LED Street-side Pylons: A Totem for Business Communications
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LED Street-side Pylons: A Totem for Business Communications

Combining electronic message centers with street-side pylons or main marquees to create a contemporary look for customer's roadside presences.

By Louis Brill

Federal Heath is a full service sign company that designs, manufacturers, installs and maintains electric and electronic signs throughout the United States and overseas. Federal Heath services retail, food, hospitality and gaming businesses producing whatever signage needs a company may have including exterior building ID signage, interior decoration and displays, point of purchase, just about anything from advertising to way-finding, all dedicated to finding solutions for sign identity and image issues for the companies they deal with. The latest solution for many businesses has been buying various kinds of EMC LED signs to help pitch their business advertising.

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  • Federal Heath General Manager, Ken Moultray, observed how LED electronic message centers (EMC) have come to play a greater part in how businesses promote themselves. He noted there is an ever increasing demand for EMC signs and estimated that currently at least 25 % of all the sign packages that Federal Heath completes contains some components of either a monochrome text message sign or an LED video board. "We see this in both retrofits where we add an LED sign to existing sign systems or in a new design which is either totally an LED sign package or incorporated into a bigger sign structure as an additional component."

    Moultry recalled two recent Federal Heath EMC sign projects that followed the above mentioned process where in one instance an LED sign was a retrofit, and the other was a new installation. In both situations, Federal Heath combined an electronic message center with some street-side pylons or main marquees, creating a contemporary look for each customer's roadside presence.

    Street-side pylons have an important function in representing a business as these outdoor signs establish the main visible roadside presence of a business. In their best light, these pylons are used by all manner of roadside businesses including shopping malls, fine dining restaurants, gas stations, auto malls, motels and fast food restaurants all that deploy these signs to inspire passing vehicles to stop and shop at this "spot."

    Cannery bets on new sign
    The importance of electronic message center-based street-side pylons were emphasized by Moultray who discussed these recent Federal Heath casino projects. In the first project, The Cannery (North Las Vegas, NV), a prominent casino found itself successful enough that within a year of its opening, it had to expand its parking area to accommodate the continuing traffic to its resort. Within this physical expansion, an opportunity was provided to move and upgrade the Cannery's existing roadside pylon with the addition of a full color electronic message center.

    Cannery pylon after it was moved and had its support tower lengthened by 20 feet. The full color, video Optec electronic message center has been placed directly above the attraction panel.
    photo credit: Federal Heath

    The original pylon sign was a double-faced sign composed of three sign elements including (starting at the top) an ID sign element which identified the Cannery, which was an open faced box channel letter lit with a series of incandescent (25 watt) lamps and a trim of neon along the edge. Directly below it was the Casino-Motel ID shaped with pan channel letters with double tube neon illuminating the letters. Underneath the top sign is a second sign element that is a back-lit flex face sign cabinet. Finally, below that is the third sign cabinet, a traditional attraction panel with manually attached text letters added and replaced as needed.

    The original Cannery pylon before it had been moved and expanded by adding the Optec electronic message center component.
    photo credit: Federal Heath

    Because new construction demanded the recently built pylon's already established space, it was decided that rather than tear it down and build a new one, the best course of action was to relocate it from the parking area to a better position in front of the Cannery casino. To implement this move, the pylon's base supports were cut and the pylon was lifted clear by a large hydro crane which moved the sign as Moultray observed, very, very slowly several hundred feet up the road from its original location to where it was reinstalled."

    One accommodation to the pylon relocation was the addition of an Optec Display (City of Industry, CA) LED electronic message center using a full color Hybrid series sign [25 mm pitch and / 15 feet tall by x 30 feet wide] to the overall sign face. The EMC was inserted between the attraction panel at the bottom of the pylon and the back lit flex face.

    A work drawing with detail of various Cannery sign cabinet components.
    photo credit: Federal Heath

    To create the clearance for this additional sign, the new pylon base was raised twenty-feet giving the pylon sign structure the necessary internal area to insert the Optec EMC sign cabinet. Once the pylon was rebuilt, the original sign structure was lowered onto the new pylon vertical support posts and the pylon was firmly planted in its new roadside location.

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    Moultry pointed out, "that in adding an LED EMC component to the casino's sign, the Cannery now has a greater degree of flexibility in marketing their casino. The addition of an EMC display gave the casino message diversity in how they can represent themselves. Not only is there a greater opportunity to offer ongoing messages about the casino's services, but information offerings can be posted almost instantaneously to the sign."

    Casino Morongo
    In another instance of incorporating an EMC with a street-side pylon, Casino Morongo which is located on an Indian reservation in the Palm Desert area of Southern California, commissioned an LED message center pylon which combined high tech media with a stylish geometric sign structure to capture passing visitor’s attention as they approached the casino. The signage was designed by The Jerde Partnership (Vencie, CA) and Selbert-Perkins Design (Playa Del Rey, CA). Federal Heath translated those designs into blueprints and then fabricated all the various Morongo sign components, which they installed as well.

    Morongo pylon during contraction, vertical support and base have been placed. The next section is in transit to be installed.
    photo credit: Federal Heath

    To enhance the visual impact of the Morongo pylon, it was created in the form of a pie wedge with the widest part at the top and gradually narrowing toward the base. Morongo, Casino, Resort and Spa is identified on the top of the sign in Futura Tee Medium reverse channel letters. The sign structure background is a two-tone green (PMS 575) color scheme, with the lighter green at 80%.

    Positioned directly below Morongo's ID call out, is an Optec Display full color video board custom built with a slight wedge shape that follows the extended tri-angular cabinet shape of the main sign structure. Directly below that is a series of single-face Optec monochromatic message center signs. While the Morongo's sign structure is unusual in shape, its LED usage maintains a popular pylon trend of combining both a full color video image and text messaging as separate but equal parts of an overall electronic message center system.

    Finished Morongo pylon showing off a complete Optec electronic message center with its full color video board and below it, its monochrome text panels.
    photo credit: Federal Heath

    Beyond the inclusion of these electronic sign components, while they may seem to "run themselves," there is always a helping hand in the background to create and manage the message content that endlessly streams by. As businesses begin to acquire electronic message centers, in most cases they also take ownership of the sign operation, usually by their marketing department. In the two above sign installations each sign owner took responsibility to run their EMC sign. Optec customers who choose to run their own signs are trained sometimes by the dealers who sell the signs to the end-users and sometimes by the manufacturer. In this case Optec Displays trained both sign users on-site in how to operate their EMC signs.

    EMC sign training was provided by Optec Displays Customer Support Department as managed by Kyle Carnes. Carnes noted that the overall goal of Optec Customer Service "is to completely introduce the end-user to the sign's operation so that the completion of their training allows them to begin operations of their EMC sign the moment it goes live."

    Depending on the number of people and their proficiency with computers and graphics design, it might take between one and half to three hours to learn to properly operate the software programs and manage the sign at its full capabilities. "The sign software is divided into two major components, a media editor and a sign scheduler," says Carnes “that control the sign use.”

    "The media editor allows the sign's end-user to take different graphic files, avi files and text objects and create messages that would go on the sign face. The other software program affects the message content insertion and its scheduling as to how and when messages are going on the sign. This involves the order of the message and how often it repeats itself on the sign. The program also allows you to control the sign's brightness, based on the times of day and periods of the year." Carnes observed that most EMC end-users take to the training very quickly and soon the sign is humming with sales and customer service messages to catch the eye of passing drivers.

    As signage continues to play an important part in how businesses represent themselves, more and more are LED signs becoming part of the picture of outdoor business communications. In the old days (pre-LED), a business's connection to a sign was simply turning it on. Nowadays with those companies that own EMCs, the turn-on is less with a switch and more a keyboard allowing a business to really "talk" to their customers.

    Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech entertainment and media communications. He can reached at (415) 664-0694 or lmbrill@earthlink.net

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