The great (video) wall

Steve Montgomery uncovers rapidly growing demand for videowall mounting solutions driven by narrow bezels and increasingly efficient processing electronics for creating multi display walls from flat panels.

As flat panel displays become ever cheaper, larger and brighter their appeal to end users for use in large video walls increases. Manufacturers have responded by decreasing, and in some cases eliminating bezels around the display modules, to enable uninterrupted screens to be created.

Video processing and image splitting circuits and signal buffering has been integrated within the units to greatly simplify installation and set up, thereby minimising the need for additional equipment. It is now possible to construct a video wall of significant size with no more than the screens themselves and a handful of cables.

As a consequence, the demands on mounting bracketry have escalated: in terms of installation flexibility, cost, maintenance access and safety. Installers now have three viable choices when specifying a video wall. They can elect to design and manufacture a framework themselves from an independent sheet metal worker; use a modular system from a specialist supplier or commission a bespoke unit, again from a specialist supplier.

Robin Newbury, of system integrator Tecknowledge provides an installer’s perspective: “We have looked at all the main mounting systems to find the best one for our customers. The key features are that it must provide good ongoing maintenance access so that cable connection ports can be reached and full units removed and replaced easily, even when working at height. It is also critical that there is very fine mounting adjustment in all mounting planes so that we can ensure every screen in a video wall is level and the whole surface is perfectly flat even when the mounting wall is not true. This makes a significant difference to the overall picture quality.”

Speed of installation is an important feature. “There are two elements: what the installer needs and what the end user wants,” says Simon Pilcher, general manager of B-Tech.

“The common requirement is for a high-quality, reliable and secure product, which offers value for money. The installer’s primary desire is for a product that is quick and easy to install, whilst end users need an installation that is aesthetically pleasing.”

“Most end users often want to provide their video wall at the very best pricing,” explains Gordon Dutch of Peerless.

“However if the end user has been shown the issues relating to a difficult to install in terms of higher cost and poor finish and a non-serviceable mount then we have found nine times of out ten they will use the higher end and serviceable mount.”

Safety, reliability and security issues are paramount to any heavy installation exposed to the public. Systems from reputable suppliers are designed to meet TUV and UL safety testing. Scalability and flexibility of installation are other factors that influence the choice of system as walls are used more creatively in formats that are not simply the equivalent of large TVs.

In many cases end users want to expand the wall after initial installation and a modular system allows this. Bespoke designs, on the other hand can prevent simple addition of modules without major retrofit works.

Sofia Lindestad, marketing co-ordinator for SMS Smart Media Solutions explains their approach: “Our most advanced model is SMS Multi Display Wall+, a premium solution that makes building a video wall simple. The specifier chooses any number of modules depending on the amount of screens required. Each module is supplied as a complete package with all necessary components, and can be set up in easy steps. The solution makes it easy to place the screens exactly in line and allows edge-to-edge mounting for a perfect result. A push-release function gives easy access for service or exchange while all other screens remain in operation; the only thing the installer has to do is to press the screen forward – and it will pop out by itself.”

Very often, the mounting framework will be installed into a building during its construction where it is not viable to complete the whole installation at that stage. Installers need to have confidence in the system that they can return when the building is being furbished and install the screens to a mounting framework that was positioned perhaps weeks, if not months before.

Installers often stay loyal to a particular manufacturer for several years once that confidence is gained, returning to them and using their products repeatedly. A new entrant to the mounting supply industry, Oramatek, has actually been manufacturing product for several years, supplied through other companies and its products are already deployed in a large number of retail, museum and corporate installations.

Incorporating features that have been developed over this time, they have also introduced some unique concepts, the latest of which is heat management for high brightness displays:

“This is a new idea,” says Brian Easton, managing director. “It includes a ventilation duct system to keep intake and extraction air paths separate and provides efficient heat dissipation by preventing re-circulation of warm air through screens as the exhaust air rises by convection. High brightness displays consume more power and so produce more heat with a resultant increase in thermal management problems which affect the wall’s reliability and longevity. This feature delivers measurable ROI in terms of less down time.”

All installers appreciate attention to detail that is inherent in the design of well-thought out mounting solutions. Most installations have severe space and access limitations and the benefits of a proven system are enormous.

”Installing a video wall can be a complex task where hardware, software, cabling and wall structure all play an equally important factor in bringing a video wall installation to a successful conclusion,” insists Melinda von Horvath, of Chief.

”Fusion video wall mounts offer speedy installation, easy display alignment and quick servicing. The mounts extend out by 178 mm for access and servicing in hard to reach installations of all modules and provide sufficient space behind for media players, cables and video equipment. ControlZone levelling provides post installation adjustment for perfect alignment and with Centerless post-installation lateral shift to slide the screens together, installation is even faster. Chief’s Videowall solutions truly have proven track record. The solution has been shipping over 18 months with multiple case studies and success stories to back up the features.”

A very simple solution is adopted by Vogels based on extended normal wall mounts. “This is a big hit that is very cost effective,” says Wim Arts, marketing manager for Vogels.

“A few modular components comprising, different lengths of wall bars in combination with just one length of display mounting strips, makes any combination possible. Installation is a matter of mounting basic wall plates across the wall length, mounting the display mounting strips and hanging the displays. The special service position makes it easy to connect cables after installation and allows individual displays to be removed for maintenance or replacement.”

The vast range of monitors of different sizes, depths and bezel sizes can be a complication to both installers and manufacturers alike. A further complication exists in the adoption of the VESA mounting system. Whilst this specifies several different standard spacing dimensions for mounting points on the rear of monitors, it does not stipulate which size to use for a specific display size; or even that the mount must be dead-central to the display. As a consequence different manufacturers employ different VESA sizes on the same size of monitor.

This is overcome by most suppliers by the adoption of universal mounts in which the fixing points within the framework can be moved to match the display. This means that standard systems have been developed by most manufacturers that will accommodate nearly all displays and installation scenarios. However there will always be some cases where these cannot be used and bespoke solutions are required.

“The original design of our modular system means that we can make small modifications to meet the handful of installations that cannot be fulfilled directly. These generally tend to be related to IP environmental requirements,” explains Robert Seward, marketing director of Unicol.

“They can also be adjusted and strengthened to meet the changing dynamics of different installation locations such as ceiling suspension, trolley-mounting and large modules to simplify rebuilding on multilocation presentations.”

Audipack offers a new video wall system to creates a video wall in any configuration in a very short time. Quick installation and easy maintenance access for the screens up to 65” are the standard features of this system. The system is based on wall mounted back plates with separate mounting heads. The retractable mounting heads are easily  mounted on the back plates. The screens can be easily installed on the mounting heads.

Audipack provides custom made video wall frames. The frames are custom made according the used brand and type of screens. Custom made for any configuration. The screens are quickly and directly installed on to the frame. These frames can be installed direct on the wall or even on a lift system.

Erard Pro uses a mixture of materials in their production, as Chloé Éleouet explains: “Our video wall is, custom made on customer request using an aluminium frame for lightness and steel fixing system for security. Screws allow micrometric adjustment of the screens for a perfect alignment and can accommodate 2 to 50 screens of 20’’ to 60’’.”

Whilst access for maintenance is important it is not perhaps as critical as often thought, as Robert Seward points out: “The benefit of being able to pop out an individual panel for replacement whilst a video wall is running may be high to a control room display running 24 hours a day, but it is not so necessary for the majority of advertising and information displays where there is usually a little more time to work on the screen.”

And as Simon Woods, marketing manager of Top- Tec points out, “the concertina method of access to individual displays does not always work effectively. As a display is pulled out the ones above it may drop slightly making it impossible, or at very least very difficult to return it back into position.”

An aspect of customisation that is relevant is in fitting video walls to abstract and non-flat surfaces as Simon Woods highlights: “A lot of bespoke design is in finish or bracing for particular environments, however our design teams often work closely and directly with architects to design mounts for installation of walls on curved or hexagonal walls; so that the display becomes a part of the actual building environment. Standard modules will cause the displays to jut out from the surface of the wall and architects usually want a more sublime effect with a smooth curve and minimal gaps. With local design and manufacture we can offer fast and competitive solutions in these instances.”

The choice and design of a mounting system is fundamental to any video wall installation and can make or break any project. Fortunately manufacturers are meeting the needs and challenges of the users with products that are keeping pace with the rapid advances and falling prices in the display market to ensure successful completion of projects and making the whole design and installation process run more smoothly, to the benefit of all concerned.

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