Architype presentsJason S. Helton
Jason has a bachelor’s degree in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas and received his MBA from Texas A&M University – Commerce. He has worked in......
Positioned in the heart of Time Square’s bowtie, One Astor Plaza has long been an icon of Midtown Manhattan. The tall skyscraper, located at 1515 Broadway, is currently the headquarters for Viacom and houses the MTV Studios, Minskoff Theatre (which currently hosts the Broadway production of “The Lion King”), Best Buy Theater, and several street-level retail outlets.
When SL Green Realty Corp., which owns and manages the property, decided to integrate advertising space on the building’s façade, it had a difficult task to determine how to provide optimal value for advertisers in one of the most competitive advertising markets and highest-profile landscapes in the world.
SL Green’s management hired Sensory Interactive, which specializes in the planning, design, implementation, and operations management of dynamic display technologies, to oversee the final design concepts and integration of the displays.
As a result of the plaza’s unique location, the final design rejected the standard sign designs of the area which give only a profile view to Times Square. The new concept allowed for a truly unique approach with the LED video displays projecting outwards into Times Square, with a tight corner element that integrated a return display back into the glass façade of the Minskoff Theater. After a thorough and competitive evaluation process, SL Green and Sensory Interactive chose Sansi
North America, LLC, as the manufacturer of the LED displays and to assist in the final design elements of the innovative project. Sansi, one of the largest global manufacturers of LED displays and lighting fixtures, has close to 20 years of LED display design experience, focusing on custom engineering and design concepts for unique customer applications.
After analyzing the project’s creative concepts, SNA designed a custom corner module to fulfill the project’s design. The corner module, which includes a very tight 46-degree angle cutting back into the building, has one of the smallest seams in Times Square, with less than three inches between LED panels. This design allows for uninterrupted viewing between the different displays.
SNA manufactured state-of-the-art surface-mount device LED technology that encompasses red, green, and blue chips all into a single diode. SMD technology allows for extremely wide viewing angles so that the displays can be seen at any point throughout the square. SNA’s surface-mount technology also has improved contrast over a discrete LED display, providing a cleaner, crisper image. The distance between the display’s pixels – or its pixel pitch – is 10 millimeters. This pitch, when combined with the massive size of the displays, makes them some of the highest resolution video screens among Times Square LED displays.
The video system features two main screens – a north display and a south display – and two returns. The displays are just under 48 feet tall. The main screens are 39 feet wide, while the returns are 8 feet wide. With such a tight pixel pitch, there are more than 4,000,000 pixels throughout the systems’ four screens.
For installation of the displays, SNA worked with New York-based North Shore Neon Sign Company. North Shore Neon, which has vast experience installing displays in Times Square, fabricated the custom frame and substructure for the screens. North Shore Neon’s sub-frame structure allowed for each of the massive displays to be lifted in only five sections. Each main screen and its accompanying return display were installed in one night.
It was extremely important for the LED displays to be dynamic and integrate into the design of the existing building façade. Because the building’s corners were largely glass, structurally engineering the frames was an obstacle the design team overcame. In addition, Sensory Interactive designed a one-of-a-kind scaffolding which maintained a clean look while also keeping businesses open during construction.
The project’s very aggressive schedule allowed for little movement, as there is a moratorium in Times Square between the Thanksgiving holidays and New Year’s Day. The project was awarded in August, and the displays had to be fully functional by the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Through careful execution SNA and North Shore Neon completed the project in time so that the new displays could be prevalent on television screens across the nation during the parade.
As a finished product, the 1515 Broadway displays are extremely dynamic with an interactive processing system implemented by SNA. Several live events have used mobile devices to display information on the LED screens.
The response from the building’s tenants, advertisers, and management has been overwhelmingly positive. With an innovative and creative design, an accomplished team of contractors, and state-of-the-art technology, the new One Astor Plaza displays were installed on schedule and have forever changed the landscape of Times Square.
Image credits: SNA LLC