One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part III
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One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part III

In this third and final part of One Times Square, we examine even more of the fascinating, ever-evolving changes to this iconic landmark and how technology plays a very interesting and important role.

By Louis M. Brill


Following the evolution of Times Squares Sign Icon.

Clarke Systems- Slatz Capture was designed to meet the challenge of change.

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  • Meet the Slash
    The Walgreens signage was composed of a side-building LED sign component known as The Slash. This sign began as a diagonal slash starting at the base of the building, below the Dow Jones zipper (an electronic message center originally installed in 1928) and from the base, The Slash extended past the Dow Jones zipper to the top edge of the main tower. There is then a building separation between its lower half and its main tower where the LED sign continues onwards to the top edge of the building crown.

    The Walgreen Slash (manufactured by D3), runs diagonally from the base of the building's east and west sides to the upper tower near the building's roof.

    As a separate component at the base of the building where the LED sign begins, an H-shaped LED display wraps around the building, with yet another separate LED display on the back of the building. The signage then continues to the other building side where it creates another diagonal slash that follows from the base to the top of other side of One Times Square. This was the first time a diagonal sign of this nature was placed on the side of a building as it has been done.

    Varied pitches for ease of visibility
    As a result of The Slash's extensive height and the difficulty of viewing a continuous video image from street level to its 350-feet height, the D3 LED screens were designed with three different pitches depending on their viewing height. At the upper most point of the building The Slash has a 24 mm pitch. Its central segment is a 12 mm pitch and its lower segment at ground level is a 10 mm pitch. As viewing distance affects the image resolution of a sign, its pixel pitch gets smaller the closer it comes to street level. Thus depending on where the viewer is looking at the display, they are able to easily read the sign's content from the bottom to the top of The Slash.

    GM bailed out of Times Square
    Also in 2009, because of the current economic difficulties, Sherwood Outdoor (NY, NY) has suddenly found itself seeking additional new advertisers for certain areas of its premium spectacular building locations. As General Motors was forced into bankruptcy that year, it reached out into Times Square to cancel its two major signage leases with Sherwood Outdoor, including the Chevrolet sign on 1 Times Square and the other, the Pontiac Garage spectacular on 2 Times Square.

    General Motors, whose advertising roots in Times Square go back to the 1930s, claimed that despite the removal of its spectaculars, "Times Square is still an important market for them." But, given its current situation, the Chevrolet spectacular with its grandfather clock look of a 15-foot diameter clock face, hanging chains, and marching dual robots (Frick & Frack) would be removed from One Times Square. That sign space was replaced in mid-2010 with a Dunkin Donuts sign. Likewise GM also gave up the Pontiac Garage, which was a part of the Two Times Square building and has since been replaced with Hyundai, with a long term lease agreement to retain their position on Two Times Square.

    The New 1 Times Square Pole
    As One Times Square continues to evolve, in one of its other recent incarnations, the entire top of the building was transformed to introduce yet another new sign structure and to extend the New Year's Eve Time Ball into a year-round visual presence. To celebrate that new location, yet another new New Year's Eve Ball was built.

    New roof structure with new Times Square Ball
    As for how the new One Times Square sign structure and roof mast came to be, Brian Turner, President of Sherwood Outdoor (NY, NY) explained: "The first question that comes to the mind of new visitors to Times Square is, 'Where is the New Year's Eve Time Ball and which building is it lowered from?'"

    To solve that issue, "it was decided, first to build a bigger New Year's Eve Ball," said Turner, "and from that design, the Time Ball would now be visible 24 / 7 all year long till it reverts to its famed end-of-year presence on the top of the mast on New Year's Eve. Adjoining the New Year's Eve Ball is a set of open channel letters noting the current year. Now it is easily visible for all visitors who enter Times Square looking south, to see it sitting majestically on the roof of 1 Times Square."

    Clarke Systems- Slatz Capture was designed to meet the challenge of change.

    To install the new roof top sign structure and the new Time Ball mast to One Time Square's roof, a temporary derrick was attached to the roof which in turn, lifted up these various components for installation into their final structures.
    photo by Sherwood Outdoor

    The new Times Square New Year's Eve Ball is a 12-foot geodesic sphere, double the size of previous time ball, and weighs 11,875 pounds. The New Year's Eve Ball was designed by Lighting Science Group (Sacramento) and is covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals and powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDS.

    Rooftop sign moves higher
    Along with its mast, it became reasonable to add a new sign structure, giving the building yet another spectacular display for advertising. The introduction of both the mast and the new rooftop sign was described by structural engineer R. Scott Lewis who designed both structures for the top of the building. "In creating this new roof sign structure on top of a 25-story building, there were many challenges, including how the sign structural members would be lifted to the roof, and how the building would be reinforced to support not only the weight of the new sign, but more importantly, the substantial additional wind load imposed on the building by the new sign. We were also concerned about providing safe access for maintenance of the LED sign, so we designed a stairway into the set of walkways, which are spaced every eight feet up the back of the sign."

    One Time Square's new roof top sign and Time Ball mast. Basic structural fabrication is done. Next step is to begin the installation of the Toshiba LED cabinets.
    photo by R. Scott Lewis

    "Once the new structure reached the construction phase, a temporary roof mounted stiff-legged derrick was assembled by DCM Erectors, NYC, on the top of the roof of One Times Square. The derrick was used to lift up the sign's fabricated structural steel elements including its walkways and stairway. In order to strengthen the steel structure of this 100-year old building, the original building structure had to be reinforced," Lewis noted. To do this, new diagonal steel members were welded into the existing building structure, extending 8-floors down from the roof into the heart of the building structure. At the rooftop level, a new platform of dunnage beams provided a level surface which supports the new roof sign structure and the mast for the New Years Eve Ball."

    Time Ball and mast redux
    As for the New Year's Eve Ball mast, that was a 30" diameter tube, and was 149-feet tall. It consisted of a series of pipes welded together into one piece, and was fully hot dip galvanized, inside and out. The stiff-leg derrick lifted the mast from street level to the top of the building as a singular pole structure. This mast was one of the longest pieces of a steel structure ever brought into New York City on a truck.

    Once the sign structure was completed (equal in size to a six-story building) on One Times Square, Toshiba not only leased the former sign space, as explained by Winston, who managed both parts of the Toshiba sign project, (which replaced the Discover Card sign) but also acquired the newly minted rooftop sign as well. The Toshiba LED tile modules were then installed in the sign cabinet, creating the finished LED display. The construction of the sign structure and the attachment of the mast to the building's roof were all done by Landmark Signs. In doing this Toshiba now occupies an exclusive position on the building's crown, including the new roof top sign and the sign directly below it.

    On every December 31st as New Year's Eve approaches, at least one billion television viewers from around the world are estimated to be watching and waiting for the Time Ball drop.
    photo by Tom McCavera

    Content for the Toshiba sign was developed by The WOW Factor (Los Angeles) who's CEO, Don Blanton spoke of both signs and their juxtaposition to the New Year's Eve Ball mast. "With Toshiba in possession of both signs, the lower sign concentrates on Toshiba's brand and its products. The upper sign not only presents Toshiba branding, but also takes advantage of its position directly below the New Year's Ball to both promote the Ball year round and make it more proactive during the annual New Year's Eve celebration. To make Toshiba easily visible to street side viewers, Blanton stated his plan was, "to create eye popping content on the Toshiba sign so that it engages the consumer with the brand seen not only in Times Square but also visible all the way to Central Park!"

    Vaudeville of the digital age
    As much as One Times Square is a totem of the advertising world, so may it be considered a "theater" of sorts with its north face a stage with each of the spectaculars all part of a bigger show that goes on for Times Square. It has certainly had its cast of characters, the steaming Cup of Noodles, its marching robots and now, its giant LED video screens touting their brands and products for the entire world to see. One might even consider it "vaudeville" of the digital age.

    As One Times Square moves into the second decade of the 21st century, the building's prominent north face continues to be a work-in-progress. Already a vinyl Dunkin Donuts has replaced the Chevrolet sign and there is hope that the vinyl will evolve into something more prominent. Despite the individual sign change-outs, One Times Square still prevails as one of the top advertising icons in the world, and that, will not change.

    Readers who wish to follow the entire story of Times Square can follow with these other pieces related to its history:

    One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part III
    In this third and final part of One Times Square, we examine even more of the fascinating, ever-evolving changes to this iconic landmark and how technology plays a very interesting and important role.

    One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part II
    Slowly, but surely between 2003 to 2010, one spectacular display after another on One Times Square has been upgraded with a more modern version of itself or outright replaced with a new client and a new spectacular.

    One Times Square Revisions: Signage in the crossroads of the world through the years
    If any building was to be dedicated as homage to sign displays, honors could easily point to One Times Square. It stands tall not only in height, but also throughout its 100 plus year history with its influence on iconic advertising, on sign displays, with its vinyl and electronic billboards and its timeless metaphors, all wedded to the building from top (the annual New Year's Eve ball drop) to the bottom (the news zipper wrapped around the building's base).

    Toy's R Us Interior EDS Signage
    The Center of the Toy Universe can be found in Times Square and it's operated by Toys 'R Us. With 110,000 square feet of various toy shopping zones, all aligned within three floors of merchandising space, the toy universe is a vast space.

    LED Electronic Message Reader Boards: Watching the world go by in streaming headlines
    The electronic message reader board is the town crier of the modern age. It is a simplistic, horizontal column of light bulbs or LEDs whose intermediate flashes of world watching headlines, slide effortlessly across reader board signs attached to banks and financial institutions and to the front walls of major corporate headquarters.

    King Kong Embraces Times Square with Electronic Signage Debut
    The latest remake of the King Kong epic, directed by Peter Jackson, sought out its east coast premiere in the place where the big ape met his demise, in New York City. Nothing is too good for the premiere of his latest film and only in New York City could a film of such epic proportion have an opening of similar grandeur.

    Hershey’s ­ How Sweet It Is: The Eye-Candy of Times Square
    In the middle of all its surrounding Times Square spectaculars, billboards and sign edifices, stands the flagship Hershey Times Square, a retail gift store which is a chocolate confectionary paradise that is the center of the chocolate universe.

    Minskof Theater
    The Minskoff Theatre (1,597 seats), one of the many major live performing venues along Broadway has recently undergone a signage transformation of its old blade / marquee and window display into a very modern and elegant sign package that was fit for a king: The Lion King that was.

    ABC Times Square
    It may be home to ABC's Good Morning America, but to Times Square passersby it is the building with the curvy front wall that is a gigantic television screen displaying current news and ABC TV previews all day long.

    Signs of Love: A spectacular marriage proposal on the white lights of Broadway
    This is a story of unrequited love converged with New York City's first electronic billboard, where a marriage proposal was displayed in all its glory directly above the Crossroads of the World.

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

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