As part of the United States Army Medical Command, the Weed Army Community Hospital at Fort Irwin, California, is an award-winning medical facility centered in the Mojave Desert. With temperatures outside often rising to dangerous levels, the hospital wanted to bring waterfalls inside to create a relaxing and soothing lobby display. Without the ability to build actual waterfalls, the design engineering team turned to nuMedia Innovations wworked with Nashville-based PixelFLEX to create a series of waterfall illusions using indoor LED video technology.
“We were first approached about the project a little over seven years ago and were asked to simulate four 18-foot high waterfalls in the lobby of the hospital at Fort Irwin,” began Ray Winters, nuMedia Innovations Studio Director and Senior Project Manager. “When we started looking at the technologies available back then, the best around was a 40mm pixel pitch, but when we got the call to say the project was moving forward, we began researching the latest LED video solutions available now. We knew we needed a technology that could easily integrate with our control protocols, plus it had to be able to fit our custom design where we needed to arch the panels to diffuse the light properly."
“This design was unique in that we would be assembling the LED panels in a vertical stack as opposed to a traditional horizontal configuration,” continued Winters. “To create the waterfalls, we fabricated a frame for each that consisted of metallic rib structures on which we could magnetically affix each panel. Once attached, the rib structure would then flex the panels to create the arch which then disperses the light from the 12-inch panel to almost 17-inches wide. The control for the system would then utilize a small computer to run the graphic content, and we would also have remote protocols to update content, change display settings and handle various other controls through RS232.”
With the design ready to be installed, Winters and the design team headed to Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert. Given four days to complete the project, Winters knew that it would be a tight installation schedule, but with careful planning, the design advantages of TrueFLEX, and a little off-site assistance, he was confident it would be done.
“On this particular job site, they work on 10-hour days, Monday-Thursday, so we had to get the job finished within the time allowed,” added Winters. “To get it done most efficiently, we broke each 18-foot section down into three 6-foot sections and we did the hardware mounting first. Next, we laid out all the wiring, hooked in the power supplies with the audio component, and then started stacking panels. Since the panels are magnetic it really made the installation very easy.”
Now that the construction of the waterfalls was complete, it was time to get the water flowing. When creating the content, the hospital wanted to make sure that the lobby environment would be a soothing and relaxing experience, which is exactly what Winters was able to deliver.
“Since we were creating 18-foot high waterfalls, the content itself is a stock video component with a soothing audio track to create the environment the hospital was looking for in their lobby,” explained Winters. “We then have a diffusion layer, and a 1/2 -inch thick piece of caustic glass, mounted on earthquake rated standoffs, which covers the entire display. The acrylic, frost diffusion really accentuates the illusion of an actual waterfall behind the glass, and the panels look great.”
Seeing the final design come to life, Winters is quick to acknowledge that this particular project was a little different from others he has completed in the past. Needing a technology solution that was able to configure to his custom construction specifications, while also being quick and easy to install, was essential to bringing water to the desert.
“I have a lot experience creating LED video designs, and to be honest, this was one of the easiest custom installations I’ve worked on in a long time,” concluded Winters. “For others who may be looking for interesting LED video solutions, the designs and the panels we used were great because they can be shaped to fit your design specifications. As soon as we got our first look at the technology, we knew it would be the ideal solution for us, and in the end, it created a beautiful LED video design that the hospital can really be proud to showcase.”