Grovenor House

Panasonic brings high-definition aquarium to Coconut Grove with 65" widescreen plasma displays

Panasonic 65" high-definition plasma displays are on the cutting edge of interior design in a luxury condominium lobby in Coconut Grove, Florida. Mounted behind two large portholes cut in a lobby wall of the just-completed $200 million Grovenor House, the plasmas play HD underwater video so lifelike that visitors mistake it for an actual giant-tank aquarium. Colorful high-definition fish swim from one porthole to another surrounded by the beautiful corals of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The two video portholes are key elements of the Grovenor lobby's elegant decor designed by the Florentine architect, Michele Bonan, whose recent work includes several luxury hotels for Ferragamo. Bonan and the Grovenor's developer, Ugo Colombo, initially planned to install a huge salt-water aquarium until they realized that HD video would be more beautiful and much easier to maintain. Frederick Grossberg of Washington DC-based video design firm Mill Reef Video was brought in to produce the piece, and he immediately specified the Panasonic professional plasmas for their brilliant images and durability.

Technology Solutions for Hospitality Mill Reef commissioned the Grovenor video from the Australian cinematographer, David Hannan, one of the world's top underwater shooters and the creator of the popular DVD, "Coral Sea Dreaming." Shot in 1080/24p, the video runs in a 13-minute loop with only a few unobtrusive edits. "It's definitely not paced like TV," says Grossberg. "It's more like looking through a window at the real thing."

Mill Reef worked with Henninger Media Services to produce the piece and then slice the 16:9 image in half to create two separate 8:9 images, one showing the left half of the original scene and the other the right half. Because the plasmas were to be mounted vertically to conserve space, each 8:9 image was then rotated 90 degrees in post, laid back to two separate D-5 tapes, and encoded as two HD MPEG-2 streams. Twin Doremi Nugget servers playback the two streams in perfect synch on the two plasmas. The final effect is a single underwater scene seen from two perspectives through the two portholes.

A second underwater video plays on displays mounted in the ceilings of the Grovenor's elevators, and a full-screen version of the porthole video is displayed in the developer's boardroom.

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