New Comcast Center display stretches possibilities of HD

HDTV trailblazer David Niles has created HD imagery for the new Comcast Center’s 80ft by 30ft LED screen with the Panasonic AJ-HPX3000 camera
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HD pioneer David Niles creates imagery for the 2400sq-ft LED screen at the new Comcast Center in Philadelphia with the Panasonic AJ-HPX3000.

Philadelphia’s tallest building, the new Comcast Center, features an enormous public lobby with a breakthrough video installation designed and produced by HDTV trailblazer David Niles.

Niles chose Panasonic’s AJ-HPX3000 native 1080p one-piece P2 HD camcorder to shoot the video for the lobby’s 80ft by 30ft LED screen, which engages passersby with imagery, including life-sized images of ordinary business people performing extraordinary feats, such as flying through the air with a cup of coffee.

Designed by world-renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern, the 57-story, 975ft structure is built on top of the city’s Suburban Railroad Station. The lobby installation was conceived by Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts as a gift to the people of Philadelphia.

Niles, director/DP/designer/editor and principal of Niles Creative Group in New York City, enumerated the imposing challenges he faced — all 10 million of them. The display, which is larger than an IMAX screen, has 10 million pixels. “There aren’t any cameras that shoot 10 million pixels,” he said.

While the screen has that number of pixels, a life-size person appearing on the screen doesn’t. Two million-pixel capture of such subjects would be sufficient, he said. Using the Panasonic HPX3000 with 2.2-megapixel CCDs gave Niles a 1:1 pixel ratio. The result was “an utterly photorealistic effect,” he said.

Niles and his production team, including director/choreographer John Dietrich and producer Emmora Irwin, staged three separate weeklong shoots last fall in studios in New York and New Jersey. Their subjects, predominantly shot against blue and green screens, consisted of 22 performers, 10 of whom were main characters. Niles used the HPX3000’s HD-SDI capability to record to 10-bit uncompressed computer RAIDs, with backup recordings to DVCPRO HD tape.

Niles edited the material using proxies in Final Cut Pro. Then the original footage was laid out on an Adobe After Effects 10 million-pixel canvas. This way, the content maintained a 1:1 pixel ratio from camera to screen.

The Niles Creative Group designed a unique delivery system with artificial intelligence (AI) built in. The unmanned system, which consists of more than 30 HD servers, feeds the screen. The wall runs 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with no repeating or looping of video. Instead, with AI control, isolated elements of content are brought together at the time of delivery.

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