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Not Just a Videowall

These days it's amazing what creative AV designers and integrators can make out of display technology. With the right software, content, and planning, videowalls become works of art.

Sometimes clients ask for the darnedest things. When it came time to reimagine the lobby at Hewlett-Packard headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., interactive software developer and video installation specialist Three Byte Intermedia was tasked with delivering a unique videowall solution — one that had to look as good facing backward as it did forward.

"They wanted an interesting, forward-thinking installation that could showcase their technology," says Olaaf Rossi, co-principal at New Yorkbased Three Byte. "Still, this was a little different. We're always being asked for large video displays running native resolution content because designers want as good-looking an image as possible. Fortunately, now we can render things that five years ago were much harder to do."

HP and its design consultant, Tronic Studio, wanted a videowall (built with HP equipment) that would greet executives and customers when they entered the building, but could also be turned around to show video and messages as people exited the building's auditorium, which is located in back of the lobby. The solution was a videowall made of 36 screens attached to 18 columns, divided into two groups with a pathway to the auditorium in between. It was an innovative design, but one with a problem.

"If you spin the monitors 180 degrees so they're facing the opposite way, but you keep the same video content, your columns of video will be oriented correctly top-to-bottom, but each slice will be out of order," says Three Byte co-principal Chris Keitel. "The video that needs to be in the leftmost position will be on the right."

Welcome to the wonderful world of modern videowalls. Your clients, whether they're retailers, corporations, or even government agencies, are enamored of big, beautiful video for communicating their messages or viewing information. They don't always understand how you'll give it to themor whether you even canbut they know they want it in their store windows, lobbies, and public spaces. They want it in high-definition and, as usual, they want it within budget. As a result, videowalls have evolved from glorified displays to works of technological art.

"There's always going to be a solution, it's just a matter of managing the client's expectations," says Joseph Fusaro, project manager for McCann Systems of Edison, N.J. "We're actually not artists, but if people come to us with a concept or a bright idea, we'll figure out the technology to make it happen."

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