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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 17:46 GMT
Fremont St Screen
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
BBC Click Online North America technology correspondent

Vegas specialises in overkill and excels in excess. It will not come as a big surprise that the glitziest city on planet earth also boasts some amazing technological marvels to boot. Ian Hardy has been looking into one of the brightest ideas this desert oasis has ever seen.

World's largest LED screen

Welcome to a world of super sized animation, and high-resolution special effects. A one-of-a-kind screen that sits 90 feet above a street in Las Vegas.

Every night just after dark, on the hour every hour, the ceiling over the street is suddenly covered with a multitude of creations, from star ships to snakes.

Joseph Schillaci of Fremont Street Experience says: "The Fremont Street Experience canopy is 1,500 feet long, which is equal to about four soccer fields, and about 45 feet wide. It is the world's largest LED screen and is powered by 550,000 watts of concert-quality sound."

The $17 million Viva Vision screen was installed recently as an upgrade to the original 1995 screen, which was covered with incandescent bulbs.

The resolution dramatically increased and the electricity charges rapidly decreased, allowing for more shows.

Each digital video clip, which lasts only a few minutes, takes several months to produce.

Animation and live action sequences are controlled from a central control room full of supercomputers that between them share 9,600 gigabytes of storage space.

Geoff Bickel

'Technical wonder'

Geoff Bickel of Technical Entertainment says: "For our visual display system we've got eight main HD players, we've got a lighting system that is currently running off two separate computer devices. Our audio system is comprised of at least four different computers."

The screen itself is a technical wonder.

It has 12.5 million red, blue, and green synchronized LED lamps that are constantly being replaced, and an image that runs at 60 frames per second. That is about double the number of frames from a typical TV set.

220 remote amplifier locations disperse the sound throughout the shopping area below.

With no other examples in the world, the screen was built from scratch by LG.

John Taylor

John Taylor of LG Electronics says: "These LEDs emit 16.7 million colours if you can believe it. So it's a tremendous palette on which these video artists are creating these wonderful shows."

Each digitally reproduced movie is specially made to take the perspective and curve of the surface into consideration.

In fact, a series of mini-movies are created and then joined up to fit seamlessly onto the extremely long screen.

Each segment goes through a multilayered encoding process and finally becomes a huge MPEG clip.

Ironically, one of the newest Las Vegas innovations is in the oldest part of the city.

Fremont Street was the original gambling centre, long before the glamorous Strip arrived, but it eventually succumbed to urban decay.

With the aid of technology, the site is now back on the tourist map.


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