Los Angeles, CA, USA — The new Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) offers passengers a unique travel experience with its Integrated Environmental Media System (IEMS), a series of seven digital media features integrated into the interior architecture that provides entertainment and information to passengers. Electrosonic was tasked by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) with the detailed engineering and system integration of the IEMS components, and the build out of the IEMS control room that keeps everything humming around the clock.
Electrosonic was also responsible for the integration and installation of the complex digital playback system that supports the multi-channel synchronization necessary for display on the media features. Electrosonic was involved with the mammoth project for close to two years, providing the client with specialized management expertise throughout.
“This is one of the largest international terminals in the U.S., and its first priority is as an airport, a hub to the rest of the world,” says Electrosonic account executive Bryan Hinckley. “Our experience coordinating with different trades and vendors, and our expertise in integrating complex systems and new playback technology, helped make the IEMS system a success.”
Electrosonic project manager Janne Hammel notes, “Because of the type and scale of work Electrosonic does for multiple industries around the world, we were uniquely qualified to act as conduit between LAWA and the design and content producers, serving as a translator and helping to facilitate communications and manage expectations on all sides. It was extremely challenging and incredibly rewarding.”
The IEMS media features are located in the 150,000-square-foot Antonio Villaraigosa Pavilion (Great Hall) beyond TSA screening and consist of the Welcome Wall, the Bon Voyage Wall, the four-sided Time Tower, the Destination Board and Story Board and two portals that usher travelers to their departure gates. Integrated into the terminal’s architecture, they are more than digital signage or multimedia eye candy. Each media feature serves a specific purpose for the passengers, offers sponsorship opportunities for marketers, and dazzles with its ability to merge the latest technology with soaring architectural elements.
“All of the media features were custom designed to support individual creative visions,” says Hammel. “The ability to roll out large-scale custom projects is all about attention to detail and time management. It takes a certain amount of imagination to go from design to fabrication to hardware integration, where the smallest thing can have a big impact as the project evolves. That’s our business.”
What set the job apart from other large projects was that it was essentially “a series of big multimedia features included in a large public works venue,” she explains. “We had to balance how to integrate the systems into airport operations and security. We spent a lot of time working with the airport IT representative to deliver a system that maintains absolute security.”
The Welcome Wall, which displays joyful scenes of greeting for arriving international passengers, is a high-resolution 6mm LED Daktronics wall measuring approximately 26 by 84 feet, divided into two screens and surrounded by a decorative glass frame. The adjacent Bon Voyage Wall, with content inspired by photographer Philippe Halsman’s Jumpology photographs, is a similar configuration with dimensions of 13 by 23 feet.
The Destination Board is a different take on flight departure information. The 80-foot wide screen displays flight details from LAX’s Flight Information Display System database. The high-resolution 6mm LED screen is partitioned into a central flight info display flanked by informational side panels and framed by a low-resolution crown of LEDs. Content on the side panels is linked in real time to destination flights displayed on the board to provide travelers with fun facts, weather briefs and images of destination cities, while a graceful arched crest features international flag graphics or subtle arrays of colors.
The four-sided Time Tower is built around the Villaraigosa Pavilion’s elevator tower and is designed to not only tell time, but also explore time as part of the travel experience. It is 72 feet high with a base of diffused glass panels and an interior layer of 10mm LEDs. Sensors sensitive to passenger gestures create constantly changing patterns in the content generated through customized programming and the capabilities of the system. The upper surface features high-resolution 6mm LEDs and integrates a functional clock face with entertaining content incorporating a time theme.
“The display is very large and has a number of video content sources which have to synchronize seamlessly on the four sides of the tower,” Hinckley says. “Electrosonic and Smart Monkeys spent a lot of time with the content creators and Daktronics on pixel-for-pixel consistency from media creation through playback, processing and display. There’s no video scaling involved.”
Electrosonic also coordinated with the LAX audio system, which uses very complex zoning, and delivers safety and emergency messages to ensure proper audio playback for the Time Tower clock strike at the top of every hour.
Along the west side of the Villaraigosa Pavilion, poised above retail shops, is the 120-foot-long Story Board feature. Its high-resolution 6mm LED tiles form five display walls of varying size and shape across a structural frame. Once again, Electrosonic worked closely with all the vendors to achieve pixel-for-pixel consistency in a huge palette of pixels comprising custom content that tells ambient narratives about travel.
As passengers move from the Villaraigosa Pavilion toward either the north or south concourse, a series of ten 28-foot-tall columns form a visual portal to their destination. Each column, consisting of six vertically stacked 55-inch Planar LCD monitors, displays content themed around the art traditions of various destination cities. Speakers and motion sensors are embedded in the base units of each portal to enhance the experience.
“It was an integration challenge to make sure the sensor and playback gear could co-exist in the limited space within the portals,” Hinckley points out.
Electrosonic also designed the layout and installed the Main Equipment Room (MER), which is comprised of a control and rack room. Miles of optical fiber from all over the terminal feed into the MER, where over a 1,000 individual connections provide the capability to display and control the content displayed on each feature. Cameras in the terminal that show the content-display status of each feature allows a single operator to monitor all features simultaneously. Additionally, a 65-inch display was installed in the control room where new media content from prospective partners can be reviewed prior to public display.
“We have people on site for 24/7 operation and maintenance of the system,” Hinckley notes. “Since this is a working international airport, the only time we have access to the field equipment is between 2 and 6 am, so we not only need a quick response team on site to remedy any potential problems, but we also need to staff the graveyard shift to make any necessary repairs.”
Janne Hammel believes that once travelers experience the new terminal and its standout media features, they’ll have a greater appreciation for the work of all the vendors involved. “You can talk about physical dimensions and number of pixels, but until you’re standing in that space experiencing the media and how it integrates with the terminal’s passenger activity and flow, you don’t realize how it exceeds your expectations.
“L.A. is a world destination and that’s reflected in the content of the media features and their integration into the physical structure of the new international terminal,” she says.
Electrosonic is proud to be a part of the LAX Integrated Environmental Media Systems (IEMS) Team, which includes: MRA International, IEMS Project Director; Marcela Sardi of Sardi Design, designer of the media features and Creative Director; Smart Monkeys Inc., Technical Consultant and system programmer for the content delivery system; Daktronics, display supplier; Moment Factory, Executive Content Producer; and Digital Kitchen, Supportive Content Producer.