Video Walls: Deciding Between Projection or LED Walls

If you want to mix and match, look for products that may cost you a little more, but have a lot of control.

What an amazing world we live in! We have many technology options at our finger tips.

The vast array of options available to us are getting more affordable and helping us communicate the gospel in an intentional way. But with all these options, comes a need to understand how tech gear should be applied and used.

A good rule of thumb is this: If the technical expertise of the event requires multiple projectors, blending, odd screen sizes, tight spaces or needs to be eye popping bright, LED is probably the right choice for you.

Two pieces of gear that often trip up technical directors is deciding when to use projection versus LED walls.

At Gateway Church, we use a lot of projection and LED walls, and I have my opinion on when to use them. I thought it would be good to not only share my thoughts, but also talk to an expert in the rental field, Jimi Croker, the LED Video Production Coordinator for VER Los Angeles, to get some of his reactions to some of the common questions that I hear from Church Technicians.

Video Equipment Rental (VER) is responsible for rentals on some of the largest tours or shows in the world. They were directly involved with shows for events like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the Hyde Park Music Festival, The Oscars, The Grammys, as well as for artists like Beyonce, Jay Z and Taylor Swift, just to name a few.

Hopefully my collaboration with Mr. Croker on answering these questions will help you as you make a decision between which option might serve you better, projection or LED.

David Leuschner: When should someone use LED walls versus projection?

Jimi Croker: It all depends on the look, size of the wall and the atmosphere you are trying to achieve. Projection is a softer look that is less expensive and can be set up with less technical expertise. Projection requires a certain amount of space between the screen and the projector. Projection also works well with projecting onto something, in order to create an environment. You want to use projection if your audience is going to be closer to the screen. Typically, projection works better for common screen sizes as well as smaller screens and smaller events.

LED walls, on the other hand, are modular and put out a richer image in comparison to projection. Because LED comes in panels that are latched together to make the wall, you can build an LED wall in tight spaces that is very large or odd shaped. LED walls are very bright and can be used outside. Larger productions, outdoor events or shows with lots of light bleed on the screen tend to use LED.

A good rule of thumb is this: If the technical expertise of the event requires multiple projectors, blending, odd screen sizes, tight spaces or needs to be eye popping bright, LED is probably the right choice for you.

LED prices tend to vary wildly. What’s the difference?

There are more affordable LED products hitting the market, but we have found that mixing and matching these panels is tough. Essentially, the diodes come off the line different and software for these products tends not to allow enough control for color matching. Because of this, you want to use these products for installation (long-term) purposes. If you plan on moving them around and renting a product to augment the size or shape of your wall, these products may not be the right choice for you.

The rental industry tends to offer higher quality products with better software control, allowing for better color matching. The hot product right now is the 3mm and 4mm products with better control software.

To summarize, if you want to mix and match, look for products that may cost you a little more, but have a lot of control. If you are buying for installation purposes, you still need control software, but you can work with products that are a little cheaper.

What’s the difference between 3mm and 9mm products?

Let’s keep this simple, as this has to do with the spacing between each LED light on an individual panel. The closer the LED lights are, the better the panel looks to audiences that are close to the panel. The further spread out each LED light is on a panel, the better it looks to audiences farther away. For example, the 3mm product would look fine to an audience 15 to 20 feet from the panel, but a 9mm product would not. But a 9mm panel would look fine to an audience that is 40 to 50 feet away from the panel. All of this is assuming you are displaying HD or higher quality video on the panels.

What are the disadvantages to traditional projection and LED?

The most notable disadvantages to projection are lamp costs, more HVAC needed, power consumption, limitations to throwing an image onto something and noise.

The disadvantages to LED is they are heavier, typically need to be rigged, and involve mapping and color matching knowledge.

One possible disadvantage for LED, although most consider this an advantage is, if you have one LED light/pixel go out, you have to swap that module out. But the reason most consider this an advantage, is because your wall is still working. With projection, one non-working lamp and your entire wall goes dark.

Do LED walls set up faster than projection?

Most of the time, projection will set up faster with less chance of error. LED walls require a little more technical knowledge and setup time.

From a traditional installation perspective, do LED walls last longer than projection?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is the serviceable life of LED is relative to projection. But the difference is this, typically with projection, when you start to have problems, it affects the entire unit. With LED, any problems will only typically affect one module or tile at a time.

Leaving the rest of your LED wall working fine.

For a church that can’t afford experts, are LED walls or projection easier to maintain?

Generally, for smaller size rooms, projection is easier to set up, facilitate and maintain. If you are looking to do a setup using odd screen sizes, larger screens or lots of screens, LED is probably a good option for you.

If you are unsure of a decision, make some phone calls to rental houses, attend a trade show, visit or call larger churches, performing arts centers, etc.

It’s important that you make an informed decision.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to exercise patience. Many times the latest trend will move the industry in a direction and raise prices. But then the industry will revert back to practical applications.

Exercising patience will likely benefit you, giving you the chance to see what falls to the side, saving you money in the long run.

Remember, you don’t want to purchase something just because it’s the latest and greatest.

You need to utilize gear that will facilitate an atmosphere of worship. Think of your tech gear as an instrument of worship. Specific instruments work better to create certain atmospheres.

As worship tech directors, our job is to help bring people into an atmosphere that will hopefully help people have a relationship with Jesus. I firmly believe that we are a critical component to this and all of these tools help assist us with that directive.

TAGS: Video
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