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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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These portals at the north and south entrances are made from stacked LCD screens with embedded sensors that can cue content based on realtime information such as foot traffic. They can show independent images or combine for a single image.

In addition to working with the architects and technical partners onsite, Daktronics further supported the custom content process with a series of mockups at a facility in Long Beach, Calif., and in the content creators’ production facilities in Montreal (Moment Factory) and Los Angeles (Digital Kitchen). This allowed artists to test image resolution, composition and mapping, and to experiment with the different display surfaces such as LED under diffused glass.

Daktronics also supported the maintenance staff with an invisible access door in the face of the 84in.-tall LED welcome wall, designed and reinforced to maintain that invisibility over time and use.

It is a combined 9,500 square feet of video canvas. As such, it requires a new approach to envisioning and delivering content. Designer Mike Rubin of MRA International calls it an Integrated Environmental Media System (IEMS). Developed by MRA with the Los Angeles World Airport’s (LAWA) executive team, IEMS describes a network of highly visual displays—each with a distinct identity and purpose—served by a flexible content management system that can be customized for various functions including media sponsorships. The content system provides an integrated scheduler and automated controller, nicknamed “Isaac,” that enables mapping content onto the unique, very large-scale, multi-dimensional media surfaces with no loss of sync, registration, or resolution, says Stephan Villet, co-founder of Smart Monkeys, which designed and programmed the system.

The backbone for this merger between AV and IT is an enterprise-class Cisco switch, says Smart Monkey partner Alan Anderson. “It needs to be rock solid for the scale of data it manages for the media features and to control hundreds of devices from the LED displays to the video players.”

Smart Monkeys modeled the system on a design the company created last year for Universal Studios Orlando’s new Lagoon show and parade. “We have over 40 Windows and Linux Virtual Machines (VMs) in a cluster, so all media or show control is virtualized and operates in a fault-tolerant mode on three Dell enterprise servers simultaneously,” Anderson explains. The servers have associated SANs adequate for their needs.

In this virtualization architecture—where the storage, operator GUI, VPN, routing, and other functions are distributed across multiple servers—if one fails, the others instantly pick up the slack. This maximizes uptime, which is why Google and other major IT companies use virtualization architecture for a variety of mission-critical applications.

“The AV industry has been really slow in embracing virtualization,” Villet says. “But in airports, they have very few people talking AV; they have large departments focused on IT. We had a lot of people from the IT department coming to the meetings. When we explained everything about virtualization, they felt very comfortable with it, even though hasn’t been anything like this in any other airport.”

Electrosonic designed the layout and installed the Main Equipment Room (MER), which is comprised of a control and rack room. Miles of optical fiber from all over the terminal feed into the MER, where more than 1,000 individual connections provide the capability to display and control the content displayed on each feature. Cameras in the terminal that show the content-display status of each feature allows a single operator to monitor all features simultaneously. Additionally, a 65in. display was installed in the control room where new media content from prospective partners will be reviewed prior to public display.

Two “complementary paradigms” are at work in delivering the video, Anderson says. “First, we had to map high-quality HD content to LED walls with frame sync and video genlock. So we needed multiple servers for a single media feature.” Seven Grass Valley 4-channel K2 Summit broadcast servers, configured in a bank of 28 video channels, meet this need for HD playback to the terminal’s video channels.

Additionally, the video needs to be interactive, whether based on human interaction like sensors and touch, or the interaction with databases, Internet, and data feeds from the outside. PC-based generative X-Agora video servers from Moment Factory fill the interactivity needs.

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