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Chicago Luxury Apartment Digital Signage System Dazzles

CE Pro 100 integrator TVTi works with custom animation firm to create mind-blowing 15-screen digital signage solution using 4K video for high-rise Chicago apartment complex lobby.

Photos & Slideshow

Jason Knott · April 10, 2014

It’s one thing to deploy digital signage … but the lobby of a new luxury high-rise in Chicago has taken it to an entirely higher level using custom animation and a unique mosaic configuration.

Working with a custom animation firm, CE Pro 100 integrator Tunnel Vision Technology Inc. (TVTi) deployed a six-figure, 15-screen digital signage project in the lobby of a brand new high-rise luxury apartment complex in Chicago that is literally turning heads for its attention-grabbing graphics.

The piece, installed at the 42-story 73 East Lake Street building, was the work of Animation Dynamics, Inc. (ADi), a Portland, Ore.-based animation firm specializing in 2D and 3D animation, product visualization and interactive media. It features custom animation that ADi designed specifically for the building’s lobby.

Stretching across 15 individual displays, the piece incorporates both 2D and 3D animation elements depicting various Chicago-oriented themes, intended to enhance the high-rise’s sleek, modern architectural features. It also serves to differentiate the building, as it grabs the attention of passersby from the street.

73 East Lake Chicago from Animation Dynamics on Vimeo.

David Welles, president of TVTi, was the integrator on the project. He has worked on two previous jobs with the developer—M&R Development—and knew the president, Tony Rossi, Sr., wanted something unique.

“We originally proposed a standard videowall mosaic for the lobby, but they rejected it,” says Welles. Later, M&R changed its mind. It meant that TVTi had to pull something together pretty fast. Months earlier, TVTi had tweeted out a photo of one of its mosaic jobs. That tweet was later “favorited” by Kate Ertmann, president of ADi in Portland, Ore. It turns out Welles and Ertmann were old childhood friends. When the M&R project came up, Welles reached out to her. She flew out and in just two weeks presented several renderings of potential videowall configurations to show the client.

“They blew our minds with mesmerizing concepts,” he recalls, “We presented it and sold it, then had to install it,” says Welles.

$12,000 Dell PC Hosts Content
The Planar Mosaic system itself consists of 15 different flat panels. Seven 21-inch panels (branded as Salvador), four 46-inch panels (branded as Pablo), and two 55-inch units (branded Vincent).
TVTi used a $12,000 Dell computer with extreme processing power to host the content. The 4K @ 30 fps content is sent over a fiber optic cable from the PC, which is about 130 feet away from the videowall.

For the mounts, TVTi had to work with a local fabrication company to make the custom brackets. Some of the panels sit flat on the wall while others extend out as far as 3 feet. The 21-inch units weigh 25 pounds while the 55-inch panels are 80 pounds. The entire project from design to completion was done in one month… a very compressed timeframe. TVTi spent about three to five days on-site doing the installation.

4K Content Makes the Difference
M&R bought in to the design, but what about the content?

“We don’t do content,” admits Welles. “The only guidance we gave ADi was that the content had to be Chicago-themed. We had no idea what they were going to come up with.”

In relatively quick fashion, ADi created a 5-minute 4K content video depicting various scenes of Chicago, from el trains to Navy Pier to Wrigley Field. The video content uses the contours of the flat panels to add an extra 3D-like dimension. The ADi video is supplemented with about 20 minutes of 4K content taken from YouTube “just to keep it fresh,” says Welles.

“At M&R Development, we wanted to set ourselves apart from our competitors by embracing technology and injecting the unexpected,” says Rossi.  “A custom animation celebrating Chicago was absolutely in line with our vision for a modern residential complex, and ADi delivered.”

“Most clients would have been satisfied with just running a $200 DVD as the content and it would have looked the same as everyone else, but this developer wants the building to stand out as a high-tech, luxury location,” says Welles. “M&R has always been the leader in putting the latest and greatest technology into their projects, and 73 East Lake is no different. They know that this installation will be a conversation piece and something potential residents will remember when looking for a high-end residence to rent.”

He adds that M&R recently told him that even though they had high expectations for the project, TVTi had “blown them away.” 

The building just opened its doors last week so it’s too early to determine if it is successful in attracting tenants. In fact, the giant window that exposes the digital signage to the street still is covered. Welles says the graphics will be eye-catching not only to passers-by on foot, but it’s also visible from passing cars. The building’s location, near Millennium Park, restaurants and theaters, is ideal to attract professionals and CEOS, according to Welles.

Six-Figure Project in Total
In all, the project was over well six figures, with about one-third of that cost going for the content creation. Both TVTi and ADi worked directly under contracts with M&R. Welles says he has a special sense of satisfaction to refer a partner like ADi to one of his clients and have the project come out so splendidly. He anticipates a fruitful future partnership with ADi.

Ironically, Welles says the biggest challenge of the project was not a technical one. “We could not get the union workers on the job to stop watching the video. At any given time, there were dozens of workers standing around staring at it,” he chuckles.

ADi was founded in Portland, Ore. in 1996, shortly after the release of the first “Toy Story” movie. The animation firm originally worked entirely with animated storytelling for the illustration of business concepts, and has since expanded to incorporate 2D and 3D animation, product visualization, animated interactive experiences and human experience visualizations into its repertoire. The firm serves a list of high-profile clients nationwide and has grown to become a leader in the field of digital animation.

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  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at jknott@ehpub.com

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