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Video Take 5 – Video Panel Tips

Posted on June 2, 2014
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Going to InfoComm?  In all likelihood, you’re going to see a lot of LED video panels, including (we sincerely hope) the exciting new offerings from CHAUVET Professional. If 60 is the new 40 and plaids are the new black, then LED video panels may well be considered the “new moving heads” in the sense that they seem to be everywhere today.

From concerts to corporate events, churches to clubs… and every application in between, video walls are assuming a prominent place in lighting designs. Everyone is using LED video walls, but since the technology behind these products is so new, almost everyone also has a lot of questions about them.

Ford Sellers is familiar with these questions. As Senior Product Manager at CHAUVET Professional, he hears them quite often. So, to help get you ready for InfoComm, Ford shared the five most basic tips you can know about choosing, using and excelling with LED video panels. Here’s Ford’s advice:

1. Match The Panel With The Project — The best way to make sure that your video looks good, is to select the proper gear for your application.  Pixel pitch is one of the most critical concepts to understand when matching a panel with a project.  In essence, pixel pitch is the distance between pixels measured in millimeters.  So, if you have panels like the CHAUVET Professional MVP TA 8, the LED emitters on your panel are about  8mm apart, giving it a pixel pitch of 8 or 8P.

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A pixel pitch rating is like PAR in golf; the lower the number, the better. Panels with lower pixel pitch numbers can be viewed from a closer distance without looking pixelated.  A little known – but very useful – fact is that if you take your pixel pitch, and use meters, instead of millimeters, you will have your minimum ideal viewing distance.  So the PVP S5 from CHAUVET Professional, which has a pixel pitch of about 5.2 mm, has an ideal viewing distance of about 17’ or more when you’re showing detailed information, like text or hi-resolution graphics.  Whereas a pixel pitch of 25mm (like in the ÉPIX 2.0, products) is only appropriate for these hi-res graphics if seen from a distance of 82’ or more!  A product like this is much better suited to motion graphics, and bold, geometric shapes.

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However, if your gear is going to be hung 40’ in the air, at the back of a 60’ deep stage… 25P video products are going to be more than adequate to make sure that your entire audience can see all of your content clearly. So, bottom line: think of how far the closest person in the audience is going to be from your video panels and how detailed the images you’re going to show will be, and then use this information to select a panel with the ideal pixel pitch without over or under buying.

2.  Know Your NITs — Along with pixel pitch, the NIT value is a critical number to know when determining which panel is best for a particular job. A NIT is a measure of how bright your video wall is.  For most users, the most useful information here is that for indoor applications, a NIT value of 1200-1500 NITs is more than enough in these cases.  This NIT level may even seem bright in dark areas, such as some churches.  If you are using a video wall for outdoor events, you will need to compete with a lot more ambient light  -like the ultimate effect  – also known as the SUN!  This means that a NIT value of 4,500 or higher is generally preferred so your video wall will be noticed.  As a frame of reference, many big concert tours use video panels with 1400 NITs or lower.  This allows them to balance the brightness of their video content with the rest of the lighting on-stage.

3. Control Is Critical — When it comes to generating a professional presentation, what you are using to send the video to your walls is almost as important as the panels themselves.  For instance, you can have the coolest video clips, filmed at the highest resolution…but if you have not thought about how you are going to switch between them, you will have a very choppy and unprofessional looking show.

There are two options here.  One is to use a video switcher/scaler, like the VIP 5162.  This allows you to scale the content to your screens, and to do professional transitions between several different video sources, like live cameras, a satellite feed, prerecorded video clips, and a PowerPoint presentation.  This is a great option for professional A/V and corporate theatre presentations, as well as studio work.

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The other option is to use a media server, or software like ArKaos Media Master to put together a high impact show.  This is preferable if you are doing a lot of live video mixing, or want to use a lighting console to trigger your content.  Software like this allows you to scale, and mix video content, run several layers of video and effects over each other, and really opens up a lot of options.  Plus, media servers and software solutions generally come with Gigabytes of content, ready to go right into your show.

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4. Look At The “Lighter” Side —  Remember, in most cases you’ll be using LED video panels as part of a LIGHTING RIG. So, get creative, think outside the box and use your panels in different ways as lighting fixtures. You’ll add a lot of extra impact to your show when you do.  For example, LED video panels like our MVP and PVP series products are incredibly bright, so take advantage of this asset to surprise your audience and use these panels to create a solid color to flood the room.  You can also do things like use an I-mag video (live camera shots of what is happening on-stage) interspersed with colorful graphics to create a surprising effect. Or how about syncing video panels with strobes? The sky is the limit, and the impact you can make is as wide and colorful as your imagination.

5. Content Is King — In real estate, it’s “Location, Location, Location.”  In video, it’s “Content, Content, Content.” Your video wall is only as good as the content that you show on it.  And matching the content to the hardware is critical.  For instance, if you have video panels with a pixel pitch of 25 or higher, using low resolution, high contrast content will give you a lot of visual impact.  A video wall like this is best suited to motion graphics, bold sweeps of color, and is more of a blunt instrument than fine tool.

You’ll be fine when you do this, but don’t try to show fine text on walls with a high pixel pitch; this will only make your content look poor, unless you have these positioned very, very  far from your audience.  However, if you have hi resolution panels, like P8 or tighter, this opens the door to showing more detailed content.

Speaking of content – it’s extremely important to get your video content in the highest resolution possible.  If you have a beautiful presentation with lots of hi-res photographs, and live video…then you go and insert a 400×400 resolution YouTube video in it, that video will look terrible in comparison.  Always think of your video presentation as a whole, not just a collection of clips.   This is how your audience will see your presentation – and reaching the audience is what video is all about.

If you’re at InfoComm and have questions about video panels and how to match the right panel with the right job, please drop by our booth. We’ll be happy to help!