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Projection Master Classes: Surfaces

As a lighting designer I thought this section of the Projection Master Classes was a bit overwhelming. However it was full of great information.

Mats Karlsson from Martin started off the discussion with LED walls. I'm very fond of LED walls, but have been habitually frustrated by their price and complexity, which is another way saying price but from a labor perspective. With Martin's new EC-20 and P3 processor, it would seem they're trying to push down those costs by consolidating. Hooray for consolidation; the less boxes, parts, and pieces the better. Furthermore they appear to be making strides in simplifying mapping, addressing, and signal distribution. I think this serves to make a very accessible product, which helps those of us who aren't super versed in video intricacies and never want to be.

Karlsson also had some really great things to say about LED walls generally. For one, the prices are dropping but so is the quality. LED walls really depend on very tight manufacturing specifications. When they get lax, and with low, low prices that's what happens, you see bright or dark lines. Moore's Law does have some price lowering properties here, but cheaply made is still cheap. Also, the race to be light weight is not so good. Having a solid structure adds pounds (which does increase rigging costs) but also means you've got a more robust product. We tend to think lighter is better like with mountain bikes, but this was a good brake to that common click, whirl assumption. If lighter means more plastic, that's not a healthy trade off. Karlsson also offered some great guidelines and formulas.

Ideal Pixel Pitch = Viewing Distance / 2

Okay Pixel Pitch = Viewing Distance / 1

Nits (screen brightness) 500-1000 indoor, 3000-5000 outdoor

300Hz minimum refresh rate for naked eye

At least 1000Hz with cameras. Ideally, 2000Hz

Finally, heat. Can we finally dispel the myth that LEDs do not emit heat? In fact they emit a lot of heat and without proper heat management the product will fail.

It turns out Karlsson comes to the video world from lighting. He used a lot of experience from our realm and applied it to video in his new role. I would just like to go on record and say, “Video, you're welcome.”

The conversation then turned to screens. It seems video people have a love-hate relationship with the standard, white box. Everyone agrees it's terrible and we shouldn't use them, but in fact I rarely see video projected onto any other surface. It's a bit like pornography and the internet. In polite conversation the internet's stated uses are much loftier than search engine data suggests. I might argue a similar dynamic is at play with screens.

However, the conversation quickly turned to non-traditional projection surfaces and it was pretty wild stuff. The complexity and variability of the different materials opens up a world of possibility in every market of the industry that I wish I saw more of. From muslin to Bonniet to Megastretch PU to string curtains we saw excellent examples of what can be done. You could talk for weeks about possibilities and potential applications for these various surfaces. The question remains, however, will we ever lead our clients away from the white box?


Lance Darcy is a Lighting Director and Director of Photography.  He writes the mostly bi-weekly column LD On The DL, here on the Live Blog.  

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