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EMPIRE STATE BUILDING OBSERVATORY—PHASE 2

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
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Leyard and Planar Display Solutions Bring Exhibits to Life for the Empire State Building’s Phase Two Reimagined Observatory Experience

Following the success of the first phase of the Empire State Building (ESB) reimagined Observatory Experience, phase two of the $165 million redevelopment project opened to the public at the end of July 2019—introducing a collection of immersive exhibits that span the entire second floor of the building and explore the ESB’s history and construction, including its role and influence in popular culture.
The first phase included the design and construction of a brand-new Observatory entrance and lobby to create a reinvented guest journey featuring spectacular photography, a two-story ESB architectural model and video display technologies from Leyard and Planar, a Leyard company, which are employed to improve wayfinding and augment ESB’s famous lighting ceremonies. The second phase builds upon these amenities, merging unique design concepts with integrated technologies to create engaging visitor experiences that tell the story of the iconic building.

Integration Partners:
Diversified, Thinc Design, IDEO, Squint / Opera, Beneville Studios, Corgan, JLL, Intersection, Kubik Maltbie, Otis Elevator Company, Skanska, Syska Hennessy Group, Tenguerian Models, The Lighting Practice, Thornton Tomasetti
FEATURED PRODUCTS:
“THE LED INSTALLATIONS SEEM TO TRANSFORM INTO SCENERY.”
AARON HICKMAN,
SENIOR DESIGN ENGINEER, DIVERSIFIED
INSTALLATION PROFILE:
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Leyard and Planar Display Solutions Bring Exhibits to Life for the Empire State Building’s Phase Two Reimagined Observatory Experience

Following the success of the first phase of the Empire State Building (ESB) reimagined Observatory Experience, phase two of the $165 million redevelopment project opened to the public at the end of July 2019—introducing a collection of immersive exhibits that span the entire second floor of the building and explore the ESB’s history and construction, including its role and influence in popular culture.

The first phase included the design and construction of a brand-new Observatory entrance and lobby to create a reinvented guest journey featuring spectacular photography, a two-story ESB architectural model and video display technologies from Leyard and Planar, a Leyard company, which are employed to improve wayfinding and augment ESB’s famous lighting ceremonies. The second phase builds upon these amenities, merging unique design concepts with integrated technologies to create engaging visitor experiences that tell the story of the iconic building.

As with the first phase, the second phase was made possible by a best-in-class team from the arts, architecture, technology and entertainment industries and included the use of display solutions from Leyard and Planar. The application of leading-edge LED video wall technologies and LCD displays from Leyard and Planar in the ESB’s phase two reimagined Observatory Experience are highlighted below.

Marquee Signage

Covering the entire entrance to the second-floor Observatory Experience is an expansive digital marquee signage that introduces the phase two exhibits and provides guests with wayfinding and informative assistance in different languages. The marquee signage consists of a nearly 16-foot-long, 2-foot-high Leyard® DirectLight® X LED Video Wall System with a 1.5mm pixel pitch (DLX1.5) in a 8x2 configuration.

Leyard DirectLight X supports a range of fine pixel pitches and includes industry-leading wall mount, full front service access and a mission-critical design for 24x7 reliability. Featuring the off-board Leyard® Video Controller, Leyard DirectLight X is the industry’s first LED video wall solution to embed advanced video processing directly into the product. Leyard DirectLight X also includes a 16:9 aspect ratio and precise pixel pitches to ensure every model achieves exact Full HD, 4K or 8K resolutions.

Construction Gallery

Inspired by photography from Lewis Hine, the construction gallery is an immersive experience that transports visitors back in time to 1930 when the ESB was being built. Six Leyard® CarbonLight™ CLI Series LED video walls with a 2.6mm pixel pitch (CLI2.6) in varying configurations (the largest at 19x5) are integrated on the walls and ceilings of the space, each showing a unique video segment that combine to create a single looped film recreating the atmosphere of a construction site high up on one of the ESB’s unfinished floors.

The Leyard CarbonLight CLI Series is a line of lightweight and flexible LED video wall solutions that are designed to meet the requirements of a wide range of applications. The Leyard CarbonLight CLI Series features thin, modular and high-strength carbon fiber frames that can be adapted into complex and unique designs such as corner-beveled and even smoothly curved video walls.

Creative digital studio Squint/Opera designed the vision for the media experience of the construction gallery, which features 30 different actors engaged in various building activities characteristic of that era, providing visitors with a sense of what it would be like to stand on an upper floor of the ESB as construction is taking place around them.

“The film includes recreated footage of workers operating cranes, manning the rivet furnace and hammering rivets to steel beams,” said Aaron Hickman, senior design engineer at Diversified, who performed the phase two video wall integrations. “The LED video walls and audio system are synchronized so that the scene unfolds in a uniform fashion around the visitor. For example, the playback shows a crane moving up along one canvas, connecting and moving across a ceiling display, and then dropping down on an opposite video wall canvas.”

The construction gallery includes artistic, physical designs that are meant to simulate a 1930 ESB floor worksite such as exposed beams, unfinished wood paneling, piping materials and stacks of wood planks fashioned into makeshift benches. Bronze sculptures of construction workers are also placed throughout the space.

“The video content on the LED video walls blends with the scenic elements and the physical designs in such a way that it actually feels like being a part of the construction site,” Hickman said. “The LED installations seem to transform into scenery.”

King Kong Exhibit

As an American cultural icon, the ESB has been featured in over 250 movies and TV shows, and made its well-known cinematic debut in the 1933 film King Kong. The King Kong exhibit celebrates the building’s historic introduction to the silver screen by welcoming guests into a 1930-era office where a life-size video image of the famous ape is peering through windows as he seems to cling to the side of the building—his hands having punctured the walls for a better grip. Through more windows lining the room, guests can see circling biplanes preparing to attack.

The window video exhibits are designed using nine Planar® UltraRes™ Series 98-inch 4K LCD displays. Featuring Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160) and exceptional image and color quality for native 4K and upscaled content, Planar UltraRes Series is an ideal solution for weaving video content into an immersive user experience.

“The replica windows are designed slightly smaller than the displays and are set back from the glass to create an immersive sensation—it feels like you’re on a top floor of the building and looking out of a window on New York,” Hickman said. “Here again, the visual and audio playback of King Kong moving around the outside is synchronous and tied into the physical effects that occur inside the room.”

Otis Elevators

Otis Elevator Company, which built the original elevators in the ESB, sponsored two exhibits for the phase two project called “historic elevators” and the “elevator experience.”

The historic elevators exhibit features a replica of an original tower car with one of the interior walls fitted with a 98-inch Planar UltraRes Series 4K LCD display in portrait configuration. “The Planar UltraRes Series display shows a playback that mimics what it would be like to open the door of the tower car as it travels up from floor to floor in the unfinished building at the time of construction,” Hickman said. “The display is huge and it’s really powerful to have the entire wall of the tower car activated by media.”

The elevator experience exhibit is a simulation of being inside a current-day elevator shaft. On either side of the walls of the exhibit, two Leyard CarbonLight CLI Series LED video walls with a 2.6mm pixel pitch (CLI2.6) in 5x4 configurations are installed behind two-way mirrors to imitate a wide elevator bank. “The media on the video walls show other elevator cars traveling up and down multiple elevator runs,” Hickman said. “Visitors see pulleys, cabling and other cars flying past that are timed with some 4D effects such as air bursts and vibrating floors to simulate those conditions.”

Creating a Compelling Experience

According to Hickman, the assistance that Leyard and Planar provided to Diversified throughout the project was a critical aspect to ensuring a successful integration and creating the most convincing, immersive exhibits. Leyard and Planar worked closely with Diversified every step of the way to ensure a successful outcome. That partnership and shared commitment to the ESB resulted in a powerful experience that guests will be able to enjoy for a lifetime.

“With experimental installations of this kind—which involve custom content, reenactments, acting and special effects—the experience is meant to look and occur in a very specific way. This involves putting a lot more effort into the configuration and perfection in terms of how the display technologies are integrated.”

 

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