With the installation of an LED video wall in a new drama theatre space, the first of its kind in an educational establishment in the UK, LED technology has added a new dimension to performing arts at St Paul’s Catholic School in Coventry.
St Paul’s Catholic School is a mixed comprehensive school for students aged 11-18 and over with 1,000 students on the roll who come from Roman Catholic parishes covering a wide area of Leicester and the surrounding countryside.
The new theatre space was created as part of a package of audio visual improvements worth £2.5 million carried out under the Building Schools for the Future Programme (BSF), aimed at providing a 21st learning environment in Leicester’s schools to engage and inspire pupils, staff and people in the community.
Leicester was one of the first areas in the country to become part of the BSF scheme, the City Council being awarded more than £235 million under the BSF programme to rebuild or remodel all of the secondary schools in the city.
The school wanted a dynamic display solution that would enable them to create backdrops for drama performances and school assemblies. Specialist LED manufacturers Messagemaker were approached by AV partners for the project, CDEC, to assist in determining the best solution for the video wall as a central element of the new theatre space.
The decision to adopt an LED solution followed research into a number of alternative screen options, others being rejected due to their cost and complexity. The increasing sophistication of LED technology combined with lower prices has seen a significant increase in take-up for large LED screen solutions where previously they may not have been considered as an option. With a lifetime on average 4-5 times longer than other technologies, LED offers an extremely competitive and cost-effective solution for video walls.
Messagemaker worked closely with CDEC to review the school’s needs to ensure the best technology fit for the new video wall. Key considerations for St Paul’s were a streamlined appearance and the simplicity of operation.
The advanced LED display technology gave Messagemaker the flexibility to create a bespoke display to meet the specific size and ratio required by St Paul’s School. Measuring 6.22 metres x 2.38 metres, the new video wall has an extremely thin profile thanks to the lightweight tiles and frameless design of Messagemaker’s Imposa Lite system, which allows individual tiles to be joined to create a seamless display. This provides a versatile backdrop which blends in to become a natural part of the on-stage action. The comparatively low weight of the system (503 Kg) allows wall-mounting using standard stud wall fixing brackets.
The addition of the video wall has been hugely advantageous in regards to meeting learning outcomes, engagement and behaviour
A full colour matrix display comprising 4.4 trillion colours and internally bright LEDs combine to deliver a high brightness output, adjustable up to 1500 NiT, a combination that works well both in a performance environment with stage lights trained directly on the screen, or in a fully-lit auditorium. The power of the LED display provides good visibility for audiences from a distance of just one metre to up to 25 metres, covering the tiered seating area.
The advanced software that is provided with the screen is designed to allow users to manage and programme content with a minimum of training. St Paul’s school is able to integrate text, images and graphics within the display and also to stream live HD camera fed video as well as BluRay and other DVD based videos in creating theatre backdrops to support on-stage performances and increase audience engagement.
Neil Lockyer, Head teacher of St Paul’s School is enthusiastic about the new video wall: “The screen creates a tremendous impression for students, audience members and visitors to the school. Its size and the range of possibilities it offers for dramatic performance are the two most impressive elements. What the screen has given us is the ability to use fully interactive sets – the digital interacting with the physical. This has been very powerful and has enhanced our productions considerably.
David Hayes, Assistant Head of Performing Arts emphasises the contribution the technology has made to the learning environment: “The LED screen has had a hugely positive impact on our young people. It gives us a more holistic approach to theatre in that our students are able to design a set and easily place it right on the video wall with the touch of a button. The addition of the video wall has been hugely advantageous in regards to meeting learning outcomes, engagement and behaviour. The instant impact of using the screen for set designs allows our students to take ownership and see the results of their work.
In terms of the Performing Arts faculty, the wall allows us to use live video and moving backdrops mixed with naturalistic theatre which has really added a new dimension and level to our theatre and performance.”
As the technology has become more affordable, its versatility has been embraced within the performing arts sector, with many theatres and sports, leisure and entertainment venues now looking at upgrading facilities to increase engagement with audiences and enhance the viewer’s experience. The same technology has also been used by schools and colleges to advantage for outside signs, with LED being the only technology bright enough to work properly outside.