Panasonic Previews Big Reveal of Churchill Downs’ New 4K Display

At the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, Churchill Downs will unveil the largest 4K ultra-high-definition videoboard in the world, a technological feat made possible by Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Group.

“They wanted to innovate in some way, and it was a very collaborative effort where we worked with them jointly to develop something that was unique and exciting for them and their fans,” says Keith Hanak, VP, solutions and delivery, Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Group. “We worked jointly with them to find some unique aspects of what’s possible, and 4K was where we ended up.”

Panasonic, alongside project partners Jones Sign and Lighthouse Technologies, worked with Churchill Downs to construct the “Big Board,” from installing steel support beams and fabricating the sign to delivering the LED and providing the graphics headend to control the display.

“The magic here, for us, is in our processor that actually feeds the videoboard,” says Hanak. “We’re using a product [that], at its core, is from Vizrt — the Viz Trio — and that can process 6Kx6K pixels, supports the graphics and the 4K resolution from multiple sources, and then splits it up in real time and feeds the various processors required to run the videoboard.”

Measuring 171 ft. wide x 90 ft. tall and sitting 80 ft. above the ground, the Big Board offers an active display area of 15,224 sq. ft. and a wide viewing angle for fans in attendance. To avoid becoming a distraction to jockeys and, more important, horses, the board is positioned midway along the backstretch and outside the dirt course. Says Hanak, “They positioned it in what, I believe, is an ideal location for viewability for the fans.”

The Big Board is designed to display more than 9 million lines of resolution and 281 trillion colors, giving operators an array of creative capabilities ranging from replays, image close-ups, betting odds, and race results to advertising, recorded programming, and multiple split-screen views.

“They’re obviously heavily involved in producing new and exciting content for the race, and then we fully expect that [they will show] a lot of their historic content,” says Hanak. “They’re going to be able to display multiple windows and do some interesting things to engage fans on-site based on some of the historical content that they have.”

Weighing 1.2 million lbs., the structure is built to withstand wind speeds up to 90 mph. Panasonic overcame a number of challenges to install the breathtaking display, including a brutal East Coast winter and an underground river, and completed the project last month.

“We’ve enjoyed this incredible opportunity to partner with Churchill Downs to install the world’s largest, first-of-its-kind 4K videoboard,” said Jim Doyle, president, Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Group, in a press release. “The Big Board delivers content unparalleled in its clarity and resolution, allowing tens of thousands of fans to experience the excitement and pageantry of this legendary racetrack up close and personal.”

CLICK HERE to watch a time-lapse video of the Big Board construction at Churchill Downs.

And be sure to check out SVG’s continuing coverage of the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby!

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