We all know a well executed video wall makes quite an impression; multiple displays working in concert to provide remarkable images bound only by constraints of the imagination. As AV professionals, we may sometimes “ooh” and “ahh” over the latest gizmos that makes this possible. Yet, there is one critical element that is often overlooked for accolades and glory – it’s the only piece of the system with no electronic component and without which, the entire project would literally fall apart. Yes, the lowly mount. Often described as nothing more than “bent metal”, these seemingly insignificant items are essential to the success of a video wall project. More than just a fancy picture wire, the right mounting solution can make or break a project.
So, what factors should be considered when selecting a video wall mounting solution? The following provides some suggestions bearing in mind that personal preferences, installed costs, and total cost of ownership come into play with many of these items.
While displays have become lighter over time, a video wall still can be extremely heavy. Limit your choice to UL rated mounts that are rated for more than the load of the system. Remember, beyond ensuring the structural capacity of the mount, the surface to which the mount is attached must be able to adequately support the system. In March of 2013, a 10 year old boy was killed when a single display fell on him in an airport. In this case, fault was found not with the mount, but with the structure to which it was attached. When calculating the weight of the system, remember to also include the mount itself and all associated hardware.
Have a large open space that needs a centrally located video wall – perhaps an atrium or open food court? Video Walls are not just limited to walls. Several options are now available to provide flexible location options, allowing you to position the solution where it is most effective. This includes mobile free standing video wall carts, bolt down solutions, and ceiling mounts.
Ease of installation
A significant time saver when setting up a video wall is to have some easy method to accurately position mounts relative to each other. This should include the proper horizontal and vertical spacing for the specific displays and pre-leveled relative to the other displays. Mount manufacturers have different design philosophies to make this easier. For example, one manufacturer achieves preliminary alignment with display-specific horizontal and vertical spacers placed between individual mounts. Another uses readily available unistrut channel run the length of the entire video wall, providing a consistent, level mounting surface, and extensive horizontal shift options. The pre-install leveling design is often mount manufacturer-specific and patented.
It’s been said that there are no straight lines in nature. Spend enough time trying to align displays in a video wall, and you’ll realize that there are very few truly straight and level lines in man-made structures, too. Not floors, not walls, and not ceilings. So even if you carefully measure the anticipated position of the displays relative any one surface and used the pre-install leveling methods described above, the final result may not look exactly right even if your level tells you otherwise. Having the ability to adjust individual displays relative to all the others can save you time and frustration. This includes horizontal and vertical tilt, height, and depth. Additionally, some display manufacturers will void the warranty if a minimum gap is not maintained between displays further making this post installation adjustment important. Many mounts ship with a hex wrench or other tool required for these adjustments. Some mounting systems go a step further and allow adjustment without any tools – eliminating the need to climb down from the ladder and start fishing behind the displays when you drop your last Allen key.
Displays don’t last forever. Inevitably, the one that will need service first will be the one in the middle of a matrix of displays. Removing, replacing, and realigning all the surrounding displays to service the culprit can take a lot of time. Several mount manufacturers provide for removal of a single display from the middle of a matrix, without disturbing any of the surrounding units. Some designs require applying light pressure to the front or bezel of the display, which then releases the display as it pops forward enough to reach the release mechanism. Some display manufacturers initially frowned on this idea due the idea of applying pressure to the displays. They became comfortable with this approach after seeing it properly applied in action. Another design for releasing displays uses pull cords that can be hidden behind displays or even located somewhat remotely in a locked panel. This approach provides additional security and eliminates the need to apply any pressure to the panel. The release cords include labeling tags to easily identify which display is being released.
Displays are getting lighter, thieves are getting smarter, vandalism is expensive, and sometimes accidents just happen. Almost all video wall mounts provide the ability to lock the displays to prevent removal. However, locks are typically not included and sometimes additional hardware is advised. For example, adding a lock may deter removal of a display, but the display may still be shifted horizontally along the mounting rails. In these cases, make sure to budget for the additional hardware to prevent horizontal shift – whether intentional or just from someone absent mindedly leaning against the sides of the displays.
Local and Federal Regulations
Details of potential compliance issues extend well beyond the scope of this article. Yet, keep in mind that ADA regulations specify how far objects can protrude from a wall depending on the height of the unit. For example, wall mounted objects whose bottom edge is between 27” and 80” off the ground, cannot stick out more than 4” from the wall. Free-standing objects of a similar height cannot stick out more than 12”. Allowing for the depth of the mount when combined with the displays, or the ability to recess the video wall, may be the determining factor on if your system meets local and federal requirements.
System Life Cycle
Things break. Technology becomes outdated. Customers change their mind at the last minute or want the latest and greatest widget that just came out. Just installed that gorgeous video wall? Guess what – your customer now wants the 8K option. Maybe not. But just in case, consider a mounting solution that is not display-brand-specific. While some display manufacturers offer innovative video-wall solutions for their products, and some offer them as part of a cost-savings bundle, it may be beneficial to consider if the same mounts can be used with other displays down the road.
Not all video wall solutions are equal. While the above is by no means comprehensive, and neither are the mounting options in this guide, hopefully it provides some food for thought in your planning process. For specific suggestions on your project, give us a call. We’re here to help.