Content That Inspires

Headshot Zach Todd


Zachary Todd is a communications associate with SNA Displays, copywriting and editing a variety of communications material such as company news releases, blogs, and case studies

It’s no secret that LED display manufacturers appreciate amazing content on the technology they build. When you specialize in producing a visual medium, you love when users demonstrate just how good that medium can look with the right imagery. And it’s a bonus when digital signage content shows the kinds of emotional connections this medium can foster with audiences.

So, when the AT&T Discovery District in Dallas, Texas, announced the DC Heroes & Villains Experience, I knew it would be something special. It would have to be to motivate a homebody like me to brave rush-hour traffic, in the Dallas Metroplex, on a school night to see it for myself. Sure, I had professional reasons for being there, but I’ll be honest – for me, comic book content from legendary artist Jim Lee was a major draw on its own.

The Venue

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For those not yet familiar with the AT&T Headquarters Lobby, it is a modern media lobby that fuses architecture, multimedia content, and technology. It consists of eight LED-wrapped rectangular columns and a 13′ by 60′ three-sided video wall (the Media Box).

The LED columns can be synchronized with the Media Box and the lobby’s LED ceiling “veil,” a diffused lighting feature that visually connects the lobby’s digital elements with color. The lobby also uses subtle audio cues to accent the immersive experience.

To keep images sharp and capable of minute detail, even up close, the Media Box and all digital columns were built with ultra-fine pitch LED technology from SNA Displays’ BRILLIANT™ Interior product line. The entire in-lobby experience pairs nicely with The District’s exterior lighting, audio, 104′ media wall, and general ambiance.

A host of content creators have provided video and animation work for The District’s video display assets, including Ari Weinkle, BOLT, Core Creative Labs, DixonBaxi, Float4, Maaambo, Moment Factory, MUCH Creative, Reel FX Animation, Refik Anadol Studio, Sila Sveta, and Universal Everything.

The Experience

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Technical details like 1.92 mm pixel pitch, 75 million pixels, and 3,000 square feet of LED canvas all sounds great on paper. And high-resolution pictures and video can approximate how impressive the AT&T Lobby really is.

But nothing compares to actually being there.

As I walked up to the publicly accessible lobby and caught my first glimpse of the displays through the glass facade, I thought Ok, this is pretty cool. Some pretty neat black and white comic book characters. It wasn’t until I got closer and really started to contemplate the screens and their content that I picked up on the subtle details that really made me geek out.

Naturally, my first impulse was to whip out my cell phone and get pictures of the characters on each column and the Media Box. Which of course I did. But what stood out to me more than the inked characters themselves was the mostly white canvas background. Most in the LED display industry know that solid white tends to show any and all imperfections. In this case, however, the background not only balanced well against the character outlines (which really looked like they were hand drawn with pencils) but it seemed to have a rough texture to it, just like a sketchbook. What a nice, artistic touch for the LED display medium.

Then I noticed very subtle animation throughout the drawings, almost as if the artist was filling in parts of each character in real time. It truly conveyed the impression of an artist sketching out a comic book character, a depiction comic book convention attendees know well.

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The lobby’s audio was also impressive in its subtlety. Rather than drowning out the chatter of visitors or dominating the images on display, the familiar hero themes played softly, creeping slowly into my awareness.

That’s when the animation changed again, the black and white sketchbook style transforming into more recognizable comic book content flooded with color. Now, each hero and villain suddenly had 10 times the detail, becoming vibrant and lifelike. Once the invisible artist finished coloring each character and adding backgrounds, I was delighted again to see that the individual characters on each LED column had their own animation. The Flash sped around the room in a blur of light, Billy Batson was struck by lightning to become Shazam (AKA the original Captain Marvel), bubbles escaped from Black Manta’s suit, and more. Thus began a second tour of the lobby and a new set of cell-phone images.

The final content set while I was there was more akin to the Justice League movie franchise. Each column turned into a showcase for revolving superheroes who bore an uncanny resemblance to the actors playing them in recent films.  Of course, that inspired a third and final walkthrough.

During this whole experience, numerous groups of visitors came and went, many of them stopping to marvel at the content for nearly as long as I did. Some of the guests took pictures in their best superhero pose in front of the screens my company manufactured.

Reflections

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It’s easy to repeat the “content is king” mantra but that fact really hits home when you see amazing visuals in person. In a digitally dominated world, most people have become so accustomed to seeing screens every day that the true “wow” factor is often hard to come by. Sometimes it’s sheer size that makes us stop and stare. Other times its image clarity or an interesting design. In either case, fully optimized, carefully planned, and expertly executed digital artwork ensures screen owners (and their visitors and customers) get the most out of their investment.


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