THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Video wall theme puts focus on history

By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / March 3, 2010

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Perhaps the most surprising thing about the 60- by 40-foot LED video wall at Emerson College’s new Paramount Center is that it exists at all, according to project architect Ross Cameron. Usually in a renovation this big, decorative yet costly flourishes get sliced from the budget.

Not in this case. The wall, which cost $100,000 and is made up of 4,710 LED bulbs, will provide light shows to passersby on Washington Street. Emerson hopes to have it fully running later this month.

“I look at it as if it’s another venue, another theater,’’ said Rob Orchard, Emerson’s executive director for the arts. “I want people, when they come to Downtown Crossing, to always want to scoot down the street and see what’s on the wall.’’

There are other LED walls around the country. What makes this one special, says Cameron, is that the display, located next to the Paramount Theatre in the façade of the former Arcade building, is framed by 21 arching windows. The work can be programmed to put a different image in each window or to show a continuous moving picture.

Cameron also notes a historical resonance for the LED screen: The Bijou Theatre that once sat on the site was the first theater in America to be electrically lighted when it opened in 1882.

The LED wall features a low-resolution screen with 14,130 available shades of color. In the future, Emerson plans to have a staff member programming the wall. For now, the college has ordered up 24 patterns from Tim Hunter Design, a company based in New York. The 30-second loops will feature a range of images, including dancers, stage hands, and vaudeville performers.

“The theme is to try to recall the history of Washington Street and the names of the theaters and some of the history of the vaudeville performances,’’ said the firm’s Mike Hansen.