Gail Chiasson, North American Editor
Christie and Obscura Digital have installed a striking panoramic display of 160 Christie MicroTiles installed in the lobby of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) headquarters.
The SFPUC Digital Arts Wall is a seamless curved digital canvas that provides an interactive educational experience for the public and an infrastructure for new content to be continually updated. Measuring 4 ft. tall and 58 feett. long with a native resolution of 62 million pixels, the 4-units tall by 40-units long Christie MicroTiles video wall displays high‐resolution data and graphic visualizations – including the unfolding history of the SFPUC, an interactive platform that includes real-time news and ambient music.
“We needed to create something that would be beautiful and stand up over time in terms of resolution and technology, and also create something that could be updated easily by the SFPUC,” says Nathan Houchin, technical director, Obscura Digital. “So we created a custom content management program for them where they can upload new information very effectively and efficiently via their communications department.”
“Our goal was an interactive educational experience that could excite both young and old alike,” says Tyrone Jue, director of communications, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “We wanted a flexible and innovative platform that could connect people to the past and future story of our water, power and sewer systems. We looked at several different display technologies for this project. We eventually settled on Christie MicroTiles because of the minimal seams left between each tile, ease of installation with our curved wall, and excellent image contrast and brightness.”
For the MicroTiles curved wall, Obscura Digital designed and engineered four customized interactive experiences with motion responsive visuals and sound effects including: ‘Snowfall to Outfall’, ‘Media Stream’, ‘Dashboard’, and ‘Interactive Art Mode’. Each presentation provides an educational and entertaining platform for SFPUC employees and visitors to learn more about the history, art, current issues and goals of the SFPUC.
“We worked with rp Visual Solutions and they helped us design and build a superstructure pedestal that the Christie MicroTiles sit on,” says Houchin. “Due to the sequence of construction, we were required to install the pedestal three months before the MicroTiles installation and it got framed around the MicroTiles. Everything was very, very tight so checking tolerances and double-checking that everything was on spec was critical. With the ultramodern look and feel of the wall, there was no room for error.”
Illustrating the importance of the entire water system, and the PUC’s place within it, is a diorama created by a local artist depicting the key elements of the city’s water system. Through an agreement with the San Francisco Arts Commission, artwork done by local artists is displayed on a revolving basis, turning the display wall into a constantly changing digital canvas.
“The city of San Francisco is lucky to have such clean and healthy drinking water,” says Houchin. “The SFPUC does a good job of being stewards of this vital system that’s so important to the vitality of the Bay Area and the panorama shows all the types of infrastructure that are necessary to make this sort of water system work. Water doesn’t come from a tap first; this (MicroTiles) display helps people make that connection.”
Houchin’s team was given a strict energy budget they couldn’t exceed for the display wall and its custom playback system.
“We did look at other display technologies – projection and other modular displays – but we calculated that if we ran the Christie MicroTiles wall for a certain amount during the day, we could stay within the energy budget,” Houchin says.
“We chose Christie MicroTiles because we didn’t want to sacrifice resolution or be concerned about off-axis viewing and serviceability. An additional benefit of using MicroTiles to help achieve LEED Platinum certification is that the product has no consumables,” says Houchin. “Everything can be recycled and we wanted something that produced the least amount of waste possible. We can sell the Christie MicroTiles’ sustainability to our clients. This display is a really neat crossroads of institutional and public space and how we can use technology to entertain and educate. It’s a showcase piece for us and we really worked hard to make it shine and make it something Obscura and the city of San Francisco is proud of.”
Kue says, “Our digital arts wall is an artistic and technological masterpiece fitting of the nation’s greenest office building. It serves as a major focal point for the entire building and always leaves our visitors amazed. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. This digital video wall is worth at least 10,000 words on a bad day.”