in June 2006
for Modern Art Museum
By Wendy Meincke
project sets off Walker Art Center.
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis MN,
with 55'x9' digital video wall.
The Walker Art Center wants to share
its treasures in a big way. Whether you’re driving
by in the wee hours of the morning or the dusk of the evening
rush, it’s hard to miss the Walker or the 9'x11' scrolling
image that beckons you to come in and see what the center
has to offer.
Digital signage on this grand a
scale seems fitting for this museum. The Walker is a modern
art icon that’s been bringing the avant garde to Minneapolis
MN for 80 years, always reaching out in unique ways to draw
people into its world. That’s never been more true
than in the past year, since the completion of a massive
expansion that literally doubled the size of the Walker
and spread its influence far beyond its 17-acre urban campus.
Not Typical Install
For SPL Integrated Solutions, the
Walker signage system was anything but a typical AV installation.
The rear-projection system that supplies the scrolling message
consists of five Sharp XG-V10WU-R projectors placed about
six feet apart inside a long, hollow inner wall space that
runs parallel to an outside wall of the building. The wall,
which faces Hennepin Avenue, a heavily traveled street in
Minneapolis, consists of very large etched glass windows
covered with a special rear-projection film.
The original idea called for the
projectors to be mounted on the back wall of this inner
space, projecting their image through openings in the hallway
wall and onto the glass windows opposite. Unfortunately,
the wall wasn’t built to hold heavy projector and
mirror assemblies, so SPL asked the Walker Center’s
carpenters to construct platforms to hold the assemblies
about 10 feet off the floor.
||The Walker Art Center
demonstrates usage of digital signage on a grand scale.
Inside the long hall that
has openings for four of the
five projectors used for the digital signage.
|One of the projectors
with mirror assembly inside the wall.
"We had to get ladders in there
and turn them a certain way to get up to the platforms,”
said Ryan Ford, project manager/engineer for SPL. “Each
projector and mirror assembly has its own platform and the
platforms are far enough apart that you had to be like Spider-Man
to get from one to the next.” The 4700 lumen Sharp
projector was specified for the project. “According
to the consultant, it was the only projector that had the
lenses and the brightness to make the required 20-foot throw,”
said Ford. When first installed, it was possible to see
the projectors from outside on Hennepin Avenue, so SPL asked
for construction of a housing for each projector, which
leaves only the lens visible when the image is off.
To create the final image, output
from each of the five projectors is blended by a software
program, WATCHOUT, created by Dataton of Sweden, and distributed
and programmed by Show Sage, of Fenton MI. SPL installed
five computers, one for each projector, in three equipment
racks in the Walker’s production room, and then ran
cabling to the projectors.
While the software blends the images, an AMX control system
recommended by SPL operates all the hardware. “The
touchpanel has a timer so all the projectors turn on at
a certain time at night and then turn off at a certain time
in the morning,” said Ford. “There’s also
a manual way for them to turn the projectors on from the
touchpanel if they have a special event outside that time
frame.” During full daylight hours, the projectors
normally are off to save lamp life and allow for maintenance.
SPL engineers ran into an additional
problem in that the design of the building allowed room
for only four of the projectors within the inner wall space.
SPL technicians ceiling mounted the fifth projector to a
1½" pipe hanging from the ceiling just outside
the inner wall space, but still in line with the other projectors.
“If you drew a line connecting the lenses of all five
of the projectors, the fifth projector outside the wall
is on that same line,” said Ford. In fact, the outer
hallway itself is wider at one end than the other, because
the wall behind which the projectors are mounted slants
away from the windows as you walk down the hall.
"Because we could ceiling-mount
this projector, we were able to get it far enough back so
as not to require the mirror assembly,” said Ford.
“It’s a straight-on image.” These details
do not affect what passersby see from the outside: a scrolling
image more than nine feet tall and 55 feet long, announcing
current exhibits or programs or displaying the museum’s
"There really wasn’t much typical
about the Walker building,” said Ford. “Any
museum is a departure from our typical corporate conference
room work, and this is a museum of modern art. We often
joked that there are no straight lines in this building.”
Whatever angles SPL worked with
inside the museum, there’s no mistaking the result
for anything but what it is: a clear and enticing invitation
to explore the world of modern art.
Wendy Meincke is a freelance writer based in suburban Chicago.
She can be reached at email@example.com.