The star of the new Netflix Hollywood building is its lobby, where a 1.9-millimeter, 13K, 80-foot by 12-foot LED display spanning two walls transports visitors onto the sets of programs such as Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black. One layer of 23 million pixels creates the realistic environment. A second layer animates them with movement. An additional 8K projection onto a third sculptural wall brings to life 110 virtual device screens of varying sizes.
Having experienced significant expansion over the past decade, Netflix needed a new space to move into, but not just any space. Gensler was to design the transformation of a 14-story, 320,000-square-foot building and have it ready to open by February of 2017. But the crown jewel was to be the lobby, where visitors would enter a virtual reality set inside their favorite programs, such as the Byers’ family home in Stranger Things and the women’s prison in Orange is the New Black. Subtle and periodic movement within the scenes would help make the scenes seem all the more real. This immersive experience was to be punctuated with additional content promoting shows and their stars. Finally, Netflix wanted an intuitive user interface from which the receptionist could easily edit content schedules, adjust volume and brightness, and pause playback to welcome high-profile guests.
4K content is common. 8K content is emerging. Running two 13K layered motion graphics files on top of each other— totaling more than 46,000,000 pixels—is unheard of. Throw in an additional 8K video projection art wall with 110 individually illuminated “devices” and integrated audio, and now you have a content management challenge of epic proportions.
Next came the physical challenges. To appropriately support a display that is 12 feet high and 80 feet wide, including a double glass door cutout and a 90-degree angle, D3 LED needed to custom-engineer a mounting system with extremely tight tolerances to avoid alignment issues during installation and visible seams afterward. Precision was critical to ensure that the amazing content developed by award-winning studio Mirada would be viewed as intended.
The fully redesigned building was an extremely active construction site. Coordination with all trades, including flooring, ceiling and electrical contractors would require expert orchestration and communication.
D3 had recently developed a new control system called the AEP IMS, which stands for Advanced Element Processor & Integrated Media Server. It is an advanced video display processor, scaler and integrated media server that can drive up to 100 million pixels mapped onto a canvas of 16K by 16K. It was the only single control and processing device on the market with the capability to manage this entire AV system. Supporting the installation through one device instead of a series running in parallel radically reduced the number of potential points of failure. The engineering team designed a base wall and mounting solution from commercially available materials to minimize cost, but with alignment precision to fractions of a millimeter. This continuity of design and development ensured that the structural integrity of the mounting structure perfectly aligned with the content and the physical characteristics of the display modules.
Walking into the Netflix lobby is like walking onto the set of one of their original television programs. The reality of the content on the vast LED screens takes the viewer to another place and time.
Response from Netflix executives has been effusive. Words like “showpiece,” “anchor” and “focal point” are often used to describe the installation’s role in the building. Still, others just say, “Wow.” Visitors pause and inevitably try to capture the experience with their smartphones. For the world’s leading Internet entertainment service, with more than 109 million members in over 190 countries, the results have been phenomenal.
Gensler for design
Miranda for content