Executive Q&A: An Innovative Approach

Michael Wiener, Vanguard
(Image credit: Future)

SCN: When did you establish Vanguard, and what are your responsibilities?

Michael Wiener: I founded Vanguard in 2012. I was on Fremont Street in Las Vegas where they had outdated printed signboards on the street. I thought that LED signage would be a huge improvement over unlit cardboard signage. I bought an LED sign to present the concept to the Fremont Street Association. Couldn’t get in the door, but we were then in the LED display business.

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Vanguard is American owned and based. Our core values are stellar service, timely communication, and responsiveness. I am the CEO. Our three key employees—Max Perry, president, Steve McAfee, vice president, technical support, and Kelly Albano, operations manager—report to me. I have instilled into Vanguard the critical importance of responsive customer service and always being on the leading edge of new technology. 

SCN: You recently introduced the Axion Acuity Series with virtual pixels. What makes this technology unique?

MW: Vanguard LED Displays won Best in Show at InfoComm 2022 [from SCN sister publication Sound & Video Contractor] for its Axion Acuity Virtual LED Series, which uses an algorithm to create virtual pixels that, in turn, allows for exceptionally small pixel pitches. The display we featured at InfoComm 2022 was P0.48! The technology allows the PCB board to “borrow” adjacent chips, creating four times the number of pixels compared to a standard SMD display, enabling the display to achieve exceptionally low pixel pitches at realistic prices.

LED video displays have many advantages over projection and LCD, particularly in indoor applications.

Vanguard also showed its XR LED Studio Series directed at the movie, television, and streaming industries. Using the latest software from Brompton or Novastar, Vanguard can achieve exceptionally accurate colors demanded by the broadcast industry. The system features shutter sync, 3D color management, and frame re-mapping. DCI-P3 attempts to standardize the colors used in the film industry. Based on very precise scientific testing by a customer, Vanguard achieved “exceptional” DCI-P3 native diode color space accuracy. The grayscale achieved was also highly accurate.

SCN: Why are dvLED displays becoming increasingly popular for indoor installations?

MW: LED video displays have many advantages over projection and LCD, particularly in indoor applications. Their colors are rich, deep, and vibrant. True black is attainable. LED images are not affected by ambient light, indoor lighting, and entertainment lighting. LED displays require very little maintenance. Bulbs used in projectors are expensive and need to be replaced often. LED displays do not require much electricity. Pixel pitches on LED displays can now be as low as P0.5, and the latest LED technology has a failure rate of only 1 part per million.

SCN: Does that mean LCD displays are on the way out?

MW: With respect to LCDs, I do not believe they are completely on their way out. If, for example, a single 55-inch diagonal screen would suffice, then LCD is the much less expensive option. From 108-inch diagonal and larger, LED, even though it is more expensive, is the better option for a number of reasons. For example, individual LCD displays have bezels or frames around them, which are very distracting. An LED display is one contiguous image.

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Also, if an LCD display consists of multiple units, it must be replaced if an individual LCD screen fails. The colors on the replacement LCD will not match the other units. The color uniformity of the entire display is effectively destroyed. This is a huge risk to take, especially if the expectation is for the LCD screen to last many years. With LED displays, if a single bulb needs to be replaced, a back-up module with LEDs that match the original dye-lot is used to replace the module with the damaged bulb in seconds. The color integrity of the entire display remains unchanged.

SCN: For integrators and their customers, how important is choosing the right controller for video walls?

MW: The factors to consider in selecting a controller include connections needed (HDMI, SDI, DVI, etc.), video sources, latency, scaling, color gamut, frame rates, on-camera performance, and, of course, budget. At a very basic level, a controller is simply a passthrough from a video source to the LED display. But a controller can be responsible for scaling content, setting unique resolutions and aspect ratios, or providing multiple windows and/or layers of content on one wall or multiple walls simultaneously. The components on the controller we provide to the military are made in the USA.

SCN: What are some of the major differences required for military displays?

MW: Vanguard is the only company in the world that is TAA approved by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to sell LED video displays the U.S. government—and any of its agencies including, obviously, the military—under the Trade Administration Act. This approval has been published in the Federal Register. The country of origin of the displays we sell the military is Taiwan.

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SCN: How have supply chain issues impact Vanguard?

MW: The scarcity of integrated circuit (IC) drivers caused many delivery delays in 2021 and early 2022. This situation seems to have resolved itself. The main supply chain issues now revolve around the availability of air and sea freight.

SCN: What new initiatives are we likely to see from your company?

Vanguard’s track record clearly shows that we are always leading the way with new technology. I cannot predict what our new initiatives will be, but I assure you that Vanguard will be the first company in the industry to present them. I feel that it will take years for the market to fully absorb the technology we are presently offering, including Chip on Board (COB), Glue on Board (GOB Epoxy Resin), XR Studio Series, and Axion Acuity Virtual Series.

Mark J. Pescatore
Content Director

Mark J. Pescatore, Ph.D., is the content director of Systems Contractor News. He has been writing about Pro AV industry for more than 25 years. Previously, he spent more than eight years as the editor of Government Video magazine. During his career, he's produced and hosted two podcasts focused on the professional video marketplace, taught more than a dozen college communication courses, co-authored the book Working with HDV, and co-edited two editions of The Guide to Digital Television.