and special projects, Planar: Some studios are requesting 1.2 millimeter pixel pitches and below in broadcast. This can be attributed to smaller studio spaces, where the finer pixels enable better on-camera performance at closer distances, or even desks which can be the closest LED displays to the camera. Additionally, with the explosion of virtual production and extended reality, we’ve seen more broadcasters requesting “hybrid” studios that can function in a more traditional sense, but also provide the flexibility to incorporate camera tracking for parallax, set extensions and augmented reality.

Charles Markovits, national sales manager, NeotiThe increasing popularity of the newer, flip-chip LED technology. They consume less power, have deeper black levels, and above all, are less expensive to manufacture.

Mike Smith, technical director, ROE VisualWe see trends toward advancements for in-camera performance, power consumption, increased resolution, and multi-primary displays.

Andrew Seegers, broadcast design engineer, Diversified: Native 2110 support.

Kent Beichley, senior design engineer, Diversified: 8K, XR virtual volumes, GhostFraming.

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Alex Martin, CEO, Digital Video Group: We have been doing more curved walls than we have in the past, additionally we are doing a lot of non standard aspect ratio displays that provide a more interesting look on set. This is requiring more processing on the backend from products like the TVOne Corio and Novastar H series processors.

Jim Durant, director of sales, Grant AV: Finer pitch, plip-chip COB, with new coatings or masking that are not exhibit shine. Also, more interest in floor LED options at finer a finer pitch.

How important is pixel pitch for broadcast?

Tom Petershack: While pixel pitch is one of many considerations for broadcast, it is typically one of the most important as it can be the largest cost driver. While using 0.9 or 1.2 millimeter pixel pitches could yield the most flexible on-camera displays, it can also run up the budget for both LED and the processing to run the displays. Displays that are used for branding and background shots can take advantage of coarser pixel pitches, while displays that will incorporate stand ups, tighter shots and more detailed content should prioritize finer pixel pitches.

Charles Markovits: Pixel-pitch remains the single most important spec when selecting the right product for a studio. Moiré concerns will always be the center-stage concern until sub-1mm costs what 1.5mm does today.

Mike Smith: Pixel pitch is extremely important when you’re considering use in broadcast. There’s a direct relationship between a camera’s distance from an LED screen, the pixel pitch, and the in-camera result that can be achieved when considering moiré and visible pixelation.

Kent Beichley: The smaller the pixel pitch the better to prevent moire effects from the camera.

Alex Martin: The pixel pitch and calculations are extremely important when designing the studio. The camera and talent position factor in as well as budget. Lower resolution pixel pitch is fine for some applications such as tickers, but not acceptable for weather walls or front of desk solutions. Also if there are a lot of off access shots you have to be careful of moire. A positive is the cost of LED has been declining year over year so our clients are able to get finer pitch walls than they would have normally not had the budget for in the past.

Jim Durant: Very important; moiré is a 4-letter word to broadcasters. They want this to be eliminated or minimized as much as possible. The tighter the pitch, the less of an issue. They are also looking for some future proof, needing more pixels as they increase their desire to do native representations of their video sources.

What are the most common pixel pitches you’re installing today in broadcast projects?

Tom Petershack: 1.5 millimeter pixel pitch is still the sweet spot for broadcast, with some studios asking for higher resolution displays as costs continue to decrease in the market. We continue to see a good mix of 1.2 millimeter pixel pitch displays in desks and smaller studios, along with 1.8 millimeter pixel pitch and above.  

Charles Markovits: 1.5 and 1.2 millimeter were the most popular pixel-pitches of 2023, with 1.8 taking a backseat position vis-à-vis 2022 due to decreased costs in the aforementioned higher resolutions.

Mike Smith: We’re primarily seeing in the range of 0.9 to 2.8 millimeter. This of course depends on factors such as budget, application, and physical studio space available.

Kent Beichley: 1.5mm and below. We’re currently using LG Magnit .89 millimeter.

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Alex Martin: Most of our projects are using 1.2 or 1.5 pixel pitch.

Jim Durant: 1.2 to 1.5 millimeter.

What are the current pain points in display technology?

Tom Petershack: Moiré and on-camera artifacts remain key pain points for broadcasters. Moiré can be mitigated with finer pixel pitches and “learning” how to shoot the LED video walls with the in-camera studios. Display technology advancements, such as improved scan rates, higher refresh rates and camera-specific LED parameter files have decreased the prevalence of artifacts on camera. 

Charles Markovits: Aside from the obvious, i.e. moiré, on-camera scan lines has been a sore point that could easily be avoided by letting the LED vendor know which type of cameras will be used on set. CMOS censors come in two primary flavors: rolling, or global shutter. The former is where the scan lines may make an appearance if the LED panel cannot process lines of pixels at the same speed as the rolling shutter.

Mike Smith: Educating end users on our products. Getting clients to look beyond the spec sheets that are available and understand the technical variables that exist.

Andrew Seegers: Incorporating non-broadcast standard content from social media in “portrait style” on non-standard wall sizes.  

Kent Beichley: Processing for non-standard aspect ratio LED wall sizes, bridging 10-bit and 12-bit content from associated input format factors (SDI/HDMI/DP), and layering content PiPs. For virtual productions, being able to create invisible tracking points on the wall for the camera to sync with the graphic engine (Unity/Unreal with Disguise).

Jim Durant: Supply and/or lead times of supporting products, i.e., simple video processing and mounting hardware.

What challenges do broadcasters face when integrating LED technology into their studios?

Tom Petershack: With LED being an integral part of the studio set, it’s imperative to have an experienced project team that can execute the design and installation of the LED system. This includes detailed coordination with the set designers, set fabricators, engineering teams and content creators.

Patrick Foster, project manager, Neoti: Oftentimes it’s how they want to produce a signal for us. LED can produce such large and beautiful displays at reasonable price points that hitting the resolutions or filling those displays with mapped content can be a challenge. 

Mike Smith: The number one challenge we hear is finding a balance between cost and performance. Remaining future-proof as technology evolves.

Andrew Seegers: Managing client expectations and knowledge when they choose something for budget reasons, i.e., scan line reduction, color accuracy, overheating, and pixel pitch.

Kent Beichley: Budgets that cover not only build costs but maintenance going forward. Technical knowledge debt on staff. Physical space, power, cooling resources to accommodate the technology requirements. Conflicts with IT Security.

Alex Martin: Creating the content and scaling for not standard aspect displays (IE something that is not 16:9 ratio) can be challenging. This needs to be talked through so the correct processing can be designed into the project. The client also needs to take into the account that large LED walls act as additional light sources in the studio and that can effect camera iris settings and presets depending on the content being played back.

Jim Durant: Facelift updates of older video display technology and minimizing the need to customize anything in the studio to allow the replacement technology.

What considerations should broadcasters keep in mind when choosing an LED video wall for their studio?

Charles Markovits: Protracted delivery timelines: This is an elementary, yet an all too often overlooked aspect when planning a project which invariably necessitates the use of the more expensive air-freight which offers little to no ROI. Integration to existing scenic pieces: The LED replacement will often have different dimensions than its predecessor which may require the involvement of a design or fabrication entity, adding to the project total.

Mike Smith: In-camera performance is key. The screen’s scan ratio, effective refresh rate, and pixel pitch should be considered together with the desired camera, lens, and physical space as a whole when choosing an LED display product.

Andrew Seegers: Spend the money on a processor that is designed to handle on camera content, not merely just for digital signage.

Kent Beichley: They’ll need to set aside a larger budget than just the cost of the wall itself. They will need to invest in staffing and technology to drive the content for the wall.

Alex Martin: Power draw and power locations, plus distances between the talent and the wall in relationship to the camera FOV.

Jim Durant: Getting the most value from your investment, and the experience of who is installing your equipment. Remembering that the first 80% of installing a new LED wall is a construction project, the last part is where the video part comes in. This is where your LED supplier should have an extensive level of experience and option of mounting the LED wall as well as processing options.

What is the best piece of advice you’d give a prospective client?

Charles Markovits: Understand the technology being quoted by different manufacturers. Not all LEDs are created equal, and results vary greatly based on the quality of diodes and processing power behind the shiny façade.

Mike Smith: Test as much as you can with the equipment you’re specifying to reduce the number of costly surprises further down the road.

Andrew Seegers: Know how you want to use it, and budget for that vision per integrator’s recommendation.  Cutting cost on an LED wall is more noticeable in the final product than other areas of a facility.

Kent Beichley: Have a very clear vision of what content will be displayed on the LED wall and what creative production workflows they anticipate incorporating with the wall. Don’t spend all that money just to put a compressed streaming feed or PlayStation output for gaming.

Alex Martin: Have discussions with your creative team on the content and sources you want to show and display; this better assists us in selecting them with their actual hardware needs.

Jim Durant: Review past work of your LED solution provider that is on air and experience the finished solutions being broadcasted today by your potential solution provider. Don’t overpay, and don’t dismiss LED solutions because you don’t think you can afford it. Review your use of the wall with your potential solution provider.

What is the average lifespan of an LED video wall? Any maintenance and longevity aspects to consider when purchasing?

Tom Petershack: In today’s market, some LEDs are rated for 100,000 hours. Within the last couple of years, we’ve seen multiple studios refresh or open new spaces that repurpose LED products that were installed more than eight years ago and still perform well on camera.

Charles Markovits: The standard of 10 years or 100,000 hours remains the standard among any top-tier manufacturer. 

Mike Smith: The individual components have lifespans near 50,000 working hours. Realistically, clients use products for well beyond that timespan. That being said, brightness and color reproduction ability will start to decrease over time. Buying enough spare parts from the same batch ahead of time is an often-overlooked step of the process.

Andrew Seegers: 10 to 15 years if well maintained.

Kent Beichley: If well maintained, I’ve seen them last up to 20 years, though I’m not sure about newer systems. Always include a budget for ordering 5 to 10% extra spares manufactured and quality assessed at the same time as the wall you’ve purchased from the factory to ensure color matching.

What are we forgetting to ask about or talk about with display tech and integration?

Mike Smith: The upstream cost of increased pixel pitch in the broadcast space is not to be overlooked. As you increase the pixel pitch of the screens, you also increase the upstream processing and media horsepower required to drive the high-resolution screens.

Andrew Seegers: It’s worth spending the money on getting the manufacturer on site to assist with commissioning.

Kent Beichley: Make sure the client understands the importance of strong wall backing (3/4″ furniture grade OMD) mounted to the drywall not the studs, flatness, and reliable mounting products that are approved by the LED wall manufacturer.

Alex Martin: Mounting the walls and access to wiring can always be challenging; in a lot of instances we need to work with both the set designer and the onsite construction company to not only insure power and data access but to also make sure the structure we are mounting the wall on can support the weight and the products we purpose provide the serviceability to the customer in the future. Examples of this are pop out style mounts and front access LED panels where all the electronics can be accessed the front of the display.

Jim Durant: Clients should not be concerned that they need to have things fully figured out before they bring in an LED wall solution provider. Every LED wall project is a little unique; there’s not a lot of copy paste. It’s best to start the conversation with the display tech and integration team as early as possible and work out what you are wanting to do with the wall or walls, and let your provider work out options for you.

What’s your favorite project from the past year?

Tom Petershack: Nasdaq Studio B in NYC, which incorporated four Planar CarbonLight CLI Flex tracking LED displays in a 1.5 millimeter pixel pitch that can be combined to form a larger display, as well as an almost 360 degree Planar CarbonLight CLI Flex ticker in a 2.6 millimeter pixel pitch and Planar CarbonLight CLI Flex desk display in a 1.5 millimeter pixel pitch.

Charles Markovits: NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo set in NYC.

Mike Smith: Over the past year, we have been featured in several impressive projects, including Fox Sports Studio, ESPN Catalyst Stage in the US, Sky Sports Studio in the UK, and KBS Broadcast Studio in South Korea. The Ruby series, BP2V2, and BM4 continue to be highly preferred choices for these projects, which were showcased at NAB 2024, alongside the unveiling of a new iF-awarded product.

Kent Beichley: A major credit card company’s global headquarters in San Francisco.

Alex Martin: NewsNation NY and WPIX and were both fun projects with lots of LED in both studios.

Jim Durant: One that we are presently working on, that we cannot talk about yet. We will be talking about this one less than 30 days from now.

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