In 2010, United Therapeutics Corporation received approval from Montgomery County Parks and Planning Commission to expand its campus, on the grounds that the company would include a gathering spot in the expansion that the public could freely access for the purposes of relaxation, reflection and enlightenment.
United Therapeutics is a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of unique products to address the unmet medical needs of patients with chronic and life-threatening conditions. As the space would not be used for promoting the company, but rather for enriching the surrounding community, the company decided they wanted to feature a video wall that would display images of nature, art and science. They would later dub this project the ‘BioWall.’
“The BioWall is our gift to the community,” says Avi Halpert, Vice President of Corporate Real Estate for United Therapeutics. “Planar’s technology allows it to be a great piece of moving art that beautifully shows our world in all its forms and in a manner that is calming, serene, even inspirational.”
The electronics are housed in a rack a floor below the BioWall.
Several issues were raised as soon as the decision to create a video wall was made. The wall would need to be housed within United Therapeutics’ building while displaying to the public outside. The wall would need to fit into a walking corridor, and still allow enough room for employees to pass by. While no direct sunlight falls on the BioWall, a significant amount of ambient light exists in the space, making the correct resolution and brightness of the screen paramount. The company reached out to their audio-visual partner, Avitecture Inc., and asked them to help decide on the correct product for their BioWall.
“I looked at other well-known displays,” says Bill Apter, Senior Consultant, Special Projects for Avitecture, “but their enclosures were too large for the corridor and wouldn’t pass local code.”
When the Planar Matrix video wall was introduced at InfoComm, the product struck Bill’s eye. The electronics on the system are remotely located, allowing for much of the bulk of the video wall to be housed separately from the display itself. “We had a lovely rack room in the floor below that we could use,” says Apter.
The Planar wall boasts full HD resolution, 800-nit brightness, 3500:1 contrast ratio, and backlight control. The majority of service on the product would take place in the electronics in the rack room rather than the display itself, which would prevent obstruction of the corridor if things were to break down, as well as remove the possibility of the display itself overheating. Most importantly, the electronics housed in the rack room meant a sub-four-inch total mounted depth for the display, allowing the corridor to keep to code.
The 16-foot by 9-foot BioWall is comprised of sixteen lightweight panels stacked four-by-four with a 5.5 mm tiled bezel width. The 59-pound display is mounted on a custom-built frame that is suspended from two tracks attached to the ceiling. The video wall can slide back and forth on a trolley to allow for service access. The Planar EasyAxis Mounting System also allowed for technicians to access the video wall wiring from the front of the wall during installation. The BioWall sits safely behind the building’s exterior glass wall, allowing a full view for the public.
The BioWall is mounted to a custom-built, suspended frame.
The BioWall depicts content – some of which approaches cinematic quality – provided by professional and amateur videographers from around the world, and is constantly updated. It aims to display the beauty of the world, showcasing an ever-changing selection of nature, science and art videos collected from all over the world.
“Since we are trying to use the most interesting, dramatic and high quality video, the video wall had to depict it in optimal fashion,” says Randy Scope, Director of Content Procurement for United Therapeutics. “There was a little bit of training involved on the hardware. At one point we were going to use an advanced system that was more powerful than we needed. We now have a single Mac hooked up to the unit that runs the videos through a playlist on iTunes. The playback is very simple.”
The BioWall has been operating 24 hours a day since it was launched on Earth Day 2012. It displays over 20 hours of unique, frequently updated content to the public year round. Often people can be seen lounging in the public atrium, viewing the footage on the screen. The company says that the BioWall has increased their profile, as well as provided a hub for the Silver Spring, Maryland community.