The LED video wall is a piece of display technology that as technology has improved has not only gotten bigger and more versatile but also simpler to use.

Modern video walls are incredibly flat and have tiles that can connect flush to each other, as well as having easy to set up video drivers to help automatically split the required image into the screens so they fit together perfectly.

In the early days of video walls, this was not the case, and early video walls were very tricky to set up.

The Problems To Be Solved

The first, and biggest issue was the screens themselves; traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) screens and projectors have a very low brightness output of around 800 lumens. This limits the size of any projected image to 4 metres wide and required a dark room to really see anything.

Monitors were an option, but the biggest monitors available in CRT were 28 inches in size and were both incredibly heavy and incredibly expensive.

As well as this, before the invention of video drivers and processor hardware, the only way to get a large image to display was to split the original video into however many different screens you had (a time-consuming process before the Video Toaster), encode them onto laserdisc and play them all separately.

This made large video walls obscenely expensive, with huge gaps in between the image, but the alternative required large amounts of video memory that was even more expensive.

As a result, video walls of this kind were only ever seen at long-running exhibitions.

The First Attempts

One of the first major and successful attempts to make a video wall that could split the image automatically was the PICBLOC system from Electrosonic in 1987.

It took advantage of a fairly new technology in an interesting way. The Charged-coupled device (CCD) is typically used to store images in memory, as used in digital cameras and microscopes, but Electrosonic managed to take advantage of it to split video images in real-time.

This reduced the cost-per-channel down, as did the programmability of the PICBLOC driver.

This in conjunction with easy-to-use programming tool C-THROUGH allowed for some incredibly creative uses of video walls, including overlays, animations, slides as well as split images, all set up in a large, heavy mounting of CRT monitors, later replaced by clever rear projection.

Probably the most famous early uses for video walls include the set design for the cult hit musical Chess, as well as a 108-monitor wall used at the Hippodrome nightclub in London.

The Video Cube

The biggest early development was the development of the “cube”, which replaced the incredibly heavy monitors with a CRT projector arrangement, which almost removed the large gaps between the cubes, improved the brightness significantly and occupied less space.

Cubes produced by Pioneer, Sony, Toshiba, Electrosonic and many other companies would come to dominate the audio-visual market for around a decade, being featured in TV shows, trade shows, presentations and attractions until finally being retired by a new generation of LCD monitors.