When it comes to immersive displays, it takes a new kind of engineer to deliver something new. Reece Webb discovers how Portal Devices can revolutionize the entertainment market.
Creating engaging display designs requires a special artistic touch to deliver quality results.
Join Portal Devices, a provider of engineering and design services for projection display applications. Portal Devices offers technical innovations not simply by creating a system, but by bringing a personal touch supported by its display engineering expertise.
Matt Roberts, founder of the Brighton-based company, explains: “Engineering has been in the generations of my family, I’m not sure I had a career choice after being enticed by the ability to design and build things. I have been fortunate enough to work on immersive projected displays with some of the best talent in the industry for over 25 years. I initially designed complete flight simulators, then specialized projectors, and finally, with experienced colleagues, I have been developing immersive displays for the attractions market for over ten years.
“Visualization engineers are key to many large projects. Without them it is possible to introduce all kinds of problems that can have serious consequences: image fading, lens glare, visible shading, impossible lenses, etc. The term “visualization technician” can cover some esoteric disciplines such as video systems and control systems. We are optical and mechanical. We provide design and technical expertise in projected screens, using projectors, lenses, mirrors, masks, alignment and screens. We collaborate with experienced designers, architects, AV managers and system architects, OEMs, builders, stage designers and more ”.
One service offered by Portal Devices is immersive display design, where the Portal Devices team works with experience designers to evaluate the visual experience for guests in the entertainment industry, working to hide the technology and leave the visitors immersed in the scene.
Roberts adds: “We offer consulting, contract design work and specialty products. We are useful when there are no internal resources or if optical design requires specialized skills and tools. Our unique offering is that we also develop innovative technologies and solutions to longstanding problems. We set goals, such as “project anything, from anywhere, onto anything”.
“We initially developed physics-based display modeling tools (our proprietary DPX tools, Displays Projection EXpert) that design projection geometry and analyze image performance. This means we can provide early confidence on high investment decisions. “
The entertainment industry offers a unique opportunity for Portal devices to explore an immersive experience in a way that very few verticals allow. The world of entertainment relies heavily on the “wow factor” and is constantly evolving. With that comes a challenge to ensure that the technology within this industry keeps pace with the changing times to avoid becoming obsolete.
Technology can quickly become obsolete and it takes both ingenuity and imagination to be successful in this market. Roberts says, “Our ability to tell stories and offer guests unique encounters through engaging experiences is evolving rapidly. Amazing video content is a key factor, and we’re working to help untie creatives from the constraints of display technology and place pixels everywhere. Designs are more integrated these days, so we often work to hide projection systems using wide angle projections and sneaky projector placement.
He points out that Portal Devices has “an expert knowledge of fisheye lenses and these have proved to be fundamental for some projects. Immersive displays are the portal to another world, offering unlimited experiential possibilities through video images.
“The use of light and sound to stimulate guests, to detach them from the ordinary world, this is the goal and is part of a rapidly expanding market. We like to escape into a fantasy world and even role-play in it. “
Roberts says, “Our work will always be guided by the designers’ vision of content and experiences, and it’s the stories they tell that continue to evolve. Making the guest interact with the experience is fundamental, as is the detail and suspension of reality. We love Salvador Dali’s quote: “I try to create fantastic things, magical things, dream things. The world needs more fantasy. Our civilization is too mechanical. We can make the fantastic real, and then it’s more real than what exists. really.'”
Immersing your audience isn’t as simple as creating stunning images and beautiful colors. The entertainment industry has to satisfy everyone, which means that inclusiveness has to be built into a design right from the start.
Roberts has some family members with disabilities and his projects are sometimes affected, “Most of the impediments to inclusive experiences are unfortunately designed and are avoidable. Staff training also helps and a little empathy is essential. The goal is to ensure that anyone with disabilities has the same quality of experience as everyone else. “
“The most important message for the market is to seek advice from disabled user advisory groups, get their feedback and adapt to their needs. This way you will improve everyone’s experience. “
Today, Portal Devices offers its products, gradually launching its Stellar app – a 3D interface used in conjunction with a Leica pan tilt laser to position, locate and align objects in 3D space. Roberts explains: “Stellar was initially developed to replace on-screen markers such as hedgehog laser arrays and embedded UV or fiber optics. We wanted to leave the screen alone, squeeze the time consumed by this activity, and be able to change alignment markers in an instant. Stellar operates a Leica pan-tilt laser to draw markers like 3D models on any surface. For example, it can be used to draw projection edges on unreachable screens, delimit screen and structure footprints, while compensating for uneven floors and walls. We have proven this for years as a valuable and economic help. Takes command of the entire installation and eliminates installation risks and uncertainties.
Portal Devices has also launched POD, a projector mounting system designed to be a stable and robust mounting system for large venue attractions, designed to make life easier for installers. Roberts says, “We believe projectors do not need frequent realignment by skilled technicians and we are committed to installations that fit and forget.
With immersive displays typically requiring wide angle and special lenses in high traffic locations, we have addressed this issue with a super rigid mount.
Our rig POD optomechanically couples the “optical loads”: the projector, the lens, the masks, the mirrors and the door windows. It has proved popular with customers who understand its value and see our display experience embodied in design. “
“Visualization engineers are critical to many large projects. Without them it is possible to introduce all kinds of problems that could have serious consequences.” – Matt Roberts, Portal Devices
Looking ahead, Portal Devices will maintain its path of supplying display design and engineering support to integrators, while making a general offer to supply its Stellar alignment and POD mounting products to the market.
This will allow new designs to bring engaging setups without excessive cost.
Roberts concludes: “We recently partnered with an international supply chain logistics provider, which is becoming our new manufacturing house, providing ISO 9001 quality and international distribution and warehousing. We are also exploring exciting projects such as low cost immersive displays, environmentally friendly shell structures, localized manufacturing, customer IP development support. There is a lot to do and we have fun doing it all! “