ISE 2016: Christie Digital’s Griffiths on in-venue projection, Spyder’s success

Christie Digital hit the ISE 2016 show floor with five major product launches geared toward the A/V space. The spotlight of the company’s Hall 1 booth was clearly on its new 1DLP 12,000-lumen laser phosphor projector, but the exhibit also featured three new Boxer projectors (joining the 4K30 model), a new range of LED displays, a smaller and quieter Q Series projectors, and a Pandoras Box upgrade.

Off the show floor, Christie has been making inroads into sports venues not only with its LED displays and projectors but with its popular Spyder video processors. SVG sat down with David Griffiths, director of market development, EMEA, to chat about the growing use of Spyder in video-control rooms, the company’s interest in bettering the fan experience, and what market trends have them excited for the future.

David Griffiths at Christie Digital’s ISE booth

David Griffiths at Christie Digital’s ISE booth

There’s quite a lot of crossover between the A/V industry and the sports-venue space. What do you have at ISE that would be of particular interest to sports-venue operators and fans?
Everything really, so I’ll try to split it up into different areas. Let’s talk about the output. LED is obviously very large for Christie. We’ve got a big range of products — anything from 6 mm all the way down to 1.2 mm available across two different families of LED — so LED, for [digital] signage nowadays, has the ability to take high resolution and present it to fans. That comes into our processing technology, so we’ve got products like Spyder. Spyder has really become the broadcast [and] the rental/staging go-to process server because it’s all about low latency [and] instant video playback, so, if you want to be able to put up two sports-team logos [and] have confidence that it’s going to be appearing at the right size at the right resolution in the right place, that’s what the Spyder’s going to do for you.

Spyder can be utilized on lots of different displays at the same time, so you might have LED at a certain-resolution pitch — you might have flat panels, you might have projection, you might have any type of displays — and, basically, Spyder will bring them all together and will allow the content to be resized at the right time in the right place.

[Another application in sports is,] more and more, we’re hearing about the way we’ll light up a stadium for, for example, an ice-hockey match. Before the ice-hockey match, it’s all about a show. We’ll project upon the ice, we’ll make something happen on the ice, so [as teams are presented], there are abilities now not only to project on the ice but also to track.

We’ve got the Coolux range of Pandoras Box servers [with tracking]. For example, ice-hockey players can come on, and we’ll know which ice-hockey player it is because they’ll have a tracking device on them. So, here comes number 17, they’re coming to the center of the ice, and then their scorecard comes up right alongside them [with] real data of where they are in the season. It’s the ability to create a show that’s utilizing a whole bunch of Christie technologies: it’s using Coolux for the content players for the tracking devices, it’s using maybe Spyder to manage where the inputs are appearing, it’s maybe using our projection or LED to project onto the ice or to reinforce the message around that, and then it’s using technologies such as warping, blending, and alignment that we have within that, so the show always looks the same and is of the highest quality.

We’re seeing this in basketball, we’re seeing it in ice hockey, and we’re going to see it more and more. It comes a lot from our heritage. We’ve been utilized in other subsections of this: we did Dancing on Ice in the United Kingdom and Dancing With the Stars in the United States, where again we’re projecting upon the floor. We’re creating ambience, we’re creating a show.

At Christie, we have the ability to help with the content, deliver that content, manage that content, do the tracking, and then do the output as well and choose the right output device for the type of venue we’re working in. … We’ve done this many times in different applications. [In an] arena where we might project on the ice, getting multiple projectors to come into the right shape on the ice, that’s difficult. We do that every single day. Fans just want to see output, they want to see quality, and they want to see it repeatedly. The people that own the stadium don’t want to have lots of technical time; they want it all to be as automated as possible.

In addition to the broadcast and rental/staging markets, we’ve seen Spyders pop up increasingly in video-control rooms in the U.S. to push content to multiple displays. How have you seen that area grow?
Previously to a couple years ago, we didn’t have LEDs, but we’ve had Spyder for many years. We’ve been driving LEDs all across the world for multiple manufacturers, and [Spyder] has been the go-to device because of its capability to take in any type of input effectively [and push] to any type of output. If you want HD-SDI input to DVI output, it’ll do it, no problem at all, and it’ll do it at low latency, and it will match the resolution of the display that you’re [pushing] to. That’s the important thing: it doesn’t need to be linear resolution, which other processors might need.

For us, it’s fantastic because now, as we add LED to our display range, we already have Spyder in place. It has been the center of those types of areas. It’s also been the center of broadcast sets for many years, for similar reasons in that it doesn’t matter what sort of display you’re using.

With the advent of more and more 4K, it’s been 4K-capable for many years as well, so, as we move towards 4K inputs, no problem at all.

I’m glad you brought up 4K. Any other trends you’re seeing or requests you’re hearing from customers that you’re adapting to?
I think 4K is absolutely that message right now. There’s a couple of [other] things, [such as deciding which illumination device to use in a projector]. If we look at that, Christie’s wonderful in that we want to listen to all of our customers and adopt what is appropriate to them. We have lamps, we have laser phosphor, and we have RGB laser illumination devices, and we use them in the right place at the right time to the right people. We don’t force you down a certain route because that’s easy for us or that’s where we think the market’s going; we listen, and we adapt to the market constantly.

Illumination device has been important, and we’ve seen that in things like our Boxer projector. Boxer 4K30 was launched here last year. A lot of people say, well, 4K is important but is it a future thing? In Europe, some customers in certain territories say, for me, it’s a future thing. And we’re saying, We hear you, so here’s a 2K version of Boxer. You don’t need 30,000 lumens? Well, in that case, we’ve got the option: you can have 20,000, 25,000, or 30,000. You choose. And then, you’re not limited. Let’s say you bought a 2K25, and you want to go 30,000? We have a program to allow you to change that. You’ve adopted 2K, but you now want 4K? We have also a program to take you from 2K to 4K.

The key thing is, we don’t want to shoehorn a customer into a box they can’t do anything with. We have the ability to change and adapt, so that, as they feel comfortable in the business they want to have — maybe a certain brightness level or a certain resolution — that technology will follow their requirements.

I think it’s an example of us putting the customer at the center of our business. When there was a desire to support 4K, there was a desire for higher brightness, there was a desire for redundancy, etc., we met our customer and said, What do you want? What are the key features? How do we prioritize them? What have you found from other projectors that you like, that you don’t like? We’ve gone through all of that, and that’s how we designed Boxer. We have to work within the limits of physics — also physical size and weight — so we’ve done all that, and now we’re adding to it, extending the range in response to customer feedback. We’ve added a fiber-optics transmission device. We’ve found people want to use fiber optics but there was no standard for fiber optics; therefore, we’ve had to effectively create our own to help fix a problem within the industry. It’s a starting point, and that allows us to move from that point forward and transmit 4K directly to devices using either single-mode or multimode fiber optics.

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