Search for Tampa shooting suspect goes to billboards

Demetrius Parks. TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT staff

Published: July 18, 2013

The manhunt for the suspect in a fatal shooting last weekend in Tampa has spread to dozens of digital billboards in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Police are looking for Demetrius Parks, 23, and several organizations are offering a combined $16,000 reward for information leading to his arrest in connection with the shooting of a manager Sunday at a Family Dollar store in Tampa. The 28 signs are courtesy of CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor.

“He is still in this area,” Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said Wednesday. “Our belief is he is armed and dangerous.”

Parks has been arrested for 37 felonies and 25 misdemeanor charges, Castor said.

Police said Parks was robbing the store when he fatally shot Horsley Shorter Jr., who had retired from the Army, moved to Tampa to help his elderly mother and got a job as the manager at the store, located at 4900 N. 40th St.

Parks has served three years in state prison on weapons charges. Since his release March 31, he has been arrested four times for burglary, grand theft, opposing an officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm, Castor said.

Source from

Is it time to replace your old digital billboard?

watchfire2_150Digital billboard and electronic message centers are still relatively new technology, with LED signs starting to become more prevalent about a decade ago and digital billboards about seven or so years ago.

But the technology has come a long way since then, and the new capabilities of LED signs from companies like Watchfire, Daktronics and Formetco are quickly making older model signs outmoded — and making earlier electronic signs even more out of date.

“Our tastes are increasing for better and better resolution, as we watch what happens to our own home television sets,” said John Kunze, Watchfire’s director of sign division sales. Kunze noted that he just recently bought a new flatscreen TV for his home that is bigger, has a better picture and is more energy efficient than one he bought just four years ago, and it was cheaper too. “And in some cases that can even be true with the LED digital displays, the outdoor displays, that they can get improved resolution and image content and actually reduce their purchase cost from where they were even just a few years ago.”

Especially if someone is using an old light bulb- or incandescent bulb-driven sign, upgrading to a new LED sign offers “radically decreased” operational costs from reduced maintenance and power consumption needs, Kunze said.

Even compared to LED signs just a few years old, he said, newer LED signs have greatly increased resolution as LEDs have gotten more and more tightly packed; have gotten brighter and more noticeable as the LEDs themselves have gotten brighter; and have gotten cheaper as they’ve become even more energy efficient. And compared to older light bulb-based displays, the differences are even more starkly pronounced.

For instance, Kunze said, in 2004 Watchfire put in a 14-by-40-foot light bulb display for a client, and the energy requirements were so steep the power company had to run new service and a new transformer for the sign. “And today that same thing on a billboard would use a tenth of that, if they did it with an LED billboard.”

And the ways the signs can be updated has radically changed, he said. Kunze’s been with Watchfire for 23 years, and he says they used to have two communications options: Run a hardline between a computer and the sign, or use a standard analog line for phone modem service with dial-up phone service. “Today in our catalog our communications options take up I think six pages of choices.”

One of the newer ones, cellular broadband, allows billboard or sign operators to run their signs much the same way someone would run a network of signs inside a single retail store. “The operator can lay in bed and update his signs from home, calling up each cellular location and connecting to the IP address and downloading standardized content very easily,” he said. “So anywhere really in the world that they can get Internet service, they can get to and update their signs”

That kind of connectivity also allows for remote diagnostics, even down to the single pixel or single LED level, he said.

But the change that’s most striking — especially to the important people, those who are seeing the signs as they drive by them — is the difference in image quality and resolution.

“Again to draw the comparison, improvements in [signs] have been phenomenal; I think in part driven by what we see when we go home at night on our TV and what we’ve come to expect out of displays,” Kunze said.

For instance, Kunze said he’d recently seen a mall replace its outdoor LED sign from a 35 mm display to the latest 12 mm display, with increased the number of LEDs per foot by about three-and-a-half times. The mall had a promotion recently that brought in local NFL players for an autograph session and used the sign to show images and video of the players. “Now it looks like they have an extension of their television campaign running on the sign in front of the very busy streets that run by the mall.”

And when it comes time to upgrade or replace an old sign, many sign operators are finding creative uses for their old signs instead of just discarding them, Kunze said. Some will place a new unit at the original, busier location and move the older sign to a lower-traffic location that could still benefit from some added attention brought by the old sign. “So there are a couple of things to do with that older technology besides just send it off to the scrapyard.”


In-Window Advertising Displays

Chief editor – Vladimir Krylov, PhD
Deputy chief editor – Michael Nikulichev, PhD

Putting advertising displays behind the windows is a relatively new phenomenon. Naturally, TV displays appeared in shops and trading centers soon after TV was invented. However these were tentative, timid and ineffective attempts. Later advertising displays were linked into networks similar to office computers. Displays also changed drastically: screens grow in size, become thinner (due to LED backlight) and lighter, easier to place in public areas. An altogether new trend was formed: DOOH. Advertising and informational displays became commonplace in hotel lobbies, lift halls, in shopping malls, etc.

Naturally an advertising display must be protected from indefatigable human drive to spoil or steal. For this reason LCD displays are encapsulated in metal protective cases, front panels are covered with shockproof glass, all interface zones are concealed from reach. In secure indoor areas this is fairly easy to ensure. The protective measures lead to some increase in display cost. The experts estimate that the antivandal precautions may result in a 40% cost increment on the average. However these expenses are justified by a longer service life and high advertising prices.

oday when the price of a medium-sized LCD display almost equals the price of a printed poster, LCD advertising displays become much more attractive. No only LCD displays are brighter, more dynamic and attractive. They are also cheaper and long-lasting carriers: digital content is delivered instantaneously and without additional cost. As a result, LCD displays are installed at the ever-increasing pace all around the world cities. The digital networks of the leading advertising operators already count in thousands.

Simultaneously we observe one more important tendency: LCD displays are slowly emerging in the outdoor space. Previously this was not done for one reason: LCD displays are not particularly bright to counteract direct sunshine and image all but disappears. Modern LCD displays are brighter and timidly start venturing outside.

Advertisers are ready to experiment with new outdoor carrier for many reasons. One of them is the permanent on-going battle of municipal authorities the world over with the large outdoor advertising structures and LED displays. As a result of these legal battles city advertising structures started to shrink. A new concept of “street furniture” and “city format” appeared. Naturally, this format ideally fits the traditional static posters. However today a priority is given to developing digital advertising networks. Whatever the case, installing LCD displays outdoor is not common. The main exception is the so called semi-outdoor installations, e.g. public transport stops with interactive informational systems.

A long time ago, some advertising company in Moscow decided to experiment with a new emerging technology and placed a 10 sq. m SMD LED display behind a transparent plastic cover. The project cost was staggering: 300 thousand USD but this was way back in 2004. The experiment was successful. The screen was oriented not to face the sun while the plastic protected SMD display from moisture. The display worked for several years without glitches. But the high price of SMD displays prevented advertisers to expand the network.

The most promising and fast developing trend today are the in-window displays. Hidden behind the window the display is working in relatively comfortable conditions of the indoor space: the window and the façade of the building protects the display from direct sunlight. Thus, the owners of a company (shops, offices or service company) can choose themselves which display to install: LED, LCD or rear-projection. Especially useful are the in-window displays for banks. The displays behind the window are significantly more attractive and informative compared to traditional posters and can advertise numerous bank services and programs all day and night long.

The decisive argument in favour of in-window installation is the simplicity of the process. There is no need to ask permission from city administration, to arrange additional security measures to protect or insure the in-window display. Probably, this is the reason why in-window displays started appearing everywhere. Many advertisers are not satisfied with a simple broadcast of advertising clips. Modern displays are intellectual and frequently have the useful touch-screen function. Indoor touch-screen displays have already become a permanent feature in supermarkets, hotels and office buildings.

It is only natural that the owners of such in-window displays prefer interactive screens in the hope to attract more attention from potential customers. The interactive technology is gradually coming out from indoor into outdoor space. For example, the American credit facility Grow Financial conducted promotion using interactive games in the in-window displays of their office in Tampa (Florida).

The decisive argument in favour of in-window installation is the simplicity of the process. There is no need to ask permission from city administration, to arrange additional security measures to protect or insure the in-window display. Probably, this is the reason why in-window displays started appearing everywhere. Many advertisers are not satisfied with a simple broadcast of advertising clips. Modern displays are intellectual and frequently have the useful touch-screen function. Indoor touch-screen displays have already become a permanent feature in supermarkets, hotels and office buildings.

It is only natural that the owners of such in-window displays prefer interactive screens in the hope to attract more attention from potential customers. The interactive technology is gradually coming out from indoor into outdoor space. For example, the American credit facility Grow Financial conducted promotion using interactive games in the in-window displays of their office in Tampa (Florida).

In the modern world the period between invention and its implementation is getting shorter and shorter. This is exactly what we observe in the streets of different cities when we consider the topic of in-window displays.





Marquee Magic: Marquees Become a Window to Stage and Screen – Morris Performing Arts Center

Morris Performing Arts Center
In another instance of a land marked theater building balancing its modernization against its landmark status is the Morris Performing Arts Center (2,560 seats) which first opened in 1921 in South Bend, IN. Originally built as the Palace Theater it was created as a multi-purpose theater venue that offered everything from live shows to vaudeville acts. After 78 years of being opened, closed and reopened, the Morris, in 1999 entered into a rehabilitation that renovated the entire theater, including its marquee.

After 26 months the renovation was completed and in May of 2000, Dennis J. Andres, came aboard as the new Executive Director to the Morris Performing Arts Center. He had noted at the time that the building no longer had a marquee of any significance. Andres pointed out to his staff, “If we’re going to make it out here, we need to have a marquee that befits the building.” It was decided that in replacing the original marquee, not only did they need a new marquee, but they needed one that could constantly present new messages informing the community about current and upcoming shows and special events.



With a decision to go electronic, the Morris Performing Arts Center selected Daktronics LED displays, using a full color ProAd display (3 feet high x 39 feet long) which had the capability to show pre-recorded video, animations and graphics as part of their overall visual promotion of upcoming theater events. The side panels, left and right of the front marquee were both Galaxy LED displays (3 feet high x 10 feet wide), were both capable of text, graphics and animation promos to the passing public. The screens fit perfectly over the front of the building and can be seen from several blocks away as vehicles and pedestrians approach the Morris, Performing Arts Center.

As for how the marquee is used, Andres noted, “we put a lot of effort into designing the content for our marquees. It’s no different than planning for content on an electronic billboard. You have to learn about the proper use of color, use of animation and what the available viewing time (dwell time) is for vehicles passing by. This allows Andres’s design team to create readable and memorable messages for drivers as they pass the theater marquee.”

“When we first started using our electronic marquee, we thought we would need about ten minutes to put up some messages about our current and upcoming shows. Wrong. Once we started doing this, we discovered it took us about twenty hours a week to program the marquee the way we wanted it. Our marquee is actually three LED screens, the front or center screen which is a video display which allows us to do both still and moving images as well as strobing and twinkling light effects. Then we have the left and right side panels which are also full color, but we’re a bit more constrained with use of graphic effects in what we can put on the side screens.”

In promoting each show, Andres said the message design is influenced by the time of year and any seasonal colors that would help its design. “In presenting these promotions, we always like to have a picture of the performer(s). In doing this, we have at least three types of messages per show; a pre-show pitch, a ‘Show Is Coming’ reminder, and a ‘Don’t Miss’ upcoming show display. There are subtle differences in these message statements, but we don’t want to hammer the public with the same continuous messages all the time. What we do is alternate with several similar, but slightly different messages for each show. If we’re lucky, the best and final message, ‘Sold Out’ will be displayed as soon as it happens.”

Andres pointed out that comparing the Morris’s first six months of last year (when they didn’t have their marquee) and the first six months of this year (after their new electronic marquee was installed), show attendance had increased by at least 60%. “While not all of that attendance increase can be attributed to the marquee, I think that at least half the attendance increase can be attributed to it.”

Story by By Louis M Brill

Digital Display Signage – Touch the Possibilities, Walk the Trend

In an era of digital age, besides formal display advertisements, digital signage has become one of the most attractive forms of advertisement. With digital display signs, interactive components can be instilled and further displayed through LED/LCD screens. Digital signage is also often known as Narrowcast networks. A full out of home advertising, Outdoor LED signs are largely used by businesses with a goal of delivering targeted messages and to specific locations at specific times.

Some of the benefits of digital signage are:

They are used for displaying the features of products and services, for e.g. a lot of restaurants use these for displaying their menu that can be changed frequently.

According to continuous results, sales have gone up for most companies that incorporated scrolling LED signs to their advertising agenda.

It’s a dynamic world and consumers are always looking out for something unique and visually pleasing. Companies that adopt digital signage enjoy an upper edge as compared to their competitors. This is a way to explore new mediums to reach out to customers and launching your message across.

The benefit of brand recall is also overwhelming and this is one of the strong reasons why businesses by and large are adapting to this. It is also time saving that saves the labour intensive printing signs. Digital display signs can be played as long as you want; hence they are cost effective too.

  • Besides customer oriented advantages, they are also used for employee communication that eventually boosts their productivity as well.

Here are some tips to make the best choice while buying Outdoor LED signs:

For signs, light emitting diodes (LED), HID (high intensity discharge) and liquid crystal display (LCD) are commonly used. Items to consider are display’s upfront cost, resolution, operation cost, reliability, and weight.

Always trust a digital software company or a professional LED video displays manufacturer for most effective results.

Various applications are:

  • Facility mapping
  • Event Display
  • Safety alerts
  • Employee communication
  • Welcome messaging
  • Menu boards, schedules and live scoring

Posted By rajnish

LED signs can make your dream come true.

Olive LED Lighting, Inc is the No. 1 LED sign manufacturer of the United States of America.


Marquee Magic: Marquees Become a Window to Stage and Screen – Apollo Theater

The marquee’s original form harkens back to a message reader board with a large back lit white translucent display with changeable black plastic letters that were rearranged for each new program within the theater. Today that can all be done via LED message centers directing the public’s attention to what’s playing inside the theater.

As the theater marquee is evolving into its electronic display counterpart, it presents a visual range including horizontal text message displays, full color graphic display boards and even high definition video screens. Even as some of the older, still existing movie palaces of yesteryear are modernizing their physical facilities, they too are bringing in LED displays to add some hi-tech glitz and glamour to their theater facades. Often these older theaters are land marked with architectural distinction, making them more of a challenge in combining a modern, electronic sign system with a pre-existing historic look, but it has been done as will be discussed within this article. With the ongoing momentum of marquee improvements, we explore several theater venues and their embrace of LED displays to modernize their theaters in how they promote their shows.

New Method To An Old Standard
As film exhibitors build new movie theaters or update older venues, LED-based marquees are becoming a de facto standard for movie theater facades. David Ramirez, Daktronics’s New York City senior account executive pointed out the most obvious advantage in managing an LED theater marquee is the theater staff is no longer required to do marquee display change outs with a ladder and box of plastic letters. Now, with a computer, keyboard and a few mouse clicks, marquees can be updated with new titles and show times to accommodate ongoing program changes.

On a basic level, a typical LED message display system is placed as a horizontal band that wraps around the front of the marquee. Once installed, it offers a monochromatic, text display that presents an ongoing stream of information about film titles, film ratings (PG or R, etc) and sometimes, a movie star’s name. The next step up from a mono display board is a full color screen. “Given the marketing possibilities of full color graphic boards, and that these higher end displays are becoming more affordable to theater owners,” says Ramirez, “they are now able to capitalize on electronic movie marquees that are more visual in their approach to promoting their theater’s current movie titles.”

“By adding color and animation to the marquee, the displays become more effective, more people notice them and hopefully buy more tickets to the shows inside. Theater operators who have these graphic-based displays,” says Ramirez, “find it very easy to update their marquees with special movie theater web sites. Here they can select out appropriate graphics for the movies they want to promote, import those files and transfer the content to their marquees, making it more visually interesting and bringing more business to the theater.”

Apollo Theater
In some instances when an older theater being refurbished has a land mark distinction, it becomes a double bind of two conflicting viewpoints. On one hand the building calls for modernization, which is a necessary obligation in an increasingly competitive entertainment marketplace, but on the other hand it has to be done while conforming to the Landmark Commission’s regulatory guidelines.

Often the landmark committee ruling on the changes will specify that much of the change has to conform to what the building originally looked like. With these guidelines in sight, New York City’s Apollo Theater in Harlem recently embarked on a multimillion dollar refurbishment of its property. This included its façade, and most visibly, its original marquee reader board, which was modernized into an electronic marquee with a very “interesting” look as a solution to the Landmark Commission’s guideline challenge.

Harlem’s Apollo Theater (900 seats) was originally built in 1914 and to this day has a musical heritage that is the cornerstone of American jazz, Rhythm & Blues, comedy and soul music. Over the decades, audiences have seen an endless line up of world-class performers including Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters and Duke Ellington. More recently the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Cosby have come to Apollo’s stage.

During its building refurbishment, the Apollo Theater organization commissioned RULE7MEDIA LLC. (NY, NY) to re-conceptualize and execute a new plan for the marquee and also to plan the marquee’s content creation to promote the Apollo’s ongoing shows. “Our sign strategy included not only bringing on-line a new electronic marquee,” noted RULE7MEDIA president, Rik Willard, “but also installing and operating a series of nine street level plasma screens used to promote the theater’s current and new show offerings to the public.”

“Managing this marquee refurbishment was tricky because the Apollo Theater is both a state landmark and a national landmark, as well as an icon-status destination for tourists from around the world. Having that kind of “image protection” on a building always makes for a challenging project in how you change or update a building feature. The landmark committee provides this building with its special status because of the building’s brand and heritage. At the same time, because of the importance of that heritage, there is always a fear by the landmark commission of how much will that new signage affect the original look of the theater that they’re trying to preserve.”

apollo theater photo: apollo theater 2 bb304a79.jpg

“RULE7MEDIA’s final solution proposed to install an LED message center for a marquee, with a visual look that made it appear as the very sign it was designed to replace.” We selected a full color, 12mm pitch eVidea LED display with three discreet faces, the largest one (24’ x 4’8”) facing the street traffic and two side faces, (both 17’4” x 4’8”), from Multimedia LED Displays (Rancho Cordova, CA), and used it to emulate the marquee’s original look of a white back lit sign face with its plastic letters and horizontal grid lines of the a 1940s theater marquee. The difference of course, was that this electronic marquee no longer required a staff member to approach it with a ladder and a bucket of plastic letters. The other difference is that it’s much brighter and can be seen by more people from further away.”

apollo theater photo: Aretha at the Apollo Theater DSCN2194.jpg

“The issue of course was that because of this retro look of the marquee, it limited how the marquee could be visually presented (no use of graphics, other colors or video) in promoting its upcoming acts. We compensated for that with the installation of the nine plasma screens which were used to modernize the theater’s promotional abilities. Here we installed the plasma screens at the street level in the lobby and vestibule areas. This enabled us to provide a more real time presence of communicating the Apollo Theater’s entertainment programming to the public.”

Willard stated that community reaction to the Apollo Theater marquee has been very favorable. “People who live in the community were previously familiar with the old marquee and when they saw the new one, on the simple level of it just changing its sign face they were able to appreciate the difference and the inherent visual possibilities. Through the use of LED technology, we hope that the community (and the Landmark Commission) will ultimately realize the full potential (color and animation) of how the marquee can be used to increase the theater’s ticket sales and with an improved look that provides more of a quality viewing experience for potential customers.”

By Louis M Brill



LED display technology gets a twist

Micro-LED display304304

U.S. researchers said on Thursday they have found a way to make large-scale flexible display screens that can be stretched to fit the contours of a bus yet are transparent enough so riders can see out windows.

The thin, light screens might be used to make brake light indicators that follow the contours of a car, or health monitors or imaging devices that wrap around a patient like a blanket, said John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose study appears in the journal Science.

He said the large display screens combine the scale and durability of light-emitting diodes, or LED technology, used to make flat, lighted billboards, with the flexibility of screens made using organic — carbon-containing — materials.

“If you look at these giant billboard displays along the road side, those are made out of inorganic light emitting diodes (LEDs). Our feeling is those systems are quite impressive,” Rogers said in a telephone interview.

“The question became is it possible to take that technology and use it in a non-billboard format.”

Rogers said current technology using inorganic materials produces chunky individual LED lights that need to be arranged piecemeal with a robotic arm. Screens made using organic materials can be sprayed or painted onto a film surface, but they are not as bright or durable, he said.

To solve this challenge, researchers built their LEDs on a thin layer of film later dissolved by a chemical and then affixed tiny plastic tabs on two corners to ensure the LEDs did not wash away in the chemical bath.

The team used a special stamping technology to deposit and assemble the inorganic LEDs onto glass, plastic or rubber surfaces. The system works much like a rubber stamp and ink pad, using the LEDs as ink.

“The new approach can lift large numbers of small, thin LEDs from the wafer in one step, and then print them onto a substrate in another step,” Rogers said.

The LEDs can be interconnected and wired with a conventional process used to wire computer chips, he added. And because LEDs can be placed far apart and still provide enough light, the panels and displays can be nearly transparent.

“We can put them on a strip of plastic and make brake lights,” said Rogers, who noted that the project was initially funded in part by Ford Motor Co, which was looking for a way to make brake lights that can follow the contour of a car.

The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy also funded the project.

source :

LED Light Bulbs Are Increasingly Cheaper, Greener And Controllable

LED light bulbs are the longest-lasting and most efficient mass-produced light sources to date. And now, they’re also among the most affordable, with some costing less than $10 per bulb — a drastic drop compared to their recent $50 price tag.

They’ll also do anything an incandescent or compact flourescent bulb can do, and more. Last week, the New York Times published a product review of LED bulbs from six manufacturers, several with features such as dimming, changing colors, and pulsing. Four of the bulbs reviewed can be controlled remotely: using an iPhone or Android app, users can control the brightness and colors of Philips Hue bulbs, and Greenwave Solution bulbs come with an online app that users can program according to their schedules — turning off all the lights at night or when they’re away.

The article’s author lauds the benefits of LED light bulbs, and with good reason. Even in 2012, when the bulbs cost closer to $50 instead of $10, an LED bulb saved consumers about $100 over its lifetime compared to an incandescent bulb. LED bulbs save energy — from manufacture to disposal, an LED bulb uses 5 times less energy than an incandescent one.

And LED bulbs are far more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last longer than both incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, as the NY Times points out:

LEDs last about 25 times as long as incandescents and three times as long as CFLs; we’re talking maybe 25,000 hours of light. Install one today, and you may not own your house, or even live, long enough to see it burn out. (Actually, LED bulbs generally don’t burn out at all; they just get dimmer.) You know how hot incandescent bulbs become. That’s because they convert only 5 to 10 percent of your electricity into light; they waste the rest as heat. LED bulbs are far more efficient. They convert 60 percent of their electricity into light, so they consume far less electricity. You pay less, you pollute less.

LED bulbs have been popular installations in flashlights and Christmas lights for the past few years, but maybe this recent price drop coupled with the high-tech features the bulbs boast of — along with the federal phase-out of some kinds of incandescent bulbs — will help spur more regular household use of LEDs — an important scenario to consider, given that electricity used to power homes, businesses and industry is the highest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. –>By Katie Valentine on Mar 25, 2013

LED signs can make your dream come true.

Olive LED Lighting, Inc is the No. 1 LED sign manufacturer of the United States of America.


What is a Pixel Matrix?

When you first talk about LED displays and signs, you may hear many new terminologies such as pixel, matrix, etc.

Here is the definition of pixel.

pix·el  noun \ˈpik-səl, -ˌsel\

Definition of PIXEL
: any of the small discrete elements that together constitute an image (as on a television or computer screen) (from
In simple layman terms, pixel can be mean a single dot.
more pixel = higher resolution = more detail
The word Matrix is used to refer to the number of pixels (row x column).
Each panel of an LED module is thus referred either by the physical size in metric measurement or technically by its matrix.  For example, our Slim Series has 16 x 16 pixels on each module and a 1 row by 3 column (1 high by 3 wide) will translate into 16 x 48 matrix.
[8 pixel lettering] image above
When trying to get a sign that is appropriate for your business, make sure to consider the following prior to investing:
1. Knowing where you want to mount your sign is the first step.
2. If you need to insert graphic images to an LED sign, get at least 32 or 48 pixel high sign translating to a 2 or 3 module high sign.
3. More modules mean more pixels and more detail you can display overall.
4. LED Signs have many different module sizes, therefore physical size is not the only thing you have to consider.
5. Module type + physical size is best way to find a sign that fits your needs.

The Super Bowl of Signs By Jennifer LeClaire

LED technology ushered in a new era of signage and no where is this evolution more apparent than in the new NFL stadiums unveiled in the past few years. Professional football teams are embracing next-generation video scoreboards as they strive to enhance the total fan experience with more dynamic, interactive displays.

NFL organizations are buying into LED technology, say experts, because it offers brighter displays, better clarity and more vivid colors along with less power usage, lower costs and longer-lasting signs. LED displays can run up to 100,000 hours ­ up to 15 years of football games.

“If the owner decided to replace the displays in the future, then it probably wouldn’t be because they wore out,” says Dave Belding, market business manager for Barco Media, a division of Kennesaw, Ga.-based Barco Projection Systems. “It would be because there is a newer, different technology available.”

The trend toward monstrous, high-tech video displays can be traced back to 1998 when Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium kicked off “BucVision,” two massive scoreboards at each end zone that simultaneously display up to six different images. But Ford Field in Detroit, Reliant Stadium in Houston, Seahawks Stadium in Seattle and Gillette Field in Foxboro, Mass. tasked LED manufacturers to take innovation to new heights in some of the NFL’s newest stadiums.

Soaring in Seattle
Seattle’s Seahawks Stadium features a vertical video board above the north end that is 48’ tall and 42’ wide, an unrivaled aspect ratio among NFL stadiums. In addition to the massive video screen, Seahawks Stadium features four large display screens, 80 flat-screen plasma televisions, and 3,756 miles of cable wiring.

“The sheer size of the display and its proximity to the field offers fans an incredible experience,” says Jack Bailey, project manager for TubeArt, the Seattle-based sign company that developed the display.

Design and installation began in October 2001 and was completed in May 2002. Bailey says the most difficult aspect of the design phase was getting all parties involved in the decision-making process to settle on sign components and sizes, making a relationship with the architects and the team executives vital to the success of the project. Like most large signs, installation was the larger hurdle.

“The challenges came in staging the video units, especially in the north end, because we had to physically get them up to the installation area,” says Bailey. “That slowed us down, but we overcame that obstacle through rigging.”

Monstrous in Massachusetts
Gillette Field in Foxboro, Mass. sports giant state-of-the-art giant screens ­ 48’ x 27’ ­ above both end zones. There are also more than 1,000 monitors distributed throughout the stadium.

But it’s the video displays that run down the sidelines ­ from 20 yard line to 20 yard line ­ that make game time unique in New England, according to Dan Chase, senior project manager for Daktronics, a visual communications company based in Brookings, S.D. “The ribbon boards display one virtual advertisement and some game information,” says Chase. “That’s exciting because instead of fixed signs you now have dynamic movement that attracts attention.”

The design process took two months. Like in Seattle, installation was the larger hurdle. The Daktronics team used a 350-ton crane to bring the equipment into the stadium. “The blind pick at the south end zone was the biggest obstacle,” says Chase. “We had to take 12’ by 30’ sections almost 250-feet into the air and over the side of the stadium using radios and hand signals on cold and windy January days.”

From beginning to end, it was a yearlong project. Chase says he depended heavily on a symbiotic relationship with the architecture firm, HOK Inc., to help deliver the best possible product for the Patriots’ new home.

Ultra-Wide in Houston
In Houston it was a list of firsts. The Texans made its NFL debut in 2002 and the stadium signage was the first sports installation for Barco Media.

The signage is unique because it is ultra-wide. Barco installed two 27’ high by 96’ wide DLite 14 LED displays at the north and south end zones. The displays are configured in a very wide 32:9 ratio and will display two full-resolution, high-definition 16:9 aspect ratio images side-by-side and an ultra-wide 32:9 aspect ratio image.

Clarity was a major concern at Reliant, according to Barco’s Belding. “A lot of the products Reliant looked at had one common problem: When you took a standard video image and spread it out on that large display it was very pixilated,” says Belding. “They wanted to make sure the images were crystal clear when they showed a large image on the display.”

The high-resolution, multi-images were accomplished using Barco’s proprietary D320 image processing system. Belding says this resulted in the “wow factor” for which Texans’ management was looking. The project began in October 2001 and was wrapped up in March 2002.

Daunting Detroit
The Detroit Lions wanted its new lair to feature one of the largest video displays in the league at both end zones, according to Darren Benike, senior project manager for Daktronics. Ford Field has a display package that runs 27’ high and 150’ wide with a 96-foot video screen that can display two 16X9 images. The display can be split into four virtual screens, which allows fans to check in on four different out of town games at the same time.

Benike says it took nearly two months to design the displays for the domed facility, but the real challenge was the installation, which took about two months. “Each end zone consisted of 12 separate sections just for the video display,” says Benike. “Those sections have to fit together perfectly flush vertically, horizontally and on the same plane so that you have no seams because you have to wind up with one final perfect image.”

Since Daktronics did not build the frame, Benike’s team had to adjust its mounting methods to account for variances in the steel. Benike tackled the east end zone first. Putting the displays into place and setting them was a hurdle they overcame with shimming. Benike’s team was prepared for the west end with engineers on hand to take measurements of the steel. “We moved out mounting brackets in-house on each of the cabinets and then sent them back to the field,” says Benicke, noting that this successfully eliminated shimming on the West end.

All four project managers say working with NFL teams is a thrilling, yet challenging experience. “Each team puts a greater importance on different things or want something unique,” says Chase. “That’s both the challenge and the fun part.”