SECAUCUS, NJ (June 6, 2008) – The new Comcast Center, Philadelphia’s tallest and one of its most stunning buildings, features an enormous public lobby with a breakthrough video installation designed and produced by HDTV trailblazer David Niles.
Niles chose Panasonic’s AJ-HPX3000 native 1080p one-piece P2 HD camcorder to shoot the video for the lobby’s 80′ by 30′ screen, which engages passers-by with spectacular and inspiring imagery including life-sized images of ordinary business people performing extraordinary feats, such as flying through the air with a cup of coffee.
Today marks the official opening of Comcast Corporation’s new corporate headquarters, designed by world-renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern. The 57-story, 975 ft. building is built on top of the city’s Suburban Railroad Station. The lobby installation was conceived by Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts as a gift to the people of Philadelphia.
Niles, director/DP/designer/editor and principal of Niles Creative Group (New York, NY), enumerated the imposing challenges he faced on the project. “First of all, we knew the Comcast Center would be an instant landmark, demanding the highest level of creative achievement on our part,” he said. “Our audience, which consists of commuters literally in transit to and from the train station, has an attention span of 20-40 seconds at best. The display, an 80′ by 30′ LED screen, larger than an IMAX screen, is built into the lobby architecture and has 10 million pixels. There aren’t any cameras that shoot 10 million pixels!”
“From the onset, we understood that this would not be your typical lobby display flashing the time, temperature and local ads,” Niles continued. “Our mandate was to create original, emotional and ever-changing content-on a reasonable budget-that would be totally integrated into the lobby’s design. Essentially, the video itself would be virtual bricks and mortar-part of the environment yet kinetic.”
“Our screen has 10 million pixels – but a life-size person who appears on the screen doesn’t require 10 million pixels for video capture, two million suffice,” Niles explained. “Thus, the HPX3000, with its 2.2-megapixel CCDs, gave us a 1:1 pixel ratio and, consequently, an utterly photorealistic effect when shooting the actors and acrobats for the Comcast video. That was the paramount reason I chose the Panasonic camera.”
Niles and his production team, including director/choreographer John Dietrich and producer Emmora Irwin, staged three separate week-long shoots last fall in studios in New York and New Jersey. Their subjects, predominantly shot against blue and green screen, comprised up to 22 performers, but with 10 main characters. Niles used the HPX3000’s HD-SDI capability to record to 10-bit uncompressed computer RAIDS, with back-up recordings to DVCPRO HD tape.
“The HPX3000 demonstrates incredible dynamic range, signal-to-noise and colorimetry,” said Niles. “The response of the camera was phenomenal and afforded us the highest quality attainable.”
“I consider the HPX3000 one of the top two HD cameras on the market, and the fact that it shoots master-quality 1080p makes it that much more valuable a tool for me,” he added. “It’s capable of a wide range of applications, from run-and-gun capture to gorgeous filmmaking.”
Niles edited the material using proxies in Final Cut Pro. Then the original footage was laid out on an Adobe After Effects 10 million pixel canvas. This way the content maintains a 1:1 pixel ratio from camera to screen.
“Our workflow was somewhat elaborate but bulletproof,” noted Niles.
It is at the point of delivery that the video becomes a seamless element of the Comcast Center’s architectural artistry. The Niles Creative Group has designed a unique delivery system with Artificial Intelligence (AI) built-in. The delivery system is unmanned, with 30+ HD servers feeding the screen. The wall runs 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with no repeating or looping of video. Instead, with AI control, isolated elements of content are brought together at the time of delivery to create playful and awe-inspiring vignettes.
The display system can run for 45 days without a sequence ever being repeated. Moreover, it’s estimated that it would take a typical Philadelphia commuter two years of hustling through the Comcast Center lobby before he would see all the permutations of images the system can conjure.
About Niles Creative Group
David Niles pioneered commercial applications of high definition television and today is recognized as a foremost authority on HDTV production. He produces, directs and edits original programming for numerous on air networks, consults for Fortune 500 companies, develops new technologies and conceives, designs and executes large format projects from start to finish for companies including Comcast, Radio City Music Hall, Federated Department Stores, Walt Disney / Imagineering and Madison Square Garden. For more information, visit www.nilescreative.com.
About the AJ-HPX3000
With three 2/3″ high-density 2.2-megapixel CCDs, the HPX3000 captures cinema-quality images in full-raster 1920 x 1080 resolution with 4:2:2 10-bit sampling, utilizing the powerful, new AVC-Intra codec. The HPX3000 offers intuitive film camera-like operation with advanced gamma settings, including Film-Rec mode (made popular by the VariCam). Designed for episodic television, filmmaking and commercial production where mastering quality is essential, the HPX3000 records in industry-standard DVCPRO HD at 1080 in 24p, 25p, 30p, 50i and 60i, and in AVC-Intra. AVC-Intra, the industry’s most advanced compression technology, provides high-quality 10-bit intra-frame encoding utilizing the Hi-10 and Hi-422 profiles of H.264 in two modes: AVC-Intra 100 for full-raster mastering video quality and AVC-Intra 50 Mbps for DVCPRO HD quality at half the bit rate, thereby doubling the record time on a P2 card. For added flexibility, the HPX3000 can also produce standard definition recordings in DVCPRO50, and is 60/50-Hz switchable for worldwide use. For more information on the HPX3000, visit www.panasonic.com/broadcast.
About Panasonic Broadcast
Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of broadcast and professional video products and systems. Panasonic Broadcast is a unit company of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the North American headquarters of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE: MC) of Japan, and the hub of its U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, access the company’s web site at www.panasonic.com/broadcast.