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The Mechanics behind the Surface-mount LEDs at Tennessee Titans Stadium, Part 1

Nov 13, 2012 12:04 PM, WIth Bennett Liles

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Part 1

Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Since the Dallas Cowboys got their huge video displays, bigger LED screens are showing up in sports venues everywhere. The Tennessee Titans have just tricked out LP Field in Nashville with two huge end-zone displays connected by massive ribbon screens. Chris Mascatello of ANC Sports is going to fill us in on the installation of those, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Chris, I’ve been looking forward to having you on the SVC Podcast. We’ve had ANC Sports on the podcast a while back talking about the huge LED displays in the Dallas Cowboy stadium. They’re the biggest ones around. Now ANC Sports has a new job here with LP Field in Nashville, the Tennessee Titans home stadium. Before we kind of kick-off the discussion on that one though, tell me something about ANC Sports.

Chris Mascatello: Absolutely, thanks for having me. Well, ANC Sports, we’re now going into our 16th year founded in ’97 and probably the best way to describe the company is a turnkey multimedia solution, integrator, and provider for sports and entertainment venues. In general we install, operate different digital signage systems, rotational signage systems like you would see behind home plate in baseball. And although it’s going away, there are still a few on the court in the NBA. And we have an advertising division, marketing sales, LED animations, so we really touch nearly every portion of a stadium, venue, practice facility, those types of things. [Timestamp: 1:56]

And when it comes to big displays in sports venues, ANC Sports has to be among the first guys to call and the Tennessee Titans’ management had some very big plans for this stadium. So they called you in and what did they tell you they wanted to set up there. What did they have in mind for the place?

The stadium down there is 12-13 years old, basically from when the team made their move from Houston. They were needing a lot of improvements across the board to LP Field. So they created a scope of work with consultants, architectural folks, broadcast side, and they actually put it out to an open RFP, and ANC was one of two or three companies that responded to the RFP and were invited to take part in the formal bid process. It was really a good experience. Obviously what we had done down at Cowboys was certainly important and the pitch to the Titans was really one about a partnership between ANC and the Titans. We’re not so much about coming in, selling a display, selling the hardware, getting it installed, and moving on to the next job, which some of the companies that we go up against in these bid processes might be. We’re really about the turnkey solution and in the case of the Titans that was something that really struck a chord with them. As it turned out we have a, as part of this equipment sale, we also have a 10-year service and maintenance graphics and operations contract with the team as well, so we really are there hand in hand with the Titans everyday helping them develop their show and helping them operate it on Sunday. So it really is a great project for us and we couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. [Timestamp: 3:48]

OK and they have end-zone displays and they have ribbon displays running the whole length of the stadium. Now how big are the new end-zone displays? I don’t think anybody is going to have any problem seeing these.

No, they are pretty big. These are about 55ft. tall and just over 156ft. wide, so they are bigger than HD resolution. The actual LEDs themselves are on a 16mm spacing center to center, so it is really an astonishing display to see in person. We had the benefit of the stadium already having a large set of structures in the end zones for us to work with, so there wasn’t a lot of structural work or major general construction needed to go from their smallish video displays now to what we have with these edge to edge, top to bottom, approaching 10,000-square-foot displays. So really it’s been an exciting process for us. [Timestamp: 4:52]

A lot of light and a lot of advertising, a lot to get people’s attention. I don’t know. It looks like it could even set up a little competition for the fans’ attention between the displays and the team on the field. In my reading about this I noticed there are surface-mount LED displays. Exactly what is the big advantage in surface-mount displays over the older type?

Traditionally in the outdoor market place, LED displays were built or have been built using what are, at the most technical level, known as through-hole LEDs. What you see above the circuit board looks very much like a Christmas tree light or the LED that you’ve seen on a clock or any type of electronic device. Those actually have two legs that extend down through the circuit board and then in the manufacturing process those legs are bent and then soldered to the other side of the circuit board. Now surface-mount LED are very much different, both in the composition of the actual LED packaging and also in how they are manufactured and attached to the circuit boards themselves. With a through-hole LED, a standard lamp as it’s more commonly known, you have one red, one green, and one blue LED that are all separate items to make up a pixel at a minimum. Sometimes you’ll see two reds or two greens making up a pixel, but you will always have at least one red, one blue, and one green discrete lamp. With a surface-mount LED, what’s really important to the image quality is the actual filaments, the slivers of LED material, are all put together basically one right next to the other within a single package that is just a few millimeters square. So you’ve gotten really to the point of moving away from the light bright type of effect that you may have seen in an LED board up until this point to now. Unless you’re within a few inches of the display you’re not able to pick out the individual red, green, and blue that make up the given pixel, so that is very important in terms of the packaging and then as you look at it as it mounts to the display—it’s called a surface-mount LED because it’s attached right on the surface and soldered on the top of the board the same as all the other components, EPROM chips, etc. So it’s a different manufacturing process, but it’s really the packaging of the LED that allows the switch to the surface-mount process. And then the benefits of surface-mount LEDs obviously, I touched on the fact that the colors really hit the eye all at once and you don’t have the light bright effect or the ability to pick out the red, green, and blue, but also now these displays are bright enough to be used outdoors and they have viewing angles that are unequalled in the outdoor marketplace. So it’s really pushing the envelope on the technology and we couldn’t be more pleased that the Titans really decided to embrace this next generation technology with us. [Timestamp: 7:56]

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