US-based digital display manufacturer, D3LED, has entered into a partnership with a local distributor, Digital Displays and Devices, to bring its products to the Middle East. Patrick Elligett reports on how technological developments are creating new markets for the company’s LED display range.
Traditionally associated with advertising and public information billboards, the potential market of LED displays has expanded in recent years to encompass sporting arenas, live events, and nightclub installations.
While there are many fiscal reasons for manufacturers to expand the capabilities of the technology they supply, the product itself must also be capable of meeting the demands of various applications.
Significant technological advancements over the past decade, such as the ability to stream high quality video, and improved resistance to harsh climatic conditions, have led to the increased adoption of LED displays outside of the usual advertising-related applications.
For live event applications, it is the reliability of display technology that is of paramount importance, according to Jason Barak, managing partner of D3LED.
He says that while developing billboard displays for high profile advertisers, Disney and the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), D3LED technicians introduced the concept of redundancy in data and power, to ensure any failure of the display’s individual modules and data transport devices does not affect the display as a whole.
“ABC and Disney actually asked us, and pushed us, to work closely with their engineering team to develop redundancy in both data and power,” reveals Barak.
“This means that if we lose a power supply or one of the data transport devices, then what happens is that the other paths or portions of the display will pick up, resulting in minimal down-time,” he explains.
“With dual Ethernet connections [in each individual module], we can feed data from both ends using span entry protocol, so if one of the modules, or one of the data deliveries misses a beat, we can send information the other way, resulting in redundancy protection for display data.”
While the company’s safeguards against failure at critical moments have increased the popularity of its products within the live events industry, the criteria for adopting displays in more permanent installations is different altogether.
Sporting arenas and nightclub installations are sectors where the lifespan of a display is of prime importance, next to functionality and aesthetics.
D3LED’s head of operations and manufacturing, George Pappas, says extending the lifespan of displays has been a key area of improvement in recent years.
“One way we have extended the lifespan of the circuits is by under-driving them, and the other area is cooling,” he says.
“Nichia manufactures all the LED lamps for our displays, and they have also made considerable progress in regard to lifespan by developing better UV protection, better chips, better epoxies and better manufacturing methods.”
He says adjusting the brightness of a display can also have a considerable impact on its longevity.
“The industry standard of acceptable luminance for outdoor displays is approximately 5000 nit (candela per square metre),” says Pappas.
“But we think it should be between 5500 and 6000, so the majority of our displays are built to handle between 9000 or 10,000 nit and then we run them at 6000,” he explains.
“That way, as the display gets older, you still have an overhead where you can keep turning up the display, therefore extending its life.”
Due to the often harsh climatic conditions that impact the Middle East, many local venue managers have been reluctant to install outdoor display technology in the past, because of the potential for heat to accelerate the degradation of electronic components.
D3LED management admit that heat is one of the traditional nemeses of digital displays, and say the company has addressed this issue via its manufacturing methods, as Nichia has done in the manufacturing of the diodes themselves.
“Our diagnostics and control systems include thresholds to protect against heat, for example we can set it so that at 50 degrees centigrade, the display will dim down significantly and if it reaches 55, we could shut it off completely,” says Barak.
“Our preventative diagnostics will automatically send text messages to the technicians and service personnel, warning them if the display is at risk of overheating,” he adds.
“We have integrated new technology such as gigabit Ethernet connections, Cisco switches, better power supplies and improved drive systems, which all contribute to the smooth operation of the processes that protect our display systems against water and heat.”
Popular Dubai nightclub Chi at the Lodge is proceeding with the installation of a series of LED screens surrounding the central dance floor of the venue, according to Tony D’Souza, director of operations at D3LED’s local distribution arm, Digital Displays and Devices.
Screens of varying sizes and shapes will be implemented for displaying video and lighting arrangements to guests, to synchronise with musical entertainment.
The flexibility of the company’s individual display modules was originally developed to properly sculpt displays to inconsistent building exteriors for large media façades, which inadvertently improved the technology’s adaptability for more intricate nightclub installations such as Chi at the Lodge.
Pappas says the company’s vertical display modules can be of both a concave or convex nature, allowing for greater flexibility in the design of the display, and its ability to be deployed in a variety of applications.
“What we did, was take the original drawings from building exteriors and recreate the basic design of the module around those, because there are inside and outside curves on most buildings and we have to keep our displays consistent in order to maintain a nice clear image,” he says.
“With one of our largest projects in Times Square, New York, we prepared prototype vertical panels, to make sure the display would properly fit the existing structure.”
High quality video streaming capabilities have also played a part in helping digital display technology encroach on new markets.
The ability to process the large amounts of data required for such applications is a task that most digital displays are now perfectly capable of handling.
One of D3LED’s largest displays is able to process 150 Gb of data per second across more than four thousand square metres of display, at an image quality of approximately 40 megapixels, according to the company.
Pappas says the display management and control software for video input and image adjustment is simple to use, and can be operated remotely which is an important benefit for operators at live events.
“The control software responsible for managing the display is web-based,” he says.
“It will accept DVI input and gigabit Ethernet output but we can also use on-board gigabit Ethernet right out of a computer, so we can run displays off laptops with web-based html software.”
He says the control system is also extremely agnostic in terms of how it is driven, and although D3LED provides tailor-made software, the display can still be operated through Windows Media Player, or any other off-the-shelf player.
The ease of control, growing adaptability, and technological improvement of digital displays are opening doors for manufacturers of both digital displays and LEDs themselves.
With falling worldwide advertising revenues in recent months, digital display manufacturers are taking the opportunity to move outside their habitual comfort zone and make a concerted push into the growing digital display market in sporting arenas, live events and club installations.
The marketing manoeuvre into the Middle East, to take advantage of the growth in demand for live event and venue installations, is something that could pay dividends for D3LED should a slump in advertising impact the digital billboard market.
The local frontier
As part of D3LED’s partnership with local distribution company, Digital Displays and Devices, sporting events are set to become one of the key target markets for the use of LED display technology.
“Sporting events staged in the Middle East will be a target market of ours, and the Dubai Sports City development is of particular interest to us,” reveals Tony D’Souza, director of operations for Digital Displays and Devices.
“Another market we plan to target is consultants and lighting designers, who want to see the various possibilities of what they can do with digital display technology,” he adds.
“If you give these creative guys the opportunity to see what these displays can do, they could incorporate them into the futuristic building and nightclub designs we see in certain venues in Dubai.”