Sky turns to LED to broadcast brand
When Sky moved to a purpose built office and headquarters in the UK it wanted striking visuals to relay internal branding and turned to long-term partner Anna Valley. Anna Mitchell reports.
Last year broadcaster and telecommunications company Sky consolidated a number of separate offices into a purpose built, 3,500 person capacity HQ built at its Osterley, West London campus. One of its priorities was to ensure powerful internal branding and deliver a “wow” factor to its guests. To help it meet that goal Sky drafted in long-term AV integration partner Anna Valley to help it design AV systems for general and shared areas of the building.
“Our scope was to design, supply and install all ‘non-functional’ AV,” explains Anna Valley system designer and project manager Richard Mackie, adding that the brief effectively covered all technology outside of meeting rooms and office spaces.
“Sky knew they wanted strong branding and had a creative vision about how that might look. We came on board to work with them and advise on the technologies available to achieve that,” explains Mackie. “Initially we discussed projection in open areas but I was concerned about the daylight.”
“Sky knew they wanted strong branding and had a creative vision about how that might look. We came on board to work with them and advise on the technologies available to achieve that.”
At this point the conversation shifted to LED. “Sky liked the idea of having an LED screen that wasn’t a big 16:9 display. They were very keen to do something different,” notes Mackie.
The accepted proposal made extensive use of Unilumin’s Uslim 3.9mm LED screen panels. Anna Valley installed a total of 377 units spanning five separate areas and a ticker display around the bottom of a central glass studio.
“Sky have a new set which is basically a glass box that overlooks the atrium so it can be seen live on TV,” explains Mackie. “The main entrance to this is a street, which runs through the building and the main LED elements run along that street.”
At the time of installation Unilumin assisted Anna Valley with custom panels to handle some of the corners the LED installation had to cover. “The installation included different angles – some were 21-degrees, we had 90-degree corners in other places – and Unilumin produced custom panels,” says Mackie. “That enabled me to use Unilumin throughout the building, which is desirable for maintenance and servicing.”
Mackie also notes that the Unilumin LED was an “extremely high quality screen for a fraction of the price of many of its competitors.”
All LED is served by Avolites S8 media servers, with processing handled by NovaStar MCTRL 600 units. Signal extension and conversion is handled by Perle MCR1900-DAC converter chassis and C-1000-S2LC10 converter cards.
The main reception display is made up of fragmented screens of different shapes and sizes. Kramer DVI-D distribution amplifiers were used to split and send signals to the screens. The ticker installation uses a Barco ImagePro II Jr. scaler.
In addition to the reception and ticker installations, displays were placed at the rear entrance; wrapped around a pillar; and deployed in two further locations, one of which uses a similar broken up screen formation as the main reception display but on a smaller scale.
The installation is managed by a Crestron Pro3 control system and 128x128 DigitalMedia matrix.
“The displays show internal branding, up and coming shows and sometimes branding of the show that’s going on in the studio,” says Mackie. “For big events – such as transfer day for football or elections – they’ll put up content such as live countdown clocks, live feeds from the sky news channel or a live feed of a vote as it comes in.”
Sky has an internal graphics team that generates content specifically for the displays.
“Because the screens aren’t normal shaped displays, we’ve provided Sky with a template (or graphics map) in the visual effects program they are using so all the content appears in the right place,” continues Mackie. “It’s worked very well.”
In addition to the vast LED installation, Anna Valley installed 82 LG 60-in displays and created a flexible event space for Sky.
“The brief was for [the events space] to be flexible enough for Sky to turn it into office space when required but due to the amount of bookings it has only been used for events,” says Mackie.
Anna Valley provided a system that allows the room to be used in any configuration. Fixed presets programmed into a BSS Soundweb London BLU-101 configure an audio system – that uses Crown amplifiers and JBL pendant speakers – to suit the room layout selected.
The main screen is made up of 45 panels of 2.5mm LED from Unilumin with LED processing again handled by a NovaStar MCTRL 600 processor.
Three Gerriets Strato projection screens run down the sides of the room with Panasonic projectors firing on to them. “These can be used for repeater screens to the main display, individually or however the user wants,” says Mackie. “It’s a totally flexible space and can even be divided into three separate spaces if required.”
Floor boxes with HDMI, audio and VGA connections enable users to connect devices. In a standard room configuration, the user plugs into a screen via its local floorbox. A Crestron wall-mounted touch panel offers the choice to send content to the local screen, or to all screens. The control system is also Crestron and linked to a Crestron 16x16 matrix switcher.
A Sennheiser ew 300 G3 evolution wireless microphone system is provided and for larger events as well as a mobile rack that provides four DVI, four HDMI, four VGA and SDI inputs as well as scaling using a Barco PDS-902. A Yamaha QL1 audio mixer was also delivered.
The system is simple enough for anyone to walk in and use. For larger events that require the events pack Sky has an in-house AV team on hand. Anna Valley and its rental division are drafted in for complex events.
“This was the reason we designed two systems: one that was very simple and one that was a little more involved,” adds Mackie. “For the complex events we can supply them with sound guys, video guys and additional equipment.”
The installation is impressive and made more so when the timescale Mackie and his team had to implement the project in is taken into account.
“We were brought in to start design work in November 2015 and the installation was due to start in March 2016,” says Mackie. “That was pushed back because the building was still being constructed and handover of the building didn’t happen until the beginning of June. What was initially scoped out to be a four month installation, was completed in one month.”
Despite the tight installation window (and a few sleepless nights) Mackie and his team delivered the installation in time for the immovable deadline in August when Sky’s old office lease ended and its staff moved to their new home.
BSS Soundweb London BLU conferencing processor and DSP chassis
Crown DriveCore Install series amplifiers
JBL Control loudspeakers and subs
Sennheiser ew 300 G3 evolution wireless series
Yamaha QL1 audio mixer
Avolites S8 media servers
Barco ImagePro II Jr. scaler, PDS-902 vision mixer
Crestron touchpanel, 16x16 and 128x128 DM matrices, Pro3 control system
Extron WPC 220 A EU wallplate
Gerriets Strato projection screens
Kramer DVI distribution amplifiers and rack mount
NovaStar MCTRL 600 processors
Panasonic PT-R7670 projectors
Perle media converter chassis and converter cards
Unilumin Uslim 3 3.9mm and 2.5mm Ulite LED panels
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