With the introduction of Sony’s CLEDIS (Crystal LED Integrated System) and Samsung’s Cinema Screen this year, the era of direct-view LED video walls has begun. At CEDIA, several companies were demonstrating such displays, including Digital Projection and Barco. The best example I saw at the show was the Leyard TWA0.9 LED video wall. For those who don’t know the name Leyard, it recently acquired Planar, which had acquired Runco several years ago.
Based in Beijing, China, Leyard has the #1 market share in direct-view LED video walls. In fact, the company’s products appear behind the news anchors at NBC, Fox News, and ESPN among others. Now, the company is eyeing the residential market with fine-pitch LED modules that can be combined to form a screen of just about any size.
“Pitch” refers to the distance between pixels, each of which consists of a tiny red, green, and blue LED. For indoor applications, the pixel pitch should be 2.5 millimeters or less. NBC has standardized on 1.6 mm for the LED screens on its news stages. The smaller the pixel pitch, the closer you must be to the screen to see individual pixels. According to the Leyard rep I spoke with, the company has calculated that a 50-foot-wide Samsung Cinema Screen has a pixel pitch of about 2.5 mm.
At CEDIA, Leyard was demonstrating an LED video wall that measured 162″ diagonally with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 3840×2160. It incorporated nine of the company’s TWA0.9 modules, each measuring 54″ diagonally with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a pixel pitch of 0.9 mm, in a 3×3 array. Adding one more column of modules would make the screen 2.37:1 with a resolution of 5120×2160.
Among the biggest advantages of an LED video wall is its brightness and color gamut. The TWA0.9 has an advertised maximum brightness of 600 nits with 100% NTSC color, which is very close to the DCI/P3 gamut. I was told the demo was running with a peak brightness in range of 400-500 nits, which was very bright. Panels with larger pixel pitches can achieve even higher peak brightness, up to 1000 nits or more.
Of course, I asked about high dynamic range, which the technology is certainly capable of reproducing. The company rep said it has not yet been implemented in commercially available products, but it’s definitely on the roadmap. The company has done it in the lab, but it wants to wait until HDR is more fully baked before implementing it in actual products.
I also asked about pricing. The Leyard TWA0.9 demo unit would run somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000—and that’s with no wall mount or processor to control the entire display. It’s eye-searingly expensive, to be sure, but the technology is evolving very quickly, and prices are dropping just as fast. For example, a 27″ TWS0.9 module (which is half the size of a TWA module) cost about $15,000 when it was introduced, dropping to $8000 a year later.
The demo looked amazing—super-bright and smooth, with no visible pixels at a reasonable viewing distance. The content was custom 4K/UHD footage at 60 fps, supplied by Harmonic. Unfortunately, the photo at the top of this article does not do the image justice at all; it’s deucedly difficult to photograph LED video walls because of interference between the pixel structure of the display and camera. I was told that the cameras in news rooms must be positioned very carefully to avoid the artifacts created by this interference. I can assure you that the image I saw in person was much better than the photo depicts.
I’ve started hearing speculation that, eventually, LED video walls might encroach on the larger projector market. If the pixel pitch and cost continue to shrink as they have over the last couple of years, it could be feasible to equip home theaters with huge video walls that put projectors to shame. Of course, that’s years in the future, but if this demo is any indication, the future looks bright indeed!