Today’s video wall landscape is much more promising for integrators than it was ten, or even five, years ago.
First, there’s many more choices on the market. More brands to choose from, but also more solutions being offered by each brand.
Kevin Barlow, CTS-D, director of business development for Draper Inc., has seen this first-hand. “You have top-tier brands with premium solutions, but multiple solutions also. Your video may not be direct view LED. It might be using projection, blended projection, cubes, LCD. Barco, for example, has UniSee, which is a hugely popular LCD video wall,” says Barlow.
The second is performance. Integrators can be more confident these days that a video wall solution will do exactly what it’s supposed to. “The quality and performance level of technology today is so much better than it was even five years ago,” adds Barlow.
The third; it’s really wowing the client. We’re not just installing a wall any longer; we’re creating an experience. “It’s not that often you come along with a technology or technology enhancement that really excites people,” says Barlow. “You can do so much with direct view LED that really blows people away. Being part of that solution for a client is pretty exciting.”
But how did we get here, and where are we going next? To look forward, first we must look back.
Video Walls… A Brief History
Video walls have changed along the course of four key variables over the years: technology, pricing, accessibility, and adoptability. That’s how we have the extremely sophisticated, high-resolution products we see on the market today.
The original video walls consisted of stacked 27-inch CRT television monitors with a gap of almost four inches in between images. Today, integrators can find direct view LED video walls that are completely seamless and can be constructed into virtually any shape and size.
As volume goes up, price goes down. Barlow remembers the time when one of his main partners in the video wall space, Barco, first started offering direct view LED video walls in 1997 with 7mm resolution. That system cost degrees more than a current one at 1.5mm resolution.
As a result of the improved quality and prevalence of direct view LED video walls, adoption continues to increase rapidly. The commonality of this technology in the marketplace means integrators are more comfortable installing the technology, their customers can more easily afford it, and the procurement and installation time continues to decrease.
“One of the things that’s changed significantly is the fact that direct view LED video walls are viewed not just as a television or a display anymore,” says Barlow. “They’re now being viewed by the more progressive architects as a fundamental building technology. You can upgrade a room using direct view LED as an aesthetical element. Video walls have been used for years in that fashion, but with today’s technology it’s becoming more and more commonplace. A trend that is sometimes referred to Techorating.”
Video walls are being built into rooms to be more than just a screen. They can be a perfect amalgamation of form and function. They are attractive backdrops, vehicles for corporate communication and act as multi-use big screens. They’re being used in concerts, theater performances, museums, auditoriums, and even replacing green screens for film production.
The resolution and price point of direct view LED has opened new possibilities for marketable use of the technology. Integrators can capitalize on this by touting all the possible use cases for a video wall, increasing ROI with each capability.
The Check List: 4 Video Wall Considerations for Integrations
Even with the prevalence of sophisticated video wall technology, there is still much for integrators to consider before choosing the right partner.
Barlow offers four main components of a good video wall manufacturing partner and explains why Draper selected Barco as one of their key partners of choice.
- Quality. Stick with manufacturers that have a proven track record of reliability, service and support. “Certainly, Barco has a long history of high-quality, high-tech products,” says Barlow.
- Reliability. The company must stand behind what they offer. “Whichever company you’re working with, make sure it’s a company that has a strong legacy. The way they acted five years ago is going to be akin to how they act next year,” says Barlow.
- Compatibility. The technology needs to work with other products and brands. Working with a company that considers both sides of the coin is always helpful. “If you’re working with a company for your video wall and a different company for the image processing there’s always that possibility of finger pointing and responsibility shifting during crunch times,” says Barlow.
- Compliance. You want to make sure that the company you’re working with is genuinely compliant with applicable codes and regulatory agencies. “A lot of dealers don’t think about that, but you want to make sure the company you’re working with hasn’t cut corners when it comes to their product. With direct view LED that’s a big deal,” says Barlow.
Take for example how Barco does TAA. They have employed external, international consultants of repute to ensure an end-to-end review of the process for a certification which is otherwise based on honesty and full disclosure. Essentially, they incorporated third-party rigor to get their video walls TAA certified all the way. And unlike many other vendors, both their video walls as well as their processing is TAA compliant.
Most importantly there is the matter of education, and not just learning how to install products. Integrators need to learn what potential partners can and cannot do for them.
“Explore what makes a particular brand special or better for you or your clients beyond the technology. The people, the company, the background, the service and support – make sure that you’re up to speed on the latest,” says Barlow. “There are so many changes happening rapidly. If you were up to speed even a year and a half ago, things have changed because of the exponential growth in video wall technology that has been going on at the R&D level for years.”
Once you get to the work site, the installation process is all about expectations. Managing your own team’s expectations as well as client’s expectations is important in ensuring the project isn’t filled with headaches.
“The best way to deliver great results is to know what’s expected and to aim higher than that, so that you and your clients are seeing results beyond what was expected,” says Barlow. “That’s where repeat business comes from.”
Working with Barco
Barlow gives many accolades to Barco – a brand that checks all the boxes and represents the premier example in the marketplace. Barco offers a vast array of potential video wall options and has kept evolving with technology and the times through the years. Integrators know that when they work with Barco, they’re working with a company that has roots dug in as far back as monitors in the early ages of the AV industry.
“The company has been committed to every flavor of video wall technology,” says Barlow. “Cubes, rear projection, blended rear projection, the earliest retros to today’s technology. Direct view LED, they’ve been in that game for a long time and are committed to that technology and committed to the industry. They’re committed to all types of video walls for all types of applications.”
In many ways they are committed to both the integrator community and end-customer equally strongly. Draper recently teamed up with them to provide ready to ship DV LED bundles, that comes with all the panels, wiring, mounting equipment and support required for a successful installation. Saves time, saves cost, and saves a second-guess.
Barco also offers superior image processing compared to competitors. In fact, that’s perhaps their biggest strength that sets them apart in a ‘blind test’. They provide the video wall technology as well as the processing in house.
“That’s one of the differentiators. If you have two video walls with the exact same technology, one with a generic brand of processor, the other with Barco’s processing, you’re going to see a picture quality difference,” says Barlow.
Barco has always been viewed as a premium brand, according to Barlow, but still with a competitive price point. “You’re getting Mercedes quality without the full-blown Mercedes price,” says Barlow.
“History, quality, performance, support,” he says. “The complete, full-featured package.”