With the opening of a $37.5 million state-of-the-art facility, the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently unveiled the new home of the Collat School of Business and the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Designed by Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham and Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York City, the 108,000-square foot educational center was created to provide a modern and innovative learning environment. Wanting an eye-catching display that would acknowledge all those you helped make the new facility possible, the university worked with the visual design specialists at Fravert Services who installed a free-flowing FLEXUltra LED video design from Nashville-based PixelFLEX.
“Initially, we were brought onto the project through the general contractor, and we began with a visioning session to best understand what type of environment the university wanted to create,” began Drew Fravert, project manager, Fravert Services. “Since they had been in their old facility for quite some time, they really wanted the new building to serve as a testament of success to their business and entrepreneurship programs. Additionally, they wanted to recognize the donors who funded the construction in a unique way, so we created a completely custom LED video design using a series of FLEXUltra LED video tiles.”
A high definition and curve-able LED display, the FLEXUltra allows boundless opportunities to create an eye-catching video experience with each frame manufactured specifically for the installation. Utilizing the ideal tile size for deployment of both 16:9 and 4:3 video ratios, FLEXUltra has a 160-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angle which offers one of the highest off-axis viewing angles in the industry, and the fully front-serviceable panels allow for quick and easy onsite installation and maintenance. With a 3869Hz refresh rate, FLEXUltra panels are available in 1.2mm, 1.6mm, and 1.9mm pixel-pitch options.
“When we started the design process of how to incorporate the digital display into the lobby, we went through the standard rectangular concepts, but it just wasn’t representative of the innovative nature of the school,” continued Fravert. “Knowing that LED video gave us the ability to be more creative, we started toying with the idea of using the individual PixelFLEX modules to create something truly interesting. Since this would not only serve as the donor wall, but also a recruiting tool for perspective students and faculty, the custom nature of the design would allow us to best demonstrate where the university is headed, and what it means to be a student at the school.”
As Fravert Services began to lay out the conceptual design for the custom video display, it not only needed to be unique, but it had to be functional as well. Drawing upon the idea of the student’s journey through the educational process, they were able to design a free-flowing, yet practical digital experience.
“Within the custom display, we still needed to provide the university with a space to show traditional 16x9 video, so we also needed to create a center screen as well,” added Fravert. “We started playing with the concept of students entering as individual freshmen, and then graduating as a part of something larger than themselves. If you look at the display from the right to left, as you enter the building, it flows from a fragmented display with individual tiles, into a more traditional design where there are more tiles grouped together. This gives the university the ability to showcase both custom content and their traditional video elements as well.”
Ready to begin the installation of the LED video design, Fravert understood that there would need to be a good line of communication between all parties involved. In a new construction application with custom features and design requirements, the team was able to successfully work together to create a truly unique lobby atmosphere.”
“Since we wanted to physically integrate the display into the building itself, we had to have a lot of coordination between the architects, general contractor, and electricians so that the FLEXUltra tiles could be flush with the wall,” Fravert said. “The wall itself is a sort of ‘false-wall’ with a 5-inch gap behind it, where all of the electrical conduits and data connections run back to a central server that powers everything. The university is then using an Adobe After Effects template to drop-in different video elements or custom graphics which create a dynamic and exciting digital experience from the moment you enter the building.”
Now open, the new home of the Collat School of Business and the Bill L. Harbert Institute is quickly enhancing the learning experience for the next generation of business leaders at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Knowing the effect that technology can have on an educational or any environment, it is the custom design abilities of LED video that Fravert believes holds its greatest value.
“The application of LED video in any design gives you a lot of flexibility with whatever type of information or graphics you are trying to show to your audience,” Fravert said. “For us, we are trying to design more experiential displays, and the PixelFLEX technology simply gives us the freedom to be more creative, which is something we truly value.”