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High Sign

Jul 11, 2014 3:02 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

Digital signage as design

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Nearly 10 years ago, Oakley founder Jim Jannard told me he thought it would be interesting to put video hangtags on his products and video art on the walls. The expression “digital signage” had not been coined yet, but Jannard was already talking about how video should be experienced interactively, that it should be part of an environment, not confined to a television screen.

At the time, Jannard was working on inventing a camera. Soon after, he founded RED Digital Cinema Co., but he had been obsessed with the power of video images before that. Before he left Oakley, Jannard spent a small fortune in time and gear accumulating digital video footage; he flew all over the world with the first Sony 24p cameras, a helicopter, and a crew of one guy capturing Oakley athletes as they raced over snow and sand.

That rich archive of thrill-seeking footage, and the disruptive attitude it represented, is part of the permanent video installation created by Montreal-based Moment Factory for Oakley’s new flagship store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, N.Y. The overhead LCD displays pulse with athlete footage and motion graphics, the images spreading across the 27 screens to form one imposing canvas.

The result is a mix of technology, design, architecture, and guest experience. Moment Factory collaborated with Valerio Architects; the AV integrator, Fulkra; screen OEM, Apollo Displays; and SITU Fabrication for the custom screens and ultra-thin-bezel housing. The project drew on expertise from Moment Factory’s three key divisions: content production, interactive development, and environmental design.

Multimedia set designer Amjir Kandola and technical director Alexis Bluteau used a scale maquette in Moment Factory’s Montreal office as part of the design process for the overhead digital signage at Oakley’s flagship store on 5th Avenue in New York.

“We tend to develop a project from the beginning, first understanding the client’s objectives, and then discussing about how best to integrate a media platform into the architecture. That leads into developing the technical platform for content creation, distribution, and display,” says Moment Factory multimedia set designer Ajmir Kandola. Moment Factory’s clients are often visually iconoclastic and include Cirque du Soleil, Disney, Sony, Microsoft, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, and the NFL. The company’s dramatic content and interactive displays are central to the impact of the new Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

For this project, the physical design of the video display took inspiration from the exterior architecture; large pleated metal components on the façade frame the display for those who see it from the street. Inside, the store’s long narrow footprint allows the overhead display to play out over a long distance. The 27 screens, arranged in rows of three, suspend from the length of the ceiling and are viewed from a variety of angles throughout the store. This presented opportunity for anamorphic tricks and an interplay between filmed and graphical 4K content that fragments or comes together to form a single image.

Because Moment Factory was designing a new media platform, they executed a scale model in its studio—a 7’x3’ model of the whole store with the screens mocked up and projectors standing in for the LCD displays. “We’re not just designing the content, we’re also designing the media environment,” Kandola says. “We find it necessary to visualize it as close as possible as it will be in real life, to test the content and tweak it.”

Next, the project went into technical mockup at Fulkra’s offices in Orange County, Calif. Here, they tested ways to distribute and synchronize the 4K sources to the 27 screens, overcoming some initial challenges with signal distribution equipment choices, says Moment Factory Technical Director Alexis Bluteau. After researching and testing, the team got the signal distribution they needed from Atlona components. Another product that stood out, Bluteau says, was the Datapath x4 signal splitter and scaler, which distributed streams from the Dataton Watchout playback system across the multiscreen canvas. By the time the system went to site, it was tested and proven. “That step—factory testing and approval—is crucial for us; it’s a very important buffer between design and installation,” Kandola says. Remote access allows Moment Factory’s team to do network and image monitoring, as well as maintenance.

The finished content, much of which was composed using Moment Factory’s interactive image generating software, can be scheduled according to varying parameters to ensure that it remains alive for passersby and those inside the store. “From Oakley, I’ve learned there’s definitely a place for a creative process between the architecture and the integration of media and content,” Kandola says. There’s a place for analyzing what the content is there to do, the space between the architecture, and the technical installation. That’s a space that Moment Factory is really excited to be part of.”

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