December 1, 2006
Element Labs LED Video
LED-equipped surface materials in four basic forms: tubes, thin tiles, pixel-like dots, and see-through walls
Abstract video animations scroll around a 338-foot-tall cooling tower in Drogenbos, Belgium. Illuminated at dawn and dusk since last December, the surface of the gigantic curved cylinder is covered in 8,032 tubes containing roughly 96,000 LEDs. The installation was created by Belgian design firm Magic Monkey using components from Element Labs, a company based in Austin, Texas, and Wolfenbüttel, Germany, that offers LED-equipped surface materials in four basic forms: tubes, thin tiles, pixel-like dots, and see-through walls.
Grouped under the name Versa, the lights are operated by a controller that transfers digital video from a personal computer directly to the LEDs. “Really it’s just a DVI video display,” co-founder and chief technology officer Matthew Ward says, referring to the Digital Visual Inter-face used for flat-panel monitors. “It’s very easy to create content.” Indeed designers can use a common software program such as Flash, Photoshop, or QuickTime to run the Versa display from a Windows or Macintosh computer with pixel-to-pixel accuracy, meaning what you see on the monitor is reproduced exactly in the form of LEDs—except, of course, much bigger.
It’s not like looking at a television—the size of the LED “pixels” means that Versa displays are inherently low-resolution. But this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage: low-res displays allow for large-scale installations without the prohibitive cost and weight of LCD screens or theatrical lighting systems. “Basically, low-resolution video enables designers to put this color movement in places where they couldn’t before,” Ward says. “Physically it just wasn’t possible.”
LEDs embedded in tiles, tubes, walls, and giant “pixels” to
create low-resolution displays of digital video
The displays are lightweight and easy to program; the LEDs use little energy and will produce a broad spectrum of colors.
Architectural displays, showroom installations, concert lighting, signage, public art.
Element Labs Inc.
9421 Neils Thompson Dr.
Austin, TX 78758