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Airport Art

Nov 22, 2013 4:34 PM, By Tim Kridel and Cynthia Wisehart

New approaches to video display and content delivery seek to transform the traveler experience

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The 75ft.-wide Destination Board is crowned with aluminum-encased LED sticks.

Operators ingest video files and prepare them for scheduling with a web-based GUI to create a capsule or collection of video files that need to play in sync on a particular media feature. Once files are previewed and validated, the operator schedules the content into the system.

The schedule is database-driven and feeds three Medialon Manager Pro systems; one handles the logical portion of the control system with video ingest and control room monitoring and the second controls all the equipment for the main LED features’ playback and physical playout. The third controls all the gate information displays as well as systems’ clock and sync.

“We looked at what IT does, what broadcast does, what AV needs, and we used that information to create one control system with the best of networking, virtualization, and broadcast operations,” Villet sums up.

The centerpiece Time Tower has Daktronics LED walls on four sides. On one side there is also a functioning clock and a partial screen of diffused glass over the LED.

Environmental media systems aren’t cheap and neither is the content, so an obvious question is, how can airports justify the additional expense versus conventional, ad-focused networks? The business case can be summed up as a belief that a superior traveling experience will attract more travelers, who will choose connecting airports based on amenities.

LAX commissioned a study into the annual economic impact of a 747 or A380 plane full of international travelers passing through multiple times a week during the course of a year.

“Each one of those generates $600 million in the local economy,” LAWA’s Doucette says. “You don’t want to be losing flights to other cities because of the quality of your facilities. It’s not good for business. It’s not good for the City of Los Angeles.”

The IEMS platform could attract additional advertisers, premium rates, or both, all of which would help the return on investment. At the very least, the media display features requires new types of content because simply blowing up existing ads and other programming won’t fly, nor would traditional advertising models.

“We don’t like to call it digital signage because the intent is to move away from advertisements and to get into sponsorships,” Villet says.

For example, a set of signage might show loops of striking digital art that ends with the sponsor’s name and logo. LAX is looking for companies that can deliver that new breed of content.

“Instead of an advertising contract, we’re thinking about it in terms of a ‘terminal media operator,’ as we’re calling them now,” Doucette says. “We’ve developed about 4 hours of original programming because we didn’t have a media operator in place. We’re looking for them to help us develop additional content.”

Doucette thinks that incumbents such as Clear Channel or JCDecaux will have a role to some extent. “But we’re also looking for them to bring someone who understands these media systems and how to leverage that into the quality of the advertising and/or sponsorships that we expect to see in this environment.”


LAX’s recently renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal includes seven major AV features, collectively dubbed the Integrated Environmental Media System (IEMS). Nearly two years in the making, and comprising 9,500 square feet of combined active display, the $50 million IEMS includes:

  • The Time Tower: This structure is 72ft. tall and 20ft. to 25ft. wide, depending on the face with a based of diffused glass panels and an elevator shaft running through the center. It includes a mix of 6mm to 7mm and 10mm to 11mm Daktronics LED tiles that display dramatic mapped images and react with particles effects to the gestures of passengers as they approach the tower.
  • The Story Board: This 120ft.-long feature consists of 6mm to 7mm Daktronics LED tiles combined to create five display walls of varying size and configuration.
  • The Destination Board: 75ft. long by 15ft. high, this 6mm to 7mm Daktronics LED display is partitioned into a central flight information display and two side panel displays with additional informational content.
  • The Welcome Wall: Featuring 6mm to 7mm Daktroincs LED tiles and divided into two screens, the wall is about 84ft. tall by 26ft. wide. An invisible service door is incorporated into the display face. The Bon Voyage Wall has the same resolution but is 23ft. high by 13ft. wide.
  • North and South Portals: These consist of 10 28ft. columns of stacked 55in. Planar Matrix LCD monitors. Infrared scanners and speakers inside react to passengers walking by and fluidly affect the content’s images and sound.

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