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INFiLED manufactures 417-ton LED screen for Soundstorm festival

Organiser PRG custom-made the screen using TitanX and Atlas-X panels for Big Beast stage at Soundstorm musical festival, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2023

INFiLED manufactured one of the largest LED screens on the planet for Soundstorm musical festival, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It measured 189 metres wide by 43 metres high with over 200 million pixels broken up into 28 UHDs. Festival organiser PRG custom-made the screen using TitanX and Atlas-X panels for the biggest of the festival’s eight stages, known as the Big Beast.

The LED walls weighed 417 tons hung over 500 motors. This LED product was selected to prioritise brightness since it had to compete with the desert sun. Screens had to reach 5,000NITS, with the added necessity of transparency for specific stage sections.

Metallica performs at SoundStorm 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

James Morden, PRG’s lead video engineer for the event, put the size in context: “If you’re in a big stadium, the pitch is about 100 metres long – imagine placing a screen on the pitch that goes through both goals, out of the stadium and into the parking lot, and sticks through the roof. Your brain can’t process it,” he said.

Featuring international headliners, Soundstorm’s Big Beast stage attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees across three nights in the 2023 edition, which took place in December. Recalling the limitations of previous systems, Morden knew they needed a better one. After weeks of research, PRG sent a small team to meet with the PIXERA team at AV Stumpfl’s Austrian HQ. “We knew on paper it would work, so the purpose of the trip was to first meet the team, and secondly to test our ingest and scaling plan,” Morden added.

He notes one of the key points in their testing was latency. Using high-speed cameras, the team clocked three frames of latency from a signal hitting the input card on the PIXERA four to the time it rendered on the output. Satisfied with the results of their testing, PRG endorsed a PIXERA-only solution with full redundancy to PRG’s clients.

PRG’s final Soundstorm 2023 system comprised 12 AV Stumpfl PIXERA four RS servers, including spare render servers, two PIXERA two servers, and three PIXERA Director servers. Since the same server hardware handled all ç, as well as compositing/scaling and playout, PRG needed less rack space and less cable complexity. The system, therefore, required less power, had a smaller crew on site, and had a more flexible video system than previous years.

Additionally, PRG furnished an offline server for creative teams to programme their content prior to taking the stage. “Tom Denney, who had been out with Metallica for most of 2023, reprogrammed their touring show on PIXERA and had it looking really good for the opening night. All their content was 1:1, so we didn’t have to scale a thing,” Morden noted, “and you were able have multiple Notch blocks loaded across that entire canvas and fade between them – that was a mindset adjustment for Tom and the rest of us. Plus, because of Multi-User, we could monitor CPU and GPU stats up on another Director machine. We never once dropped a frame.”

Attendees marvelled at seeing 28 UHDs strobing in perfect sync, according to Morden: “We got a lot of feedback from all the artists’ camps. Usually, festivals have a backdrop and two IMAGs – three simple screens to plug in to. Anything beyond that, you’re going through scaling, which adds latency. So, all the feedback was around the speed of response: it was five frames from leaving your laptop to being on the screen, allowing for ingest, processing, and scaling. Running the Riyadh system at 50fps, that’s 1/10th of a second – that’s impressive, and, ultimately, helps the creative people be creative – they can press the buttons at the right time and not have to pre-empt by a fraction of a beat.”