2012 Best Government Deployment: Digital Signage 


Project: Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Marquee and Video Wall
Client: Massachusetts Convention Center Authority
Submitted by: Sensory Interactive
Also contributing: Daktronics, Utile

Brief overview of the project/technology:

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority sought the development and deployment of an LED video display system at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC). The plan defined two displays – an exterior marquee and interior video wall – which addressed issues such as the role of the elements in event promotion, their impact on the community, and their revenue-generating ability.

Both elements use a combination of high-resolution LED video displays and 16mm LED video sticks. The high-resolution displays present photographs, full-motion video, and text, while the lower-resolution sticks provide support by featuring larger-format text and less-detailed graphics designed to be viewed from a greater distance.

The three sided exterior marquee, more than 75 feet tall and 40 feet across, is visible from nearly a half-mile away. It creates a beacon for the facility, able to deliver information to a large audience. The stick format allowed the design team to leave two-inch gaps between the vertical sticks, giving the display a partially transparent appearance. This allows the tower’s unique support structure, which is lit with LED fixtures, to become part of the experience.

The 160 foot long video wall in the lobby uses a similar combination of 10mm LED video displays and 16mm video sticks - in this case engaging viewers and directing their attention to the detailed information on the central display. A unique aspect of the video wall is the graduated placement of the sticks. As they move away from the center of the display, their spacing gradually increases, the outmost sticks more than six inches apart. This design approach provided a unique architectural quality, particularly when viewed from great distances.

Operational in August 2011, response to the displays has been overwhelmingly positive citing, among other things, a new vibrancy to the area and excitement by visitors. 

Objectives of the deployment or the technology:

The BCEC is considered to be one of - if not the most - technologically advanced convention center in the country. Ten years ago, during the initial design and construction of the building, there were plans for two displays. One exterior to provide a variety of services including community, event support, and revenue generation, and one interior to provide a new and exciting means for events in the building to promote themselves and create wayfinding. Budget and time pressures – and a sense that the essential LED technology was not sufficiently advanced – resulted in these features being dropped from the building's program.  Two years ago, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority approached Sensory Interactive for guidance on the technological issues associated with the deployment of those two LED video display system at the BCEC; technologies had changed significantly, and there were many more options available to create the high impact displays sought by the Authority.
The original exterior design called for several smaller screens integrated into an architecturally designed glass tower. The original indoor designs called for a solid screen over 150 feet in length. After careful research, Sensory Interactive and Daktronics put together a plan utilizing several technologies from Daktronics in each of the displays. Using both high and low definition elements in concert would allow for large, impactful displays while achieving budget objectives. The solution to creating a truly architecturally integrated exterior display was to use high definition elements to convey a message, and low definition elements to direct a viewer’s attention. Together with a unique, structural steel support structure, these displays constitute a single, high-profile 75 foot tall display. The interior video wall transformed into a 160 foot long installation with the ability to captivate with full motion graphics the entire width of the lobby, making vinyl trade show banners a thing of the past.

Results achieved relative to the objectives:

The marquee runs meaningful content from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM every day; since February 2012 it has become a fixture in the South Boston area. It has become a vehicle for event promotion, community outreach, one-of-a-kind arts programs, and national advertising campaigns. Events get to see their logos and taglines 75 feet tall, providing a buzz and a sense of pride experienced nowhere else in the country. 
Community events have become a vital aspect of operation; those posted on the display almost inevitably see an increase in support or attendance. The nearby Fort Point neighborhood, home to many artists, holds several annual Open Studios events.  This community reported that their attendance numbers were the highest they had been in 30 years after the MCCA promoted the event on the marquee. The new “Art on the Marquee” program in conjunction with Boston Cyber Arts will transform the marquee into a virtual gallery with pieces specifically commissioned by the MCCA by well-known digital artists, such as Jeffu Warmouth, and Nell Breyer, as well as work by up and coming artists, giving them a truly unique opportunity to showcase their work. 
Orange Barrel Media has been working tirelessly to bring national ad campaigns to the marquee including Jet Blue and AT&T and has received many additional inquiries from excited advertisers. The line of brands seems endless.
The video wall has become a boon for the events that occupy the exhibition halls and the ballroom. Running for as long as a show requires, the possibilities of the video wall far exceeds a lobby full of static banners. The dynamic nature of the video wall provides a level of customer interaction that is a first in the trade show industry. No other convention center in the country provides an event with the ability to welcome their guests, provide them with useful information, and even include sponsorships in one exciting, limitless package.

Size and geographic location(s) of the deployment:

The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center is located in the center of Boston’s new emerging Innovation District, an area that is experiencing a construction boom. The BCEC provided one of the sparks igniting the area’s renaissance. The marquee and video wall symbolize the spirit of innovation in the area. The 75 foot by 40 foot towering structure of the marquee is in use all day, every day. From 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM engaging content fills the screen, from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM the marquee is animated with a picturesque night scene of Boston with the moon traveling the night sky.
Typically, the 160 foot long by 12 foot high video wall in the north lobby is used for events that use the 500,000 sq. ft. exhibition hall or the ballroom that overlooks the skyline of Boston. The attention and excitement it brings to the events in the space is unparalleled in the convention center industry. Event attendees get information about their events and events in the surrounding community. It brings a sense of buzz and excitement that could never be achieved by one of the traditional vinyl banners typical in the industry. Tradeshow managers and event planners are consistently amazed at how it can take their event to the next level. In the evening, the entire face of the building glows with its light creating a dynamic environment for all of South Boston to enjoy.

Larry Zoll (center) and Randy Byrd (right), accept the award on behalf of Sensory Interactive from Jennifer Nye, DSA EVP - Digital Signage.

Selected judges’ comments:
  • A clever combination of high- and low-resolution technologies that looks right at home in its architectural setting and complements the structure's use of light very attractively.
  • The design, graphics and messages appear compelling. The results must have had executives kicking themselves for not doing it much sooner.
  • Very nice implementation. The video wall over the exit draws your eye and invites your attention. The outdoor deployment is also well done.
  • Very well planned and executed; the different displays were designed and installed creating a real showcase while performing well.
  • Wow…the addition of media to the convention center environment has emerged slowly as an application, despite the large audiences delivered during major events. This example may trigger many other similar projects.
  • Nice execution, very appropriate for the environment. Great "atmospheric" integration.
  • Great installation. The signage provides both information and creates an experience for the visitor. The use of the signage to creates an impactful and visually interesting landmark. Both the interior and exterior signage changes the environment through the use of design, color and movement. The MCCA utilized the signage and both individual signs and as a grand moment to convey mood and messaging.
  • It's so great when digital technology does not come off as an "add on," but rather lives seamlessly within the architecture of the structure.
  • Unique elements were brought together to create a unique installation that is a well done architectural centerpiece for the BCEC.
  • Good description of the project challenges and solutions. Accompanying video provides a good overview.
  • The distinguishing characteristics are the huge size, the signs serving as architectural elements and a major exterior center of interest, the effectiveness of the signs in attracting advertising and creating a sense of occasion for exhibitions, and their effective use as community notice boards and venue for electronic art.  Extra credit for big ambitions in a public sphere, successfully realized.

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