SUPPLIER SOLUTIONS: Visual values - Audio-visual products are coming down in price, bringing large-scale technology into the exhibition hall. Mike Fletcher reports

Audio-visual decisions all too often come down to cost. But the

popularity and versatility of products is bringing prices down and it's

no longer just the big budget exhibitors and production companies that

are able to use advances in technology to showcase products and

services.



Lower costs in the hire and supply of audio-visual equipment means that

the technology normally associated with large-scale outdoor events is

moving into the exhibition hall. And companies are finding new ways to

maximise the effectiveness of products such as video-walls and plasma

screens.



'They no longer need to be the focal point of a stand's design as long

as they enhance the overall exhibition environment,' says Qudos Design

director Anton Jerges. 'Consumers are already exposed to the technology

in everyday life so any impact the most expensive piece of kit may once

have had is now reduced.'



PSL, which is the preferred on-site A-V and presentation equipment

supplier for Excel, agrees. The company encourages clients to take

advantage of what can be achieved with the wide range of equipment

available.



PSL estimates it holds about pounds 1m-worth of state-of-the-art

equipment at the London Docklands site. 'A plasma screen can be put in

the corner of a stand displaying the company message, but it will have

much more impact if it is integrated into the design or concept of the

stand,' PSL spokeswoman Michelle Cowan says. 'There is so much

audio-visual choice for all budget requirements and it is important that

exhibitors choose the equipment that will really work towards what they

want to achieve.'



Chris Bramwell, senior manager at Creative Technology NEC (formerly

Gearhouse NEC), says plasma screens are still the most popular A-V

solution in an exhibition environment. While Apex director Peter Forse

believes the best return on an investment in plasma technology is all

down to positioning.



'A plasma screen is often best situated high up on the stand so it draws

people in. Opting for interactive touch-screen technology can be

successful, but there is always the danger that it is only relevant to

one person at a time,' he says.



Video-walls are often used to combat the problems with positioning as a

16-cube video-wall will carry a 10ft by 12ft picture. 'Clients often

need to get the message across to as many people as possible and the

last thing you want is someone important four rows back not being able

to see,' says Mar-Com Presentations production manager Simon Prickett.

'Before opting for a video-wall the client needs to have carefully

considered its purpose and the impact of its content.'



Digital visual systems company SNP Group specialises in video-walls (or

media walls as they've become known because of their high-resolution

data capabilities). At one time, these large pieces of equipment were

more associated with launch events or custom-built stands but

developments in technology has created greater diversity for the

media-wall as an exhibiting tool.



'Most people opted for a media-wall if they needed scale, but their

increased flexibility has meant clients are adapting the width,

configurations and depth to suit almost any environment,' says SNP

marketing executive Emily Mardon-Taylor.



The depth of an average media-wall used to be at least two metres. That

has now been reduced to 40cms. Plasma Screen Company sales manager Gary

Clulow says: 'We even stock a Plasma wall that is mountable and only six

to eight inches deep. Some people hang them from a gantry system for

higher impact.'



This reduction in size means the cost per sq m of exhibition space is

not as limiting as it once was. 'The walls we use for the exhibition

environment are now being used for point-of-sale messaging in window

displays with limited space,' SNP's Mardon Taylor says. 'Liquid crystal

display (LCD) technology means walls can withstand high ambient light

environments and have greatly advanced viewing distances.'



Manchester United FC has taken advantage of the developments in

video-wall clarity. The Premiership club has re-configured one into an

ultra-thin one-by-three cube wall and it stands as a mannequin-style

messaging unit in the clothes section of its club store.



Nick Matthews, commercial director at design agency Furneaux Stewart,

produces work using light-emitting diode (LED) technology. He argues

that where moving imagery is required, LED is an option that should be

considered.



'In an exhibition environment, the audio has restrictions on how far it

can travel. But the visual can be seen from the other side of the hall

if the right technology is used. Plasma screens allow the audio and the

visual to travel the same distance, but an LED screen emits brighter

images that can act as a moving signpost to a stand anywhere in the

hall,' he says. 'The exhibition environment is making way for brighter

stands that are not conducive to dark pictures. If a client uses a back

projection screen to show slides, the brightness of the stand will burn

out the picture. LED technology allows for brighter stands wishing to

use strong visuals that will be seen from a long distance.'



Whatever the technology, good use of A-V involves careful consideration

of content, positioning and cost.



'There are so many products on the market, all of which can contribute

to a successful A-V solution. But so much depends on the message. It is

no good throwing money at an exhibition stand if the content and use of

technology adds nothing to the overall message,' says Interactive New

Media joint managing director Fergus Mitchell.



INFO FILE



Most A-V companies include delivery, collection, installation and a

24-hour back-up service as part of the cost but it is always advisable

to enquire.



SNP Group hire costs



Clarity 40-inch SVGA Data/Video cubes (80cm by 60cm)



2 by 2: pounds 800 daily/pounds 2,400 weekly



3 by 2: pounds 1,200 daily/pounds 3,600 weekly



3 by 3: pounds 1,800 daily/pounds 5,400 weekly



4 by 4: pounds 3,200 daily/pounds 9,600 weekly



5 by 5: pounds 5,000 daily/pounds 15,000 weekly



Impact Europe (to buy):



Pioneer PDP502 (50-inch plasma): pounds 7,990



Pioneer PDP402 (40-inch plasma): pounds 5,500



Sharp LC-20A2 (20-inch video and data): pounds 3,400



Sharp LC-15A2E (15-inch video): pounds 1,750



Plasma Screen Co hire costs



Plasma wall 100-inches: pounds 1,070 daily/pounds 3,210 weekly



50-inch PDP502 plasma screen: pounds 270 daily/pounds 810 weekly



50-inch SOPD1 plasma screen: pounds 230 daily/pounds 690 weekly



42-inch PFM42B1 plasma screen: pounds 225 daily/pounds 675 weekly



42-inch PFM500A3W plasma screen: pounds 180 daily/pounds 540 weekly



PSL hire costs: 50-inch plasma screen: pounds 1,050



40-inch plasma screen: pounds 780



20-inch LCD screen (data only): pounds 450



15-inch LCD screen (data only): pounds 265



20-inch Sharp flat screen (video): pounds 395



CASE STUDY: BT



'When investing in the audio-visual side of an exhibition stand, it is

important to remember they are temporary structures,' says BT account

director Charlotte Wilkinson-Prior. 'Big screen technology can be an

expensive wallpaper to any stand design. I believe in a low-tech,

high-impact approach that doesn't have to cost the earth. The best

approaches are innovative and make people sit up and take note.'



Wilkinson-Prior worked with PCI Live Design on BT's Can't see the wood

for the trees exhibit at Brighton's TMA exhibition last October.

Visitors were invited to cut through a forest of communication issues

and then were shown a wide range of BT solutions, through the use of

audio-visual and interactive demonstrations. 'We went for a visual way

of getting the message across by using a series of light-boxes to create

optical illusions.



We created the impression of tree bark and then, when the light changed,

it revealed a back panel with different solutions to business issues

written on it,' she says.



CONTACTS



- Apex, Exhibition House, London Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire,

SK11 7QX. Tel: 01625 429 370



- Creative Technology NEC, Unit 11/12 Second Exhibition Avenue, NEC

Birmingham, B40 1PJ. Tel: 0121 782 0433



- Furneaux Stewart, 16E Portland Rd, London W11 4LA.

Tel: 020 7792 9000



- Impact Europe, Calthorpe House, 30 Hagley Rd, Birmingham B16 8QY.

Tel: 0845 650 3076



- Mar-Com, 14 Silver Rd, White City, London W12 7SG.

Tel: 020 8740 7777



- MCL, Venture House, Daivs Road, Chessington, Surrey, KT9 1TT.

Tel: 020 8391 9700



- PCI, 3-18 Harbour Yard, Chelsea Harbour, London SW10 OXD.

Tel: 020 7544 7500



- PSL, Unit 2, 41 Humber Rd, London NW2 6EN. Tel: 020 8208 7100



- Plasma Screen Company, Unit 5, Wellington Industrial Estate, Spencers

Wood, Reading, RG7 1AW. Tel: 07000 752762



- Qudos,Constable Boat House, 15 Thames Street, Hampton, Middlesex,

W12 2EW. Tel: 020 8979 8880



- SNP Group, Unit 8 Brentford Business Centre, Brentford, Middlesex,

TW8 8LG. Tel: 020 8580 0000.




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