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February 27, 2018

Sub-Saharan Africa: Make AV a Feast for the Senses

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Could there be anything more spectacular than fashion week on the audio-visual (AV) front? Except maybe MediaTech Africa, which showcases exceptional light and sound displays among other technological wizardry. Christopher Bailey, outgoing president and chief creative officer at Burberry, ended his swansong AW18 show at London Fashion Week in February with a dazzling rainbow light show as Diana Ross’s “I feel love” filled the room. Light and sound were as much stars of the show as the couture garments worn by the models sashaying down the runway.

Immersive experiences

While many business events do not require this level of creativity and “wow” factor, suppliers are geared up to offer functional and fashionable AV features. Robyn D'Alessandro, national marketing manager for the Gearhouse Group, explains, “In terms of tech trends, what is particularly prevalent at local events and inbound business events is the ongoing search for an unusual and memorable experience and one way of doing that is visually. There is a focus on moving away from traditional ‘death by PowerPoint’ one or two screen presentations to interesting content delivered in a memorable way.”

“At the very least, we are seeing a lot more widescreen presentation giving more prominence to the content,” Robyn says. “Increasingly we are seeing the entire venue being used either with a ‘surround screen’ or a series of inter-linked screens around the venue; all displaying the content simultaneously for an immersive experience or the use of the entire stage surface for 3D mapping. At Gearhouse we are using top of the range media servers, which allow for the creative mixing of a variety of inputs and high-performance video processing for 3D mapping. We have moved away from conventional shaped screens for some applications.”

LED innovation

Dianne Van Andel, sales and marketing manager at AV Direct, says that in the past, digital projectors were the only high-resolution device capable of large HD display. “Indoor LED displays have paved the way for high-resolution video playback to large audiences across the world. Now, as technology is advancing, it is becoming more efficient to use LED video wall cabinets,” she says. “There is no contest when comparing brightness and contrast between LED and projection systems. As the surface of the video wall itself emits the light you see, colours are more vibrant and light more brilliant. Unlike front projection systems, presenters and equipment can be positioned directly in front of the video wall without casting shadows or being front illuminated. As for rear projections systems, a video wall does not require a dedicated projection room behind the screen.”

Dianne explains that the number of pixels (discrete points of light) of an LED display will typically be less than that of a high-definition projector. “Our cabinets have a pixel ratio per cabinet of 192x192 on a cabinet size of 576mmx576mm, which equates to a 2.9mm pitch. This allows us to build extremely high-resolution, large-scale surfaces,” she notes. Projection systems still have their place in the industry for video mapping and set projections, she adds.

“The rental of LED panels has added a whole new dimension to clients in the conference, exhibitions, launches, film and fashion industries,” Dianne notes.

Robyn says that from an LED point of view, they are doing a lot of curved screens, hanging LED screens as ceilings, using advanced LED screen technology to replace lighting fixtures as scenic elements and also using LED screens more often as a replacement of traditional green screen studio shoots.

New ultra high definition standards are a continuous area of improvement, Robyn notes. “We are all heading towards 4K. Overall, the need is towards continually improving picture quality – looking for the best possible clarity and brightness with increased functionality, more inputs, more outputs and better switchers to send multiple images to multiple screens. In terms of projectors, we are looking at higher brightness, longer hours, quieter fixtures, more environmentally friendly fixtures.”

Reading the signs

“We are seeing a lot of movement around the use of digital signage in place of pull up banners or print, for schedules, wayfinding, table layouts and general promotional use. We are using iMira screens which are stand-alone digital screens but can be easily interlinked to show the content across all screens and work via USB,” she adds.

Reality, only better

“We are also seeing a lot of virtual and augmented reality popping up, although this mainly happening on exhibition stands rather than in conferencing and events. It is still predominantly used as a drawcard and a way of involving visitors in a novel, ‘hands on’ experience, but it still has a way to go before it becomes an integral part of the event messaging,” concludes Robyn.

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