Times Square's Newest Mega-Spectacular Has It All

The mega-spectacular at 20 Times Square, billed as The New Times Square Experience, has just about all the bells and whistles you could ask for in an LED video screen. Sure, you could accuse me of being a bit biased -- I work for Sansi North America (SNA) Displays, the company that manufactured and installed the display -- but in 13+ years in the LED display industry, I haven't seen anything quite like it. Take a look:

The LOCATION

20 Times Square is the designation for 701 Seventh Avenue in New York City's bow-tie. At the corner of 47th and 7th, the screen towers over Duffy Square and the famous red steps near the TKTS booth. The huge wrap-around display is mounted to the high-rise building facade of the new Times Square EDITION, a 452-key hotel premiering in 2018. The real estate development, including the procurement of the massive video screen, was headed up by WitkoffMaefield DevelopmentHoward Lorber’s Vector GroupIan Schrager, and Winthrop Realty Trust.

"The building is multi-use and has a retail podium at its base that will house the NFL Experience. On top of the retail, you have the 452-key luxury hotel. Our sign wraps the first nine stories and really brings the project together."
Lea Guberina-Sulc, Vice President, Witkoff

The NFL

Perhaps the most interesting aspects of this ginormous display are the major players involved. The site is the new home of Hersey's Chocolate, but perhaps the biggest draw is NFL Experience Times Square, which has set up shop on the ground floor. The pairing of the National Football League and the Big Apple, by far the U.S.'s most visited city, is almost too much to handle, especially for big football fans. According to it's website,

"NFL Experience Times Square is a first-of-its-kind interactive and immersive attraction located in the heart of New York City that brings fans closer than ever to the National Football League and their favorite teams. Combining immersive content, interactive displays, a state-of-the-art 4D cinema and other multimedia effects, the experience takes visitors from the stands to the field, transporting them from kickoff through playoffs, and ultimately, the game’s biggest stage – the Super Bowl."

After SNA Displays spent several days testing the display with its own attention-grabbing content, the NFL arranged for some time on the big screen as well. Even in the busy bow-tie of Times Square where attention is tough to capture, onlookers were captivated by larger-than-life players, team brands from across various NFL markets, and graphics packages that really brought the screen to life. (Facebook Live capture of NFL unveiling here.)

The TECHNOLOGY

Unless you're an industry geek, the display technology itself probably isn't quite as sexy as the NFL, but in terms of breaking industry molds, there's a lot to write home about. First, consider the pixel pitch, which determines the density of pixels throughout the screen surface (quick pixel pitch refresher course). Most outdoor spectaculars installed in Times Square within the last five years have a pitch of 10 mm (.39"), meaning pixels are only 10 mm apart, center to center. Given the modest beginnings of LED display technology, those are high-resolution screens, especially considering the impressive surface area of many of these screens.

However, the 20 Times Square display employs a first-of-its-kind 8 mm pitch, a 20% higher density of pixels than competing video screens. As the digital world moves to higher-resolution video output, the 8 mm pixel technology was, smartly, a must for Witkoff.

"Having the 8 mm technology that SNA was capable of bringing to the project was vital to bringing in retail tenants, the advertisers to the sign and the overall quality that we were looking for."
Eddie Greenberg, Vice President of Construction, Witkoff

Given this extremely tight pixel pitch, this LED display contains an astounding 24,708,000 pixels. And at just-short-of 25 million pixels, it's the highest-resolution video screen in the history of Times Square.

With 8K Ultra-HD processing, the project's main screen is built to accommodate the next generation of video and broadcast media content. 8K UHD represents four times the resolution of 4K and 16 times that of high-definition (HD). All signal processing from the media servers to the display is frame-accurate, allowing for a flicker-free, stunning-quality viewing experience.

“We can put a 4K source in the middle of the screen and surround it with traditional HD feeds, and we’ll get pixel-perfect, clear imagery with the processors. Who knows what the display will eventually be used for, but it’s clear that this screen is the only one in Times Square that can handle many of the modern demands of high-resolution TV and sports broadcasting."
Pat Green, Senior Director of Systems, SNA Displays

As with most tech sectors, LED technology will continue to improve and become more cost-effective, so of course the display won't remain best in class forever. But it's clearly already become an industry trendsetter.

The SIZE AND DESIGN

At 91'4" high and 186'4" wide, the single-sided 20 Times Square display is the largest wrap-around screen in New York City. In total, it's 17,021 square feet of video canvas. In terms of total surface area, it's not the largest screen, but because of its position in the bow-tie, onlookers can't miss it. Additionally, the smooth curve of the display adds a unique flair to the content as it rolls across the display.

The project also includes an EDITION hotel blade sign, which extends approximately 100 feet high and consists of 1,968,000 pixels, bringing the project's total pixel count to 26,676,000 pixels.

Throughout the project, Sensory Interactive provided assessment, design assistance, procurement and project management services on behalf of the owner/developer group.

Visit www.snadisplays.com/projects/20-times-square for more information, photos and video of the 20 Times Square LED spectacular.