Choosing the right stage set design in the 21st century is not an easy task.
Should I choose LED Screens or Printed Stage Backdrops?
What's best, LED wall or printed stage backdrop? Previously, it was a set department’s job to find the most creative and visually appealing way to combine some projectors for slides with some printed graphics for the event logo, and make it look a bit different.
However, with digital content becoming more and more important to brand and messaging, and powerpoint slides reducing in favour of rich, engaging tools such as Miro boards, the LED video screen has become crucial to every designer’s toolkit. This has coincided with a huge increase in the importance of sustainability to event organisers and attendees. So now, designers and organisers must think much more carefully about their usage of virgin materials, large-scale bespoke set pieces and printed graphics. Of course, there are many reasons why either could still be appropriate, so below we’ve listed just a few of the things you should consider.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is a slam-dunk in favour of print graphics. LED screens have a reputation for being costly to hire, bulky to transport, and time-consuming to install and de-rig. This is compared to print graphics which can often be rolled out from a single roll and erected by two people in an hour or two.
However there are many applications in which LED walls are comparable to or even cheaper than print graphics. Generally, the larger you go, the more cost-effective LED walls become in comparison to print. Furthermore, if you have a good technical production partner who owns their own LED walls, like we do, they will be able to be much more flexible on the hire price than they could be on single-use print, which will have material and production costs that they will have to cover.
Of course, everyone has their own taste. You may favour the crisp, sharp lines and flat look of print. Or you may prefer the vivid brightness and colour of LED walls.
The drawback of an LED screen is that generally it needs to be in rectangular or square-edged shapes. For a standard screen, no problem, but for more creative designs you will find yourself confined by physical possibility, and any curves will require either 80’s video-game style blocky steps, or a physical set piece to hide the edges. Conversely, the LED wall wins big by being able to display video content across its entire surface, and it is a light emitter, meaning the visuals will be vivid and bold without the need for additional lighting fixtures.
An increasingly important discussion point. The negative sustainability impacts of large-scale, single-use print are clear. Even if made from recycled or recyclable materials, print is difficult to dispose of in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner. However it does make up for this by having an arguably smaller transport footprint over large distances. And the energy requirement to display it is considerably less than LED Wall, even accounting for the additional lighting required to make it look good. Ultimately this is one where the design, manufacturing techniques, and transport miles will have a huge impact on the right answer. Generally however, if you have a relatively local production supplier with good sustainability credentials, video screen will be a more sustainable option than print.Practicality
There are some logistical and safety considerations here too, and this is where you should certainly seek the advice of an impartial production expert. Print graphics can be difficult to install in a way that looks perfect every time, where LED Screen requires arguably more technical knowledge to install but is more consistently flat and good-looking once set up.
Print graphics can be more lightweight and require less structure, but LED walls generally come with standardised methods and risk assessments to take the safety grey-areas out of your design.
LED walls can take more staffing resources to set up, but if your print is wrong, you will need to re-print the entire graphic and potentially delay your event by hours or days waiting for a new print. On an LED Wall, content can be adjusted on-the-fly in a matter of seconds.
Ultimately, there are arguments for both LED wall or printed stage backdrop, and sometimes even a blended approach can work well to give you the best of both worlds. Whatever you choose, it is important to get the advice of an experienced and impartial production designer.
PYTCH own our own LED wall systems and have large-format printing capabilities in-house. We are more than happy to advise on your next project - just get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org