Inside the Panasonic Experience Centre

posted on Tuesday, 13th December 2011 by Steve May

Plasma  Pro  Interactive 


Nestled between the prop shops of Pinewood studios, just a short walk from buildings and alleyways familiar from Bond movies and the Carry On series, is a very different type of dream studio: the Panasonic Experience Centre, also known as the LDEC (London Display Experience Centre). Opened in June 2010, it's a demo facility for Panasonic's broadcast and display equipment.

Here, visitors are invited to get close and test Panasonic's pro products, hopefully to get a better understanding of how they might deploy them in the field. To learn more, Inside CI was invited for a tour.

The facility offers a variety of demonstration areas covering video conference systems, digital signage and interactive touch panel technology. There's also 3D and home theatre viewing rooms.

Dominating the showroom (unsurprisingly) are Panasonic's 103-inch TH-103VX200 plasma screens, featured both in their latest touchpanel configurations and running digital signage applications.

Richard Padun, project sales manager for the brand's Professional Visual Display Business unit, says the giant screen has been a big seller for the brand and looks certain to be a familiar fixture at the upcoming London Olympics.  "In two of the venues we have over 60 103-inch displays going in. AV wise the games are going to be fantastic," he says. Panasonic has been a worldwide sponsor of the IOC since the Eighties.

Padun goes on to reveal that the flagship 103-inch screen is currently out-selling its 85-inch VX200 stablemate when it comes to residential sales, "particularly on the continent, a lot go into Spanish villas."

New interactive technology is also helping fuel demand. Touchpanels now account for around 30 percent of all 103-inch sales, says Padun. It's a niche growing quickly.

Certainly the user experience is fantastic. Available for inspection is a 103-incher with a touchpanel overlay produced by third-party partner U-Touch. "This technology has been around for years, particularly in the education market," says Padun "but what we have here is a new peak. The big difference is MultiTouch, which allows more than one person to engage simultaneously.  Our interactive displays are now graded Single Touch, Dual Touch (2 points of contact) and MultiTouch (26 or 32 entry points to the screen)."

Of course, this huge screen is not literally a touchpanel - there's an IR mesh inside the trim, mapped to co-ordinates on the panel. 'You don't actually need to touch the screen, just break the beam,' confirms Padun.

However, the brand does offer fully integrated interactive products. "With these, U-Touch takes off our bezel and then applies its own technology.' The result is the most accurate of all the touch panel solutions Panasonic offers.

Bespoke control software is provided by Scandinavian software company HEGO.

Elsewhere in the LDEC are Panasonic's Pro LCD solutions: the outdoor LF30 and standard 1080p LF25, both in 47inch screen sizes. The key difference between the two is that the LF30 is much brighter, 700 candelas compared to 500. The brighter screen also has slot-in capability, so integrators can add additional functionality. Both have square 18mm bezels.

This is a key point for the CI trade, says Padun. "While customers may ask for other brand's consumer sets, any curve to the bezel and you can't easily build it into furniture or lift jacks." Both screens are also RS232 controllable, presenting a friendly face to the likes of Control 4 and Crestron. The thin bezels also allow for video wall construction.

Arguably the most spectacular display at the centre is a trio of 103-inchers in portrait style, running a digital signage demo. "This solution has been produced in association with digital signage applications house SpinetiX, who specialise in hardware controllers for retail, hospitality and finance projects," explains Padun.

Visitors can also take a closer look at Panasonic's high-brightness weatherproof LFP30 LCD screens ("The only thing you can't do is physically submerge them in water"). They run in extremes of temperature, come in 42- and 47-inch sizes and are suitable for use outdoors. Typically they're used on marine installations, or by pools. There's also a dedicated 3D viewing room, showcasing the 3D talents of the 103-incher ("Stereoscopic screens are gaining favour with architects and designers, particularly when they're hooked up to the Auto-CAD systems") and a home cinema room incorporating Signature cinema seating.

Inside CI had a fascinating time at the LDEC, and we rate it a must-visit attraction for custom installers ad AV pros alike. And while you're on site, make sure you grab a bite in the Pinewood studio canteen, where there's a fair chance you'll spot some rather unusual diners.

To arrange a visit just send the team an email at richard.padun(AT), alternatively call on 01344 706920. And don't forget to tell them Inside CI send you.


Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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