State of the art

AUTHOR: Inavate

Two eight by six metre, outdoor LED screens and an advanced and fully custom-designed media play out system have been provided by Swiss Integrator Visopta at the Schaulager Museum in Switzerland, which houses one of the world's finest private collections of modern art.

The Schaulager Museum located just outside Basel, Switzerland is the permanent home to the Emanuel Hoffman Foundation’s collection of contemporary art. Its name literally translates to show warehouse, reflecting it’s dual roles as an environmentally controlled store for the art and as an exhibition space for special exhibits of the collection’s works.

The collection that forms the heart of the Schaulager currently comprises works and groups of works from over 150 artists. The collection's leading items - by Arp, Dalí, Delaunay, Klee, Ernst or by Belgian expressionists - have long been recognised as modern classics and have their firm place in the history of art.

The exterior of the museum features two large displays above the entrance, which give passers-by and visitors to the museum a taster of the materials stored, and on display, inside. The owners decided at the end of 2006 to replace the existing LED screens with a new solution. After some extensive research they decided upon Lighthouse as their preferred supplier choosing a solution based on the P16 modules. They are a 16mm-pitch product, selected due to a combination of the price-performance point and also because they are available in a special version with the LEDs angled downwards. This makes for a much better viewing angle for people standing close to the screen.

Colour uniformity was also an important factor for the gallery because the screens are displaying works of art that need to be accurately reproduced on display.

Having won the order, Lighthouse approached its local partner Visopta to provide the turn-key installation and Belgian contractor Screen Design to design and build the steelwork. Visopta’s Managing Director Hans-Rudolf Meiller said: “We supplied a complete play-out and display system including video processing for the two screens, which are each 6x8 metres in size. Being mounted over 8 metres off the ground, it was really important that they were the down angled version because no one would have been able to clearly see the content up-close.

The play-out system is based on Medialon, with the content being stored on a HDD. There is also a pair of DVD players for backup. The requirements of the play-out system were to display a range of content of the museum’s choice, including JPEG images, MPEG-2 videos and QuickTime movies. It also had to act as a simple scheduling system, which would automatically switch the displays on and off at the correct time each day. The screens have to go off at night because the museum is sighted in a residential area.”

Due to the complexity of dealing with the different file formats, Visopta worked closely with local Medialon value added reseller Bildflug. “The play-out system had to be almost completely customised to deliver what the client wanted,” said Tobias Waldmeier, MD of Bildflug. “Medialon is powerful enough to contain all the functionality you could want but sometimes it takes a bit of effort to get there.”

The customer requirement was to be able to add different content to a play list for one or both screens very quickly and simply. Bildflug came up with the answer, which was to use three separate Medialon executables. The master system is based on Medialon V4 pro. This tool allows museum staff to choose content from its media store and drag it into a queue for one or other screen in simple chronological order. It is also possible to produce one playlist and then copy it over to both screens. There are two further Medialon licenses in use. Each screen has its own dedicated PC running Medialon V4 lite. Once the master computer has generated a play list, it exports it to both slave computers, freeing itself up to be used for scheduling or generation of new play lists.

An Electrosonic Vector unit handles the scaling and media processing, and two Lighthouse LIPs drive the screens themselves. In order to monitor the performance of the displays Visopta also installed a pair of wireless cameras.