First Man (2018) VFX Background


In late 2017, VER supplied a curved 8K display as a dynamic scenic backdrop for "First Man". More productions are moving VFX to preproduction and inserting the imagery directly into the set to save time, improve effect fidelity, and give the talent something to react to and work against as compared to a traditional static green screen.

To meet the requirements of this production, we seamlessly stacked four 4K systems and leveraged the APIs in the LED processing system to provide dynamic control and metadata capture across the entire 8K display. In addition the display was optimized for shutter phase synchronization with the film cameras being used.


ABC TV-3 Studio: World News Tonight Curved Backdrop


In 2018 VER updated the ABC TV-3 studio backdrop for 'World News Tonight' from tiled plasma to a 5K wide aspect LED display driven by two VER M8 processors. For this job, I was responsible for adding custom white point and color gamut functionality to the M8 processor to match the extremely warm 2700°K studio lighting, as well as solving any other image quality issues that came up with such a non-standard environment.

When changing from a display with internal bezels that aren’t raster compensated (e.g., tiled plasma) to a seamless display, existing content will not land in the same physical location due to the removal of the un-compensated bezels - even if scaling is applied to consider different pixel pitches. If your critical reference point is not at the upper left of the display (e.g., it is just over the left shoulder of the news anchor), be prepared to re-author content slightly to make up for this.


Fanless 2RU Concept


In 2018 we started exploring a next generation processor design with a more explicit target to reduce on-going maintenance requirements for long term fixed install scenarios.

One issue with the previous generation product was a poor airflow design with filters that clog frequently in dusty environments. We explored concepts borrowed from modern laptops, using heat pipes to move heat from the primary generators to a heatsink placed outside the chassis.

Dual hot-swap power supply units are often requested from clients, even though the PSUs we typically select have some of the longest MTBF of any component in the device and are the most trouble-free. In this design sketch the hot swap PSU are isolated in their own chamber in case forced air cooling is desired for the PSU section.


To speed development turnaround, we also started augmenting rapid prototyping with photo-realistic renderings instead of the typical shaded CAD models available at this stage. This allows us to get a better feel for how the equipment will combine with other components in a system. This illustration is an example of a glass/wireframe look to bring attention to the new component.

Empire State Realty Trust Lobby

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Working in the renovated lobby of the Empire State Realty Trust building at 250 West 57th Street in New York proved challenging as maintenance access to the finished display is virtually non-existant.

While hunting down data corruption issues we replaced passive couplers with a managed switch at the demarc above the display, in order to better trace packet loss problems as well as provide an active redrive of the signal to the display.


Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes


For the 2017 season the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes received a complete technology update providing lifelike dynamic scenery, including an 8K LED upstage display driven by the VER M8 LED processor.

One of the primary requirements for this installation was to use Two Sample Interleave (2SI) 4K formatting for quad-linked 3G throughout the facility, instead of the more prevalent but somewhat ad-hoc square quad division (SQD). 2SI finally introduces metadata indicating which pixel quadrant each channel is representing and makes it more difficult for the user to mis-patch the quadrants. In addition, each SDI link carries a complete decimated 1080p representation of the 4K signal making intermediate monitoring a little easier with existing HD infrastructure.

Matching colorspaces across all display technologies is still not well managed in a production workflow, and LED is a particularly bad culprit with most LED displays running in 'vivid' or native color gamut mode. Expanding a color gamut to greater than 100% of it's specified area can be as bad if not worse than compressing it for representing accurate color depending on how the gamut mapping is done. To address this for Radio City, a conversion matrix was implemented to target as close to the Rec. 709 gamut as is possible with the material science limitations of the light sources.


Murder on the Orient Express (2017) VFX Background


“When you were on the set surrounded by LED, it really felt like you were on a moving train, in the middle of the Alps. Not only could you see the motion of the light reflect perfectly off the surfaces of the train, but the talent themselves felt like they were transported onto a moving train. It really made the actors feel like they were in a location shoot.”

Murder on the Orient Express extended the LED display car process to wrap an entire train car for in-camera effects through ice-covered windows.

To minimize artifacts caused by interactions between a moving mechanical shutter in the camera(s) and the LED refresh pattern, the cameras were set to 180° shutter angle and the LED display was run at twice the film frame rate (48Hz vs 24Hz) to ensure that the camera exposed each frame correctly. Because 48Hz is not a SMPTE standard frame rate, SDI distribution systems can't be used and DisplayPort was selected to link the media servers to the LED processing for this job.


WARN Winch Contactor

While designing a bracket to remote a winch contactor inside the engine compartment to clean up the front bumper, I thought I'd fully model the contactor to get additional practice with both modelling and rendering.

The 'Import From McMaster' feature in Fusion 360 is helpful to quickly add OTS parts to a design if you don't also need them added to a component management system.

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Chip-On-Board LED Work Lamp Concept

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A Chip-on-board (COB) LED work lamp design study to update the ubiquitous incandescent 'trouble light' with something more physically robust and energy efficient. This design uses an AC lamp module and was a test to learn sheet metal modeling in Fusion 360.

Although LEDs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs in transforming electricity into light, they still do produce waste heat. Their waste heat is primarily conductive rather than radiant, which requires more complex thermal management to conduct and radiate the heat to the environment. This design uses a passive heatsink underneath a thermal safety enclosure.

VER M8 4K LED Processor

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While at VER I owned the design, development, production and support of the industry leading 4K LED processor and distribution system, the VER M8.

This processor was designed to meet the specific needs of the growing touring LED rental market: rapid installation on site, easy configuration by LED techs without specialized software or equipment, and support for 4K inputs in SDI, DisplayPort, and HDMI.