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Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

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Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
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Planar Mosaic Video Walls Pay Tribute To NASA's Challenger and Columbia Missions

The Kennedy Space Center, already one of the country's top tourist and educational attractions – drawing more than 1.5 million visitors annually – owes its popularity to the unique manner in which it connects people to the storied U.S. space exploration program. That connection has been made even stronger with the recent opening of the new Forever Remembered memorial in the Atlantis Exhibit in the center's Visitor Complex. The Forever Remembered exhibit was conceived as a tribute to the astronauts who were lost in the Challenger and Columbia shuttle missions. In planning the memorial exhibit – which involved many organizations and companies including architects, media and content experts, and Rockledge Design Group (RDG) – based in Rockledge, Florida, a leading audio visual firm.

It was decided early in the development that the desired connection between the multimedia storytelling and exhibit visitors could best be made using the latest video wall technology. Subsequently, RDG selected and specified three installations of the Planar® Mosaic® Architectural Video Wall pioneered by Planar Systems, a company of Planar Optoelectronics LTD., a global leader in the design, production, distribution and service of digital displays, video walls, and visualization products.

"For many reasons, a conventional display wall and slide show would fail to tell these astronauts' stories and their missions with the impact, emotion and memorability they deserve," says Brian Karr, President of Rockledge Design Group. "In Planar Mosaic, Planar provided us a platform that presents information in a very unique way. In a sense, it's the special kind of tool for an exhibit such as Forever Remembered, and we could see that this uniqueness was its key strength."

Three unique video walls display a stream of 4K content

As a turn-key solution provider long experienced in display hardware and software, and the design of content for a myriad of installations, Karr proposed a set of three Ultra HD video walls for a key hallway exhibit space. Two share a common wall; the third is on a perpendicular wall at the end of the hallway. They display a 4K stream of RDG-designed content that tells the story of three stages of recovery, emotional, physical, and return to flight. Ending in what Karr calls "amazing 4K video footage celebrating the return to flight."

Karr says that a key differentiator of Planar Mosaic was that it enabled RDG to focus on developing just one 4K file to be streamed per each of the three Planar Mosaic video walls. "With other manufacturers' platforms we would have had to create separate files for each display in the video wall, which would have been much more time consuming and costly."

Inherent in this is also the ability for Planar Mosaic video tiles to be daisy chained, which simplifies cabling for content distribution. Further, Planar Mosaic, power supplies can be located in a remote rack room. This distributed design also takes heat and noise away from the video wall and makes for more productive maintenance when necessary. "This is important because operation and maintenance – particularly ease of serviceability – is among the Visitor Center's top requirements," Karr adds.

Planar Mosaic offers unique tile sizes, ruggedness, and exceptional image quality

Karr was able to select the most desirable Planar Mosaic video tile sizes for the exhibit – he chose for each video wall, four 46-inch tiles (Planar® Pablo™ AD46) and two 22-inch square tiles (Planar® Salvador™ AD22), and arrange them each in a very creative configuration to create maximum impact while maintaining an approximate 4K workspace. All three Planar Mosaic video walls are installed to be flush with the exhibit wall. The off-board electronics design manages the heat load management requirement, while the flush-mount design allows the video walls to achieve the original artistic intent for the exhibit. Further, should a Planar Mosaic video tile need to be removed to check for any problems, it can be placed into service mode and then accessed from the front, thus speeding the assessment and servicing process.

In selecting Planar Mosaic, RDG also took advantage of another Planar innovation: a feature called Planar® ERO™ (Extended Ruggedness and Optics). This proprietary feature is optically bonded glass that covers each Planar Mosaic video tile, adding protection and enhancing viewability as well. "Planar ERO technology is really important, especially in high traffic environments like this exhibit," Karr says. "It ensures that the tiles will be protected from damage that could occur should they be bumped into by visitors, or potentially scratched or marred if they are inadvertently hit by a visitor's purse, briefcase, backpack or other package."

Planar Pablo and Planar Salvador video tiles are also designed to maximize the stunning 4K content Karr and his team developed for the Forever Remembered exhibit. "Brightness (up to 700 nits), resolution (up to 1920 x 1080 per each AD46), contrast ratio (up to 4000:1), and color gamut (72% NTSC) are exceptional," Karr says.

"And we have the benefit of Mosaic Project Designer Software™ which, among other things, allows us to easily set color and brightness levels and to balance these across all video tiles in order to achieve the consistency and uniformity that we want for whatever content is shown, whether it be incredible still images or stunning 4K video."

Key benefits to end user and systems integrator

As to the over-riding benefit of having a display platform like Planar Mosaic, Karr says this: "It's really two fold. First, we have a platform that allows for display creativity that stirs viewers emotions. Second, it's a platform whose simplicity allows us as the designers, to focus on creating a great stream of 4K content, which makes for a memorable show."