3trees Church in Kentucky had a problem.
Senior Pastor Eric Gilbert was already rushing to drive to each of the congregation’s three locations — in Campbellsville, Columbia and Russell Springs — on Sunday mornings to lead services in person. Meeting the congregation’s request for additional services didn’t seem realistic.
But the church found a method that would allow the pastor to be at multiple places at once: It decided to use HD projectors to broadcast the pastor on video walls at the sites when he could not be there physically.
“We knew that no matter what technology was introduced, it would be meaningless to anyone attending our services if the image displayed at the remote campuses looked horrible,” explains Jaron Burkhardt, the church’s worship pastor and technical director. “We had to find a solution that would allow us to add immersive, HD-quality video that also fit the budget of a church.”
Cost, image quality and convenience ultimately convinced 3trees to incorporate projectors.
Each location now has a 12000-lumen, WUXGA-resolution Epson Pro L1505UH projector that’s used to show what Burkhardt calls “boots-to-beard shots” of the pastor that make him appear larger than life.
“It looks like he is standing right there on the stage,” he says. “We wanted to have a really large screen in the middle, so it’s close to the same size as normal. Instead of being 6 feet tall, the pastor is 7 1/2 feet tall.”
Smaller projectors — 6000- and 8000-lumen Epson Pro L1100Us — are used to broadcast video to two 9-foot-wide side screens on either side of the stage to provide a more dynamic viewing experience.
“Now each campus is getting to see the pastor,” Burkhardt says. “We’ve learned that anyone more than 60 feet away from the stage needs those side screens. That image is shot so you can see the speaker’s facial expressions and get all nonverbal communication.”
Video Walls Drive Customer Engagement
From broadcasting entertainment to branding and increasing customer engagement, modern organizations are using digital signage for much more than just traditional advertising.
With the exception of outdoor and touch-enabled displays, businesses anticipate they’ll add more video walls than any other type of digital screen within the next two years, according to a Digital Signage Today report. Businesses most often use digital signage to convey brand messaging and marketing, enhance customer experiences, and to share product information, the report notes.
When video walls came into existence in the early ’80s, they were based on cathode-ray tube technology. Over the years, the displays’ processors have become more sophisticated, helping to fuel interest, according to Venkata Krishnan Seshadri, senior industry analyst at Technavio.
Video was the perfect way to get 3trees Church’s pastor in front of more congregants on Sundays, says Jaron Burkhardt, the church’s Worship Pastor and Technical Director.
“The clarity and ultra-high resolution for large images enables the content to be visible at a distance,” Seshadri says. “Video walls can be used as a billboard, or to display product information, demonstrations or announcements, or they can be used at various live events and much more. Businesses use video walls to attract customers and for brand reinforcement — the high-quality visuals appeal to the audience.”
As a result, following several years of steady growth, the digital signage market — which encompasses video walls, projectors and other types of display technology — is predicted to rise from $18.55 billion to more than $31 billion by 2025, according to a May 2019 Grand View Research report.
Beyond just providing information, some businesses are starting to use video displays to deliver immersive and interactive experiences as near-field communication and other functionality have begun appearing in new products.
“Interactive content can provide an immersive experience, and with thin-bezel and lightweight versions, brands will adopt creative ways to use video walls,” Seshadri says. “With growing applications, their popularity is expected to increase in the near future.”
Video Enables Immersive Experiences
Electronics retailer B&H Photo Video was impressed enough with the ability of video walls to deliver immersive experiences that it is using one at its Manhattan store in New York City to show customers what it’s like to fly drones, replacing the cage it had been using for actual test flights, says Senior Technologist Mark Steinberg. The NEC wall’s 1920x1080 native resolution provides a bright, realistic picture that’s helped B&H showcase drone uses in a more effective way, Steinberg says, than it could have before.
“It’s almost like standing in front of a big picture window,” he says. “Customers really do connect to it in a way that feels safe. In a drone cage, you can have something coming right at you, and that can be a little unnerving.”
In addition to providing a virtual experience, the wow factor of large digital displays can help businesses direct attention toward specific product areas, instructional information or other elements, and may help further public relations and marketing efforts.
“You want to grab any eyeball as soon as you can, because you’re trying to get people to act based on the content you’re showing them,” says Jerry Harris, senior director of creative services at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. “One 45-inch screen 30 feet away doesn’t really do it, but a 30-foot-by-30-foot video wall grabs your attention.”
The aquarium installed a video wall when it needed to relocate animals from a large tank in its front entrance area due to construction. More than two dozen 55-inch LG HD displays were joined using a custom-made frame and situated in the drained and cleaned tank, playing prerecorded footage of tropical fish in their natural habitat on a continuous loop.
“We ended up adding screens to replace the live animals so we could maintain a level of quality, from a visual standpoint, and not just have large acrylic windows with nothing in them,” Harris says. “People were taking pictures and putting them on Facebook. When people tweet or send Snapchats, you hope somebody says, ‘Oh that's cool, let’s go see it.’”
Jaron Burkhardt Worship Pastor and Technical Director, 3trees Church
Get Flexibility With Modular Video Walls
Video wall displays can provide a number of benefits when properly positioned. A video wall’s size can be increased fairly easily by adding panels. Minimal hardware and software are often needed to run the system. Image integration in a video wall at the Manhattan location of B&H Photo Video, for example, is handled by embedded software, and users can often change a video wall’s configuration or resolution using a laptop. Video footage can be fed to the screens via a media player or flash drive.
One thing to bear in mind is that because their circuitry needs air circulating around it, video walls may not be well-suited for dusty or smoky areas. Constant vibration from heavy machinery, which might loosen the mounts, could be problematic as well.
Video walls can also be more versatile than some other display technologies because the components can be broken up and repurposed. After construction of its large entrance display was completed, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta broke it up and converted it into a set of smaller video walls deployed throughout the facility to share information about what’s happening in specific spaces.
The modular approach also has maintenance benefits.
“It’s very practical,” B&H Senior Technologist Mark Steinberg says. “If somebody walks by with keys in their pocket and it’s scratched, if someone leans against it and cracks the screen or if you have a power surge or it’s struck by lightning and you have a defective panel, instead of losing the entire monitor, you just have to replace one panel.”