Sky asked for flexible, creative, and dynamic digital branding of its Sky Studio facility at The O2. The solution had to incorporate the Sky logo and ample digital signage, as well as a content management system that would suit the broadcaster’s existing editorial workflow and easily adapt to the wide variety of events and shows at the O2.
Media Powerhouse exceeded Sky’s expectations by pioneering a new and bespoke LED logo solution, by providing a content workflow and remote management scheme that fulfilled both the practical and creative demands of the brief, and by completing the installation and commissioning (which included major structural and infrastructure components) to a demanding timeline, while keeping the facility open and operational throughout – with no evidence of construction or works during opening hours.
Sky Studios is a branded facility at The O2, intended to engage attendees of all ages with hands-on media technologies such as AR and VR content experiences, interactive photo and video facilities, and a behind-the-scenes TV production expose.
The brief was to re-imagine the building’s exterior for greater impact and to use digital signage technologies to make it a dynamic space that could adapt content depending on events and audience demographics at The O2. It needed to incorporate the Sky Logo, a Sky News and Sky Sports headlines display, and the ability to show programme and film trailer content. The content system had to be easy to use, and easily incorporated into existing Sky production workflows.
Media Powerhouse designed an original LED solution for the Sky logo, which does not rely on large masked LED panels or low-resolution LED tape products. The logo uses a steel frame with around 600 No. 80mm x 80mm LED tiles, each with 32 x 32 LED pixels, magnetically attached to create a large, custom-shaped, high-quality video screen. The logo has been mapped using custom firmware on Novastar A8 scan cards to allow Sky to create content within a standard 1920 x 1080 workspace without splitting the content up for each letter.
The logo was prototyped in the Media Powerhouse St Albans facility, both as proof-of-concept and as a test-bed for content creators. This ultimately ensured a large pool of content was available at launch date. The final product was then manufactured by a trusted Media Powerhouse partner and incorporates all hardware required to run the sign. Only Ethernet and power external inputs are required.
In addition to the logo screen, the Sky Studios dynamic branding scheme uses landscape and portrait LED screens (5m x 2.81m, 2.6mm pixel pitch), and a linear news-ticker screen (12m x 562mm).
All LED processing is handled using four of the new Novastar MCTRL R5 LED Controllers, chosen for the ability to provide 4k x 1k input resolution and input rotation within a 1U rack size. This was required on the project to handle the ticker with a resolution of 4,608px by 108px in one canvas whilst also providing content rotation for the portrait screen, allowing Sky creatives to produce content in a 1920px x 1080px workspace. The playout system uses four Brightsign XT1144 solid state media players, each equipped with a solid-state drives and Brightsign Networks licenses for ample content storage and remote content management.
The independent processing and playout systems give Sky ultimate flexibility for content, with the ability to remotely manage all content pools and playlists. As part of the project, Media Powerhouse provided a pixel-accurate layout of the completed building, accounting for area between screens, which allows animations to be created and played back seamlessly across each screen by using the frame synchronisation available within the Brightsign platform. Sky can still produce content on a screen-by-screen basis without having to move to an 8k workspace, and still maintain accurate synchronisation between content whilst also allowing individual content take-overs or live camera feeds on each screen.
There is Crestron processor and touchscreen on site, which allows staff to select from a range of content playlists depending on the daily schedule – allowing for fast response to changing visitor demographic at The O2 without needing to access a calendar or CMS. Making a change during playback will maintain a run to the end of a sequence before moving on to the selected playlist, with no interruption.
Having initially quoted just for LED screens and associated technology, Media Powerhouse was asked to take on the role of Principal Contractor in order to coordinate and oversee the entire project.
The building’s existing structure was not sufficient to carry all hardware, so new steel work had to be designed, approved, and installed in order to support the screens. The landscape screen, which partially covers a large glass frontage, is supported at one end only with a cantilever arrangement.
All works were carried out on site between midnight and 8am, with the building returned to its ‘normal’ state during operating hours (10am – midnight).
This meant that the newly refurbished building could be unveiled on launch day, fully operational and fully stocked with content, having never closed or suspended operations.
The new Sky Studios dynamic branding allows Sky to maintain an ever-changing and ever-adapting stream of content that can be used for everything from simple promotions to complex on-site events. The ‘video logo’ is the first of its kind and is a striking statement that compliments the Broadcaster’s high-tech media agenda.