When FC Köln played their first home game of the Bundesliga season 2017-18, they had the opportunity to show off their new LED system. A total of 60m of boards were installed behind Infront’s main LED perimeter boards at the stadium and were showcased during the match against Hamburger SV.
Similar to FC Schalke 04’s newly unveiled system, the boards' technology will evolve with TV production. Their appearance is optimised for HDR TV production as well as new slow-motion cameras with a higher frame-rate. Essentially, it’s futureproofed.
FC Schalke 04 was an interesting project as it allowed us to work on an LED solution rather than just the system itself. This was especially true when specifying and sourcing the LED boards' height. We aimed for the highest possible, while keeping spectator’s sight lines and broadcaster' work environment in mind. Of course, we were always looking at other developments in the business to make sure the club was as future-ready as possible.
The LED perimeter board business has changed considerably over the last seven or eight years, with plenty of suppliers – especially in the low-price segment, with correspondingly reduced quality. It is therefore all the more reassuring to see that long-term partners appreciate high-quality service. This dialogue also allows us to work on other LED advertising projects on a regular basis.
There was a big step up in the market around 2011/12 when UEFA created their minimum criteria for UEFA Champions League matches. That was a key moment for the market.
In terms of quality, LED bulbs spaced 12mm apart or less, 12mm pixels, can still be considered state-of-the-art and deliver a high-quality display. However, in 2014 we upgraded most of our systems to 10mm pixel, and this is still in broad use. Further upgrades to a smaller pixel pitch will of course lead to an even higher resolution, but we must focus on other technical aspects such as refresh rate, colour depth or brightness. By taking into account the distance from all important cameras capturing the boards in a football match as well as potential technical challenges, such as contrast and potential brightness and cost-sensitiveness, we can ensure more flexibility in TV production. Not to be forgotten, we also aim to constantly improve on the environmental side by reducing the power consumption of each newly developed system as much as possible.
The next big revolution, virtual advertising, will change the board advertising business once again. However, it won’t replace, but rather complement the LED boards by offering tremendous opportunities for extension and upgrading of board advertising.
On a regular weekend during the season, we deploy our LED boards to four to six Bundesliga matches. Setup starts the day before a match. On the match day itself we operate the boards and we dismantle them right after the game.
Often, the LED board system will then be directly sent on a truck to the next UEFA Champions League, league or international match or the DFB Cup.
But it isn’t just football that is seeing the benefit of our improved LED systems. We serve customers across summer and winter sports – be it football, tennis, handball, ski jumping and curling events. Our boards are deployed all around the world – mainly in Western Europe, but also the USA, Canada, Brazil, Russia, Turkey or Israel, where we offer our services to clients such as the DFB and EHF and as well as our regular football partners such as 1. FC Köln, Schalke 04 or VfL Wolfsburg and many more in the Bundesliga.