Digital Backdrops Take Center Stage

Arlington ISD
(Image credit: Absen)

With Broadway theaters and other professional performing arts venues moving away from traditional forms of scenic design, the Arlington ISD Center for Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) in Arlington, TX, envisioned creating a performance space that would not only be to the benefit of students within the Arlington school district, but would provide outside groups access to industry-leading technology to bring their performances to life.

To accomplish this goal, CVPA outfitted the Robert G. Copeland Concert Hall and the CVPA Theater with Absen Acclaim 3.8mm video walls, providing students and performing arts groups the ability to put on engaging and immersive theatrical productions. “Having access to this technology is a progressive experience for our students,” said Christopher Bryant, director, CVPA. “At each level of their education they get access to more and more technology and experiences so that when they leave here, they will already have experience working with the industry standard or higher. Traditional back drops are great, but it’s just a whole other level having these video walls here in the theater and concert hall.”

[Absen Roadmap 2022]

Premier AV design firm Idibri, the design consultant for the project, wanted to find a solution that made a strong visual statement while accounting for the ambient light within both spaces. The Absen Acclaim 3.8mm LED video panel was selected for its true 16:9 aspect ratio and enhanced brightness, contrast, and color, making it the ideal choice for CVPA to operate as the gold standard within the district.

Within the 1,250-seat Robert G. Copeland Concert Hall, the 22-foot wide, 12-foot high fixed mount video wall helps enhance the viewing experience for attendees of orchestral or vocal performances, allowing close-up shots of performers or visual enhancements to compliment the music to be viewed. The video wall can also be utilized by teachers to enhance their classes and seminars, giving them the ability to stream in outside guests and display visual assets during their lessons.

“Concerts are traditionally such an audible, sensory experience,” explained Robert Rose, senior vice president, acoustics and technology, Idibri. “We wanted to make sure we provided strong visual elements to go along with that.”

[Opportunities Expand for LED Video Walls]

In the more intimate 425-seat CVPA Theater, the 36-foot wide, 20-foot high video wall is mounted on a motorized baton, and can fly in and out to adapt to various stage configurations and designs. With the space being used by various performing arts groups within the district, along with outside groups renting the space, the ability to quickly transform the space was of utmost importance.

“We wanted to provide them a way to quickly transform the set, and we thought doing that digitally with an LED screen fit the bill,” said Rose. “It also gives the students the ability to develop other skills that are very important for today’s productions, like digital content creation.”

When the United Performing Arts Guild was looking for a venue to present The Nutcracker in December 2021, the video wall truly was a selling point when choosing to rent the venue. Working with graphic designers that specialize in digital scenery design, the group spent 20 percent of what they normally would spend on the creation of more traditional backdrops and scenery.

The approach also allowed them to easily adjust their content throughout the rehearsal process and production, if needed. Utilizing the video walls for their scenic design pushed the group to think outside the box, creating a production unlike any that they had produced in the past. “I really believe they felt like we had the top-of-the-line technology here and it allowed them to take their performance to another level,” said Bryant. 

The two spaces are connected to one another, making it easy for CVPA to use the space not in use for overflow. Through the use of the LED video walls and Panasonic PTZ camera within the spaces, attendees can watch live content happening in one space while in the other venue.

The video walls also allow CVPA to integrate complementary technology that gives students access to unique virtual performances. For example, through a partnership with Steinway, CVPA has multiple automated Steinway Spirio pianos that can be operated within both spaces. These pianos can connect via the internet to other pianos and offer playback capabilities. “Someone can be playing at Carnegie Hall and the piano at CVPA can be playing back that same experience,” said Rose.


Jennifer Guhl

Jennifer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in the New York City area. Within the AV industry, Jennifer loves to explore how technology can alter the world around us, creating immersive experiences unlike any other. She has years of experience working with AV integrators, manufacturers, and event production companies in developing engaging content to increase their overall awareness.