Allentown, Pa., may be a small city, but local television broadcaster WFMZ had big ideas when incorporating cutting-edge AV into its recent studio redesign. Unlike most traditional broadcast sets, WFMZ required that its set have the ability to stretch graphics and video content across multiple displays — without compromising on image quality — during a live broadcast. To build the unique and sophisticated video wall system the WFMZ team had in mind, they called on set-designers Devlin Design Group and integration firm Advanced.
“Our job was to build an AV infrastructure that has no limitations on configuring content across a range of displays from multiple manufacturers,” Advanced executive vice president Mark McPherson said. “We built a video wall system that successfully allows WFMZ to work with an infinite number of display layouts while using a 4K signal. Now, WFMZ is not limited by signal bandwidth in any capacity.”
Advanced was able to achieve WFMZ’s desired flexibility by building the entire video wall system around a VuWall VuScape video wall controller, which allows the production team to seamlessly configure how display signals are distributed. For the display portion of the integration, Advanced built a six by three video wall using NEC 55-inch Ultra Narrow Bezel S-IPS Video Wall Displays. The video wall is flanked by several smaller displays, including LCD monitors from Sharp and LG. Advanced chose Extron DTP Transmitters and DTP Receivers to extend audio, video, and control.
“The most productive video walls offer simplicity and total flexibility with their content and this is where VuScape excels,” said Maryse Montagne, sales director for North America, VuWall. “Essentially, the video wall now becomes a single blank canvas that can display whatever sources the end user requires, in whatever size and orientation.”
“In order for the flexible content manipulation to work, all displays have to work in portrait or landscape mode,” McPherson commented. “The Advanced and Devlin Design Group technical teams designed the monitors so that they will toggle between the two modes on the fly — an element that is very unique to WFMZ’s broadcast studio.”
It was also imperative that production staff be able to easily configure the content across multiple displays. Conveniently, VuScape’s software includes a birds-eye layout representation of all of the monitors connected to the system. Producers can drag and drop content around to fit the best way across multiple screens. “This feature is an enormous benefit for producers responsible for distributing content on set,” McPherson commented. “It allows them to prepare the scenes before they go into production, which is unprecedented, and it enables them to test out how the image will appear before they go ahead with that configuration.”
According to Advanced vice president of engineering Kevin Linton, the most challenging aspect of the installation process involved the integration of several of the older technological components on set with the newer AV. Particularly, WFMZ wanted to control all presets and video wall layouts from its older, pre-existing production switch. For seamless control, Advanced had to integrate it with the Ross OverDrive system, a network-based control application.
“We had to draft a module to integrate their production switch with Ross and, in turn, control the video wall processor,” Linton commented. “Although it was a challenge, we were ultimately successful in making it work. This is the first time we were able to control the VuScape processor from a production switch.”
Ultimately, Advanced and Devlin Design Group were able to deliver on WFMZ’s request and, in doing so, built one of the most innovative video wall display systems in the broadcast industry. “The entire infrastructure is centered around distributing the highest quality graphics throughout the studio,” McPherson concluded. “We’re proud to provide WFMZ with cutting-edge video integration that is extremely innovative but is still hassle-free for staffers.”