LED panel draws broad interest

The new LED panel has sparked interest and discussion, with professors planning on using the space as a pedagogical tool.
The new LED panel has sparked interest and discussion, with professors planning on using the space as a pedagogical tool. Photo by Anna-Sophie Harling.

The hottest new performance venue and art gallery on campus may be the new café in the Becton Center.

While the café just opened Tuesday, the 23,000-node LED panel that covers one wall and ceiling of the space has already attracted interest from disciplines are as broad as theater studies and visual art, said School of Engineering Deputy Dean Vincent Wilczynski. An interdisciplinary working group of students and faculty in art, computer science, engineering and theater has already met multiple times to discuss potential uses for the panel and café.

“I am so psyched about the space,” said English Department postdoctoral associate Elise Morrison. “It’s an incredible resource for people at Yale — it’s state of the art.”

Morrison said she plans to use the space both for teaching and for showcasing her own work. She added that she plans to teach students in her theater studies class “Digital Media in Performance” how to use the panel and then stage student work in the café later in the semester. Morrison, whose work often incorporates elements of surveillance footage, said she plans to hold two or three of her own performances pieces in the new café using the LED panel to display the video.

The panel supports a range of visuals, from prepackaged videos to unique programs that students design down to the individual node. A thin layer of diffuser glass covers the LED nodes, attaining a “cartoon resolution” that Wilcyznski said will have broad appeal. The flexibility of the panel will attract a range of students who want to engage in multimedia performance, said Theater Studies production coordinator Nathan Roberts DRA ’10 in an email to the News.

This spring, the School of Art is opening a moving image computer lab that will feature software capable of programming the panel, said  lead administrator of digital technology Johannes DeYoung. In DeYoung’s “Digital Animation” course at the School of Art, students this semester will have the opportunity to use the software to develop programs for the LED panel. DeYoung said he himself hopes to design a visual specifically for the panel this semester.

“What’s exciting about the space is that it is bringing together these different voices from different communities,” DeYoung said. “It’s creating a forum for people to share and make connections that they otherwise might not.”

Yale did not propose an LED panel when planning the space with architecture firm Bentel & Bentel, partner Peter Bentel said. But in conceptualizing the café, Bentel said the firm discovered that the School of Engineering has a long history of developing LED technology. Beyond using LEDs to provide most of the interior illumination, the firm saw the opportunity to create a “canvas” that professors and students could use to display content produced within the school.

Bentel said he was thrilled when he heard that departments beyond Engineering planned to use the space, as he sees such an exchange of ideas as a hallmark of the undergraduate experience.

“This [panel] was meant to give the engineers a place to have a great cup of coffee and talk about things,” Bentel said. “But the idea that other departments or schools within Yale are going to participate in this forum, that really excites us.”

Though he said he enjoys the new café, Tim Westcott ’14 found the bright light pulsing from the panel distracting when trying to do work there.

Jan Kolmas ’14 did not share Westcott’s experience.

“I find it a great piece of engineering,” he said. “I don’t find it distracting at all.”

While the café serves beverages and snacks from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the space remains open to the Yale community 24-hours a day.

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