Interactive Video Wall

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An Interdisciplinary Challenge

This project began simply enough. A video wall is an increasingly common feature in the lobby of a building, and Xprt had completed several video walls, including a lobby feature for this particular client. In this case it was to be a 12-screen 16 foot installation.

We were well into the planning for the video wall, when something remarkable happened. A second client of ours approached us to work a slightly different extension of the same project. The second client was the financier for the building, and as a renowned philanthropist and community benefactor, they were interested in taking the wall to the next level, by making it an interactive video experience. We were both amazed and flattered at the coincidence of being approached separately by two clients, but far more, we were excited about what could be done.

As soon as we began brainstorming on concepts, another possibility came up, spurning from the need to update the content of the video wall. Since the display or experience would eventually get tired and familiar, we asked ourselves what would happen at that point. Would we be asked to revamp the creative periodically? Would another firm be hires to come up wit creative, and work closely with Xprt to bring it live? The idea that came next would yet again blow the doors of the project.

Technology Meets Art Education

Given the nature of the stakeholders, and the location of the building - on the campus that houses the Centre for Digital Media, a collaboration between BCIT, UBC, SFU, and Emily Carr University - the notion of overlap with the school was more than intriguing, so we immediately got to work on a pitch. The idea was that, if Xprt could be commissioned to also create an Application Programming Interface (an API) that students could rely on, they could produce student work for display on the video wall as part of a class. An API is essentially the software ‘hooks’ or input and outputs made available, the configurability of them, and a support document to guide a person to utilize them. The initial concept was passed relatively easily, and we off to the races, on among the most interdisciplinary project in Xprt’s history.

The Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, BC

The Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, BC

The (HIGHLY) Technical Part

This was no small feat, and the list of technical challenges and tasks was accordingly lengthy:

  • Negotiate the physical aspects of the preparation and install, ranging from electrical and low voltage wiring, to structural requirements, and detailed positioning to align with the surrounding glazing system and architectural sight lines.

  • Outline, pitch, research, and test a sensor package to enable human interaction. This involved exploring enough dimensions of interaction that creative work on the platform would be unconstrained, but also ensuring that the performance of the sensors selected would be effective, fast, responsive, and engaging.

  • Determining how to house, protect, and conceal the sensors we selected involved extensive testing for the tolerances of the sensors then designing pair of custom vent grilles to sit above and below the screens that would house the sensors.

  • Finally, a massive programming undertaking would be required to invoke the sensor data, and build the API that the school and its students would rely on. Both a document, and software component involved, a significant amount of detail and alignment is necessary to create an effective API.

The months spent working on this project we full, entertaining, challenging, and tested the ingenuity of our team at every turn.

The Results

Not unlike the building it lives in, the video wall’s fit and finish is well paced, and sits neatly within its surroundings. The plethora of interactive features that we brought to bear in the initial interactive experience that Xprt crafted make for an intriguing and colourful centrepiece in the lobby.

Having resolved several challenges and broken new ground as a team, this is one of Xprt’s favourite projects, and we thank our clients and partners on the effort for the opporunity. We’re extremely excited to see the student work that’s impending and expect to be maintaining the video wall for many years as it brings education, enjoyment, and intrigue to everyone around it.

Rob Sunderland