Texas Motor Speedway Lights Up Massive Scoreboard

Vizrt worked with Panasonic for a custom interface controlling a 218 feet wide and 94 feet high (66x28 meter) high-definition video board.

Originally published by Design News

The Texas Motor Speedway flipped the switch on a high-definition video board that uses 14 million LEDs, weighs more than 200,000 pounds, and is 80% larger than the world-renowned scoreboard at the Dallas Cowboys' football stadium.

The new Big Hoss TV board is not only the world's largest; it's the first of its kind to enable users to treat it as a single entity. "No one has ever tried to run a big board as one cohesive unit," Michael Rocha, director of content services for Panasonic ECO Solutions Co. (a division of Panasonic North America), told us. "Everyone has tried to break these scoreboards into little squares, because they are easier to manage that way. Here, we created a tool set that allows us to manage it as one big canvas."

To accomplish that, Panasonic teamed up with Vizrt, a Norwegian company that creates content production tools for the digital media industry. Known for its television graphics, Vizrt worked with Panasonic engineers to create a front end interface that allows speedway employees to address all the screen's pixels simultaneously when displaying complex imagery. "Now we can blend different video and data sources into it and still treat it like one overall canvas," Rocha said.

Measuring 218 feet wide and 94 feet high (66x28 meters), Big Hoss TV incorporates 4.8 million pixels spaced 20 mm apart. Content for the display is generated in a control room nearly three-quarters of a mile away. From there, the screen is controlled by four LED processors that communicate with microcontrollers (MCUs) located in 1,560 electronics cabinets. Each cabinet contains 12 modules with 144 pixels apiece made up of red, green, and blue LEDs.

"In order to get the data to the individual pixels, you start at the LED processors, then you split that out to the data distributors [cabinets], and then you split it again at the modules," Rocha said.

The colossal active display area burns a maximum of about 800 kW -- 2,000 A maximum on each of two sides, running at 208 V. To handle the heat generated by all that power, each module incorporates its own active heat sink and heat dissipation system.

Some giant scoreboards now use pixel pitches as low as 4 mm, but Panasonic engineers said they had good reasons for maintaining a 20-mm pitch for Big Hoss TV. "If we had used a 4-mm pitch on a board this big, the number of pixels would have been massive," Rocha said. "It would have been cost prohibitive, and with the audience so far away, it wouldn't have made sense."

The giant screen, held up by 16 steel support beams buried 40 feet deep, is likely to have a limited reign as the world's biggest. It surpassed the Charlotte Motor Speedway scoreboard, erected in 2011, and will be topped in sheer number of pixels by a scoreboard at the Churchill Downs racetrack this May. Though smaller, the Churchill Downs board uses a 16-mm dot pitch, and therefore will pack more LEDs.

In terms of its ability to operate as a single screen, Panasonic engineers say Big Hoss TV is a groundbreaker. "This one is different," Rocha said. "No one has ever done it this way before."