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Christie MicroTiles

With the patriotic red, white and blue set of Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report” due for a design update earlier this year, Jack Morton PDG reached out to Dale Cihi of integrator Videofilm Systems to give Christie MicroTiles a high-profile role in the redesign.

As a designer, I'm always looking for ways to make things look as innovative and new as possible. New products, if they're to be considered, need to have a real “wow factor” and grab the viewer's attention. With these display tiles, we could not only provide a look that was unique, but one that worked wonderfully with our design concept. The set would be able to feature dynamic content that included full video and even allow Colbert to have something new to comment on.

The displays' technology combines DLP and LED illumination in modular 16in-by-12in displays that can be stacked or aligned to create video walls of various shapes and sizes. The tiles met a number of criteria for the new set: real-time color correction, off-access viewing, exceptional brightness, and color-matched graphics and video without any pixelation. We found that the MicroTiles helped to visually amplify the set while maintaining its signature look and not being too distracting to the viewers. The technology was intended to be seen but not always watched, serving as virtual scenery whose screens become part of the set architecture.

“The Colbert Report” marked the first installation of the displays since its launch in November 2009. Cihi first saw a product demo of the displays at InfoComm 2009 and, knowing that we were looking to integrate strips of video in the show's new set, we decided to try the technology.

The redesigned set features 41 display tiles. Thirteen are arranged as three horizontal displays — in 1 × 4, 1 × 5 and 1 × 4 configurations — under Colbert's desk. Twenty-eight comprise four angled 1 × 7 vertical columns along the set's backdrop. The displays present HD video and graphics, such as bold stars and stripes, created exclusively for the show.

Installation of the modular systems was quick and easy, and we were especially pleased that the columns, a design feature from the previous set, didn't have to be redesigned to accommodate the tiles. The product's flexibility and narrow profile (10.24in deep) enable it to fit in even the most space-constrained studios, and it fit seamlessly into the set's existing space.

The displays achieve 115 percent NTSC broadcast standard and PAL color gamut, giving Colbert's over-the-top Americana extra visual punch.

The displays are an all-in-one technology that worked perfectly for our project. Not only was the product well-designed and easily implemented right out of the box, the tiles met the goal of building green into equipment whenever possible. The display tiles consume less energy than other systems and operate longer with a lower cost of ownership in a near “set-it-and-forget-it” installation.

Embracing a new product often requires extensive support from the manufacturer to get past any glitches and hiccups. “The Colbert Report” was the first time the tiles were going to appear on-air, and the installation went smoothly and without incident.

Set design is a competitive business, and staying on top means finding creative and renewable ways to use the technology you have. Christie MicroTiles adapt easily for entertainment spaces so the client can repurpose them later on, restacking them and integrating them with different set pieces to create a totally new design. “The Colbert Report” may be unwavering in its commitment to the red, white and blue, but the show is always looking for innovative ways to brandish its satirical flag.

Jim Fenhagen is senior vice president of design at Jack Morton PDG.