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03.19.2003 12:00AM
Caesar's Palace Debuts Largest HD Video Screen in North America
New HD megasystem installed for Celine Dion's 'A New Day...'

LAS VEGAS

Arenas and stadiums of today don't seem quite complete without large-scale video (LSV) screens; now theaters are getting into the action, too. In a stadium or arena, spectators can see their team score a goal or watch the instant replay of an official's controversial call, while a screen in a theater allows the audience to view scene changes electronically and brings the performer "up-front and personal" to its audience.

And that is just what a large-scale video screen does at the newly completed, 4,000-seat Colosseum at Caesars Palace for singer Celine Dion's show, "A New Day..."

This $100 million facility has state-of-the-art theater lighting, sound and automation; but its crowning feature is a huge concave LSV screen measuring 33 feet 7 inches high by 109 feet 2 inches wide, a total of 3,668 square feet. Thought to be the largest seamless interior video screen in North America, it has 5,324,800 individual light emitting diode (LED) red, green and blue "dots," each with 1,024 variations (steps) in lighting intensity.

The lighting may be controlled down to 3 percent brightness, and air circulation fans are momentarily turned off during low audio passages. The digital screen controllers and screen have true high-definition television (HDTV), run at 60 fps-compared to Super 8mm film at 18 fps, 16mm film at 24 fps and a standard television and VHS video at 30 fps. The refresh rate is 240 Hz, avoiding the "tail" on moving images.

Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc.'s Diamond Vision Systems Division, based in Atlanta, built the video screen, and it was installed under contract to Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Tokyo by Wasatch Electric, a division of Dynalectric, of EMCOR Group Inc. of Norwalk, Conn.

Mitsubishi and EMCOR combined to produce and install the $6 million-plus screen. It's controlled by all-HDTV video front-end equipment, including HD cameras from Sony Electronics, which cost an additional $1.6 million.

"One of the many reasons [production company] CDA (Las Vegas) selected our product was because we have successfully controlled a high-definition screen using multiple digital screen controllers," said Todd Stih, regional sales manager for Mitsubishi. "Our processor is unique in that it has true HDTV processing built in. CDA felt these were important features, given that whomever they purchased the screen from would need to use multiple controllers, perfectly synchronized."

If the display runs in lower-resolution "pixel mode," it needs only two display controllers, using one-third the processing power.

Higher amounts of information and resolution created by dot control requires the extra processing power because each individual dot (LED) has full grayscale capability of 1,024 steps. The standard pixel configuration and processing used throughout the industry only provides this amount of grayscale capability for an entire pixel grouping of LEDs.

'SEAMLESS' DOOR

The content creators at Cine FX in Belgium did not want to use "pixel mode" because of the lower resolution, Stih said. Cine FX wanted a resolution that matched the signal they were providing; so dot mode was the only possible way. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace's six screen controllers is a first, however.

In addition, a remote-controlled door is seamlessly built into the screen, through which Dion magically makes her entrance.

The screen has a 1,600 Amp, 208 V, nine giant power cords and three-phase electrical service.

As anticipated, the scope of work included the arrival of 16 of the 64 modules, measuring 6 to 8 feet wide and 7 to 9 feet high, the first of each week for four weeks. One of the modules was specially constructed to include a stage entrance door that will allow Dion to walk through the screen onto the stage, and its arrival was expected by airfreight sometime during the third week.

Due to the Longshoremen Union lockout last fall, all shipments, except perishables, were held up. The module shipments were changed from Long Beach, Calif., to San Francisco, where they would travel by rail. The stage entrance door arrived on time, out of sequence, and was installed first.

Unfortunately, the rail shipment was lost and arrived after the fifth-week completion date. Space allotted for the installation was used up on the stage, so the modules were "flown" overhead or moved on 10-wheel roller dollies across the stage on masonite sheets.

Sixty-three modules arrived unexpectedly one morning with only a telephone call as warning the night before. These modules were in 19 shipping crates, 8 feet square and 10 feet high, and after staging, flanked the pools and fountains at Caesar's Palace.

With up to 350 employees and 151 road vehicles, Wasatch Electric employees mobilized in hours-ripping apart the crates with pry bars, cutting them up with a Skil saw and disassembling the steel transport structures for possible future mobility after Dion's contract expires.

The biggest challenge was to get the 9-foot 4-inch modules through what the general contractor called the "elephant door."

It was 10 feet high, 10 feet 5 inches wide and stood almost five feet off the asphalt grade. To get the modules through the door, workers used a long-fork carriage, extend-reach forklift for the first 60 modules and an extra-wide carriage for the remaining four modules, lifting them by two steel handles bolted on to the top. This barely got the modules in the door, where the load was lifted another four inches to the top of the forks to allow clearances for two 10-wheeled dollies, which measured four inches in height and had a three-inch deep trough for the steel angle iron shipping supports.

The larger modules weighed over 1,200 pounds and were lifted in place by a series of two-ton chain motors and two-ton chain falls, hung from the "grid" some 80 feet above the substage floor. Three quarter-inch plywood sheets with holes for the chains replaced the steel grates. This required three chain motors, one to lower the module from the deck to the sub stage and two pre-positioned at laser level points projected on the ceiling.

The installation of the special module with Dion's stage entrance door was another challenge, as it had to be seamless and undetectable to the audience. This meant the clearances were to the thousandths of an inch-or better yet, to a fraction of a millimeter, as everything on the installation was metric.

The first milestone was a lighting test scheduled to take place the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday. These meant the electrical and one of the screen controllers had to be completely installed and the rough (one-line diagram) and intermediate inspections had to be completed, with permission to turn on the power to operate roughly one-fourth of the display.

Mark Foster, general manager, Lenny Morrill, senior project manager for Mitsubishi's Diamond Vision Division, the company's engineering representative from Japan and the lighting directors of CDA Productions (Las Vegas) Inc. attended this test.

The final milestone was turning on the whole display. At 10 p.m. one evening, after everyone had gone home, they powered up the main switch, subpanel switches and screen controllers. The screen looked great! There was one vertical black area because of a tripped circuit breaker and a few areas where the technicians replaced 5-inch square tiles.

The bottom line isn't that the video screen is the biggest indoor screen in North America. The bottom line is true HDTV, twice the resolution, 1,024 variations (steps) in intensity for each, individual dot, exceptional color purity, and total brightness control down to 3 percent.


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