On a sprawling 4,200 acres of land in Starkville, Mississippi, sits Mississippi State University,
a doctoral-degree-granting university established in 1862 and today considered among one of the top 100 universities in the United States. Comprised of more than 70 academic and research buildings and 15 residential Halls, MSU opened the newest of the latter, South Hall, in 2010 and with that sought to continue its mission to integrate leading edge-technology throughout the campus. In keeping with that goal, MSU’s Department of Housing & Residence Life working with integration firm, Quantum Technologies Inc., commissioned the installation of Planar’s Clarity Matrix LCD Video Wall System, for South Hall’s two-story lobby.
“[There was] the desire to have something that was especially new and exciting in our newest residence hall,” says Fred Mock, MSU’s associate director for facilities and maintenance. “Something that the hall staff could use to host movie nights, watch sporting events and important news events, to help bring the community together in the hall.”
Easy to Operate Mandate
Needing a video wall system that could be easily operated with little training and minimal outside assistance, the hall staff evaluated several video wall technologies before selecting Planar’s Clarity Matrix System. Using 16 Clarity Matrix LCD panels, each 46 inches in size, the video wall system provides a total screen size of nearly 120 square feet in a four-by-four panel configuration, making it visible from the lobby’s two levels. Achieving a virtual seamless image area thanks to its tiling design (panel-to-panel gap is a miniscule 7.3 millimeters), the Clarity System features 700 nits of brightness, a 3,000:1 contrast ratio, 1366 X 768 resolution, support for 16.7 million colors, 50,000-hour back-light, and redundant power supplies and controllers that supports continuous operation if either pair of devices fails.
“Generally what we look at when installing a Planar video wall is ‘will this wall support this piece of equipment’” explains Joe Law, sales engineer for Quantum Technologies, which is based in Huntsville, Alabama. “With the larger wall that is installed at Mississippi State that is one of the key things, the infrastructure. And, of course, you have to have access to the infrastructure as far as the wiring and stuff goes. For a two-story installation that can get tough because you have supporting walls from floor to floor.”
Before tackling projects of this nature and size, Law notes the importance of the initial design phase noting that often the construction of a sub-frame or other kind of strong wall support is necessary to sustain the weight of such a large video wall system. “When you install a wall like this one at MSU it has to look perfect,” Law says. “It has to look seamless. There’s a lot of adjusting and a lot of time adjusting built into the video wall. That can be a challenge if, for some reason, the mounting structure wasn’t level, for example; that can also pose a challenge to the installation project.”
Using Planar’s unique EasyAxis Mounting System, which allows for total-alignment control and service access to panels in both landscape and portrait orientation, the integration team was able to make adjustments by tilting any given LCD panel up and out to access the panel below. The EasyAxis feature also made it possible to mount the Clarity Matrix close to South Hall’s lobby wall, extending just 4.5 inches to match the clean, streamlined look of the lobby.
Getting the Signal
“As far as the screens themselves, they all carry information over a couple of Cat5 wires,” Law explains. “But generally what we do is install a control processor, whether it be AMX or Crestron, to control the wall, then of course, for each set of four panels you have a video processor to process the image on each panel so that you can project either one large image or several small images, and they all link and understand each other.”
For this installation, Clarity Matrix off-board component design, controllers and power supplies were mounted in racks away from the video wall for easy access, a feature Planar notes reduces the cost of installation because power outlets are not required behind the wall. This design feature also minimizes the heat build-up that can damage and cripple the LCD panels in the future.
“Think through all of the possibilities of your company use, of your daily activities, and you can probably make portions of this wall work for your purposes” Law advises. “Also, make sure you have the right infrastructure and the appropriate size room for what you are trying to accomplish. You will need an adjacent or another room close by for the servers, so the aesthetics are kept clean.”