BAE Systems LED screen

Brief: To create a high-impact video to be shown on the largest screen ever deployed by BAE Systems: an LED array 25 metres long by three metres high! This was used in the large BAE Systems pavilion at the Farnborough International Air Show. The programme had to tie-in visually to the company’s advertising campaign, which was based around the idea of a neural network.

Solution: The neural network representation was created as a 3D animation. The action flies the viewer through the network, between 3D models of BAE Systems platforms, which then transform into live action. To make best use of the ultra-wide format the live action parts of the programme make extensive use of motion graphics. As well as the screen shape, another unusual constraint was the ultra-low resolution. There was only one LED every inch: so despite the size of the screen, the total number of ‘pixels’ – in this case LEDs – was only 1056 x 128 (compared to a full hi-def image size of 1920 x 1080). This meant that both the live action and the graphics had to made especially high contrast and punchy.

As with many of the programmes I’ve made for exhibition use the dynamic sound track was a vital part of the final presentation.

My role: Director

Comments: A regular problem with working with large display devices is that you can’t see what the programme is going to look like until you’ve made it, and are on site. By which time it is of course too late to change anything. (See the BAE Systems Innovation Theatre.)  In this case, because of the particular issue of the low resolution I decided that I really had to see one of these screens in use, and run a piece of our programming on it to see how it looked, before final delivery. Since the company that supplies the screen was in Sweden, that’s where I had to go to do this. It was worth the trip, even though I didn’t have time to eat so much as a pickled herring while I was there!

This was very much a computer-generated creation. The 3D modelling was done by my favourite 3D animator: he wouldn’t mind my describing him as a geek – which I mean with the greatest of respect. His studio, rows and rows of computers, is in an annex to his house on the Yorkshire moors; he thinks nothing of working through the night.

The edit was done by my favourite freelance motion graphics designer, working in her penthouse apartment in Muswell Hill. She is brilliant at making exciting visuals out of very ordinary images, so is perfect when working with a mixture of archive material, as in this case. (She also worked on the Vehicle Systems Integration programme for BAE Systems.)  Oh, and her husband made the music, on his computer.

The audio track was created from a mixture of sync sound from some of the video images, and effects from a huge library accumulated by my favourite sound mixer. Also done on his computer, in his home studio in Manchester.