Interactive digital signage plays a key role in Mercedes-Benz’s new retail corporate identity.
Story: Derek Powell
Photos: Jason Smith Photography
A gleaming new landmark now graces the Brisbane riverfront at Breakfast Creek. Created as a luxury lifestyle precinct, the anchor tenant will be LSH Auto’s state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz new car showroom and service centre, the first in Australia to incorporate the brand’s new retail corporate identity. Behind the arresting five-storey glass façade is a retail experience like no other – “a prototype for how the world’s leading luxury car brand believes modern premium automotive retail should be experienced”.
Every aspect of the showroom, the design, layout, lighting, furnishings, and the unique audiovisual experience is closely defined in the Mercedes-Benz MAR2020 design rules. This new “market architecture” replaces the previous worldwide Auto Haus theme and is highlighted by what are known as “stage media walls”. These are dramatic 32:9 format video displays, surrounded by floor to ceiling black glass, which form stunning, ever-changing backdrops to the vehicles on display. Faced with such an extensive audiovisual fit-out – and the need to comply closely with the specifications in MAR2020, builder John Holland called upon consultants InDesign Technologies to design and ultimately manage the complex AV installation.
IDEAS AT THE WALL
The showroom workflow envisioned customer interactions where staff using portable tablets could cast specific content to any of the video display walls while chatting with clients. This might relate to model variants, accessories, colour choices and so on. Seamless integration of customer-specific illustrations onto any display was seen by Mercedes-Benz as key to an enriched, 21st century retail experience.
The question for InDesign was how best to enable ad hoc switching from any mobile device to any videowall. Ideally, sales staff should be able to do this from wherever they were, without having to access a touchpanel controller to switch sources.
Initially the AV design saw content sources located in a central rack that were switched then distributed throughout the showroom floors over IP. However, Peter realised that a rethink on this strategy could potentially shave half a million dollars from the burgeoning budget. His distributed strategy placed a Lightware 4×2 mini switcher right at each videowall input. Inputs to the switcher were the Scala players (which provided model-specific branding images in each sales zone) and a Mersive Solstice Pod to which any of the mobile tablets could connect at will. This obviated the need for a centralised rack and video switching system; and a raft of AVoIP or HDBT extenders.
Cleverly, the switching could now be automated as Peter explained: “The Crestron central controller polls the switcher at each video wall input every two seconds to check if a mobile device has connected to the local Mersive receiver. With no mobile connection, the videowall will display the brand identity content from the player. Once a salesperson connects to the receiver, the polling detects the new connection and commands the switcher to send the tablet output to the display wall.”
Crucially, the salesperson does not need to access any of the Crestron control screens throughout the building; they simply connect or disconnect using their iPad screen. “The whole idea is we didn’t want touchpanels everywhere,” Peter noted. “We wanted to make it as seamless and as frictionless as possible.”
The next question was where to place the speakers that would provide the necessary ambient sound to accompany the video on the screens. Yamaha commercial’s sound range has a couple of products that could be recessed into the narrow space above the glass. The combination of its baby VXS1ML, with its minuscule 1.5-inch full-range driver and the VX3S 3.5-inch subwoofer, were just the right size to be tucked away.
Interestingly, the showroom devoted to the AMG class vehicles had quite a different look (and specification) from the ultra-smooth feel of the luxury C- and S-class product display areas. Here, the theme is raw and edgy so the videowalls were to be surrounded by a steel mesh and the audio had a lot more punch. The audio for this area was one of the few places where actual products were specified by Mercedes-Benz. Putting some bite into the AMG range video soundtracks were Bose MA-12E speakers together with Bose MB-210 subs.
HITTING THE GO BUTTON
The most challenging aspect of the build, perhaps not surprisingly, proved to be the stage media walls. The huge black glass sheets framing the videowalls had a clear section that exactly matched the screen size. But the positioning of the monitors behind the glass had to be perfect on all sides. Fitting the huge sheets of glass into position in front of the mounted screens required six strong blokes using special glazier’s suction pads. However, making everything match proved challenging and the glass needed to be removed and re-fitted several times while tiny, incremental adjustments were made to the alignment of the videowall mounts. “We’re talking millimetres but when you’re not millimetre perfect it shows – you can see any gap,” Peter recalled.
STAGE MEDIA WALLS
Signage Players: Scala software on Lenovo Thinkstation PC
HDMI Switches: Lightware MMX4x2-HDMI
Monitors: NEC UN551VS
Wireless Presenter: Mersive Solstice POD
Speakers: Yamaha VXS3S and VXS1ML
Amplifiers: Yamaha MA2030A
Videowall Mounts: Chief ConnexSys 55 LVS1U-W
AMG SHOWROOM MEDIA WALL
Speakers: Bose MA-12EX and MB-210 subwoofers
Amplifiers: Bose Powermatch PM4250
BACKGROUND MUSIC SYSTEM
Powered Speakers: Soundtube IPD-CM62-BGM-WH
DSP: Q-SYS Core 500i
Distribution: Dante (each speaker is addressable as a separate zone)
Peter Coman Director
Gavin Stein Documentation
Simon Whipps National Enterprise Director
Tony Luff Project Manager
Tyne Ainsley Installation Lead
Serkan OzcanControl System Programmer
John Holland (Builder): John Magoffin, Services Manager, Building group
Developer: LHS Property Australia
Andrew Cutter: General Manager Property Development & Operations