Exclusive Interview: Richard Hill on SNA Displays’ Philosophy and its Most Dazzling Deployments

Published: October 31, 2023
SNA Displays leverages its LED solutions, in-house engineering strength and consultative-needs analysis to deliver client-tailored solutions. Photo courtesy of SNA Displays.

SNA Displays, the renowned provider of high-end digital displays, continues to attract both worldwide attention and top-tier industry talent. One of the company’s more recent hires, Richard Hill, is a display industry veteran who joined SNA Displays this past summer in the role of director of sales SE and themed entertainment. Recently, Commercial Integrator caught up with Hill for an exclusive conversation about LED products and SNA Displays’ category leadership.

The interview that follows touches on SNA Displays’ expansive range of LED solutions, its in-house engineering strength and how it leverages consultative-needs analysis to deliver client-tailored solutions. We also dive into some of the company’s most dazzling deployments, exploring projects at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the American Dream campus, the Dallas World Aquarium and more. Plus, we touch on emerging trends like using LED displays to architecturally enhance environments, as well as the need to transform “just ordinary” exhibits into highly interactive, experiential ones.

Join us for this thought-leader discussion with Richard Hill, whose insights further illuminate SNA Displays’ approach and continuing success.

Commercial Integrator: Discuss a bit about SNA Displays, its position in the market and what attracted you to join the company early this past summer.

Richard Hill: SNA Displays is a premier global manufacturer of LED products, including high-end display and lighting solutions. In an industry with so many new brands and white-label providers, I was drawn to SNA Displays by the quality and scope of projects that we tackle, as well as the fact that we can design, engineer and manufacture virtually everything in the display system itself.

Today, SNA Displays offers a range of LED solutions from 0.6mm, ultra-fine-pitch indoor to 10,000-nit, 20mm outdoor. The fact that we are 100% focused on advanced LED solutions keeps our R&D teams at the cutting edge of innovation and keeps our products at a very high level of performance and value.

Commercial Integrator: Provide an overview of your own very considerable experience with DVLED technology.

Richard Hill: I’ve been in the display industry since 2005, primarily working with LED and projection technology. SNA Displays is the company that put fine-pitch DVLED on my personal radar. When I saw the press about the “waterfall” project at Salesforce’s headquarters in San Francisco almost 10 years ago, I knew that this technology was poised to become a major disruptor and would bring radical change to the video display marketplace.

videowall SNA display at outdoor waterpark

Photo courtesy of SNA Displays.

Commercial Integrator:
As a keen observer of the DVLED market, would you like to opine on some of the changes you’ve seen over the years?

Richard Hill: Within the past five or six years, we have seen a rapid evolution and maturation of DVLED solutions, with a surge of brands entering the marketplace to pursue different tiers of customer budgets and performance needs. For indoor applications, we have seen increasing adoption across the corporate, higher education, retail, casino and gaming, and visitor attraction markets as costs for fine-pitch technology have come down. And the products are more easily integrated and installed than ever before.

In the outdoor LED marketplace, we are seeing considerable growth in digital out-of-home (DOOH), as well as in professional and collegiate-level sports.

Commercial Integrator: Speaking of verticals, let’s zero in on themed entertainment, which I’ve noticed getting quite a bit of attention lately. How would you describe this vertical in terms of its scope, unique needs and emerging opportunities?

Richard Hill: Themed entertainment is booming right now as our society seeks out memorable experiences in the physical, post-pandemic world. As you might expect, the themed entertainment vertical has expanded into a much broader category than just amusement parks, zoos and aquariums. Museums; standalone next-generation immersive experiences; retail, dining and entertainment (RD&E) districts; and even themed urban environments are now considered part of this vertical.

Our clients in the themed entertainment market trust SNA Displays to help solve complex engineering challenges while keeping the technology seamlessly integrated into their environments. It’s visible and invisible at the same time. These clients also demand rugged performance and, of course, maximum uptime to keep their attractions open, entertaining and profitable.

Commercial Integrator: The themed entertainment market seems like a really robust opportunity for SNA Displays and integrators alike. Are there any limiting factors at play?

Richard Hill: Budgets can always be a limiting factor. But we work with the client to solve those issues with a consultative-needs analysis of pixel pitch, LED brightness, video processing and other requirements. This enables us to find the perfect price-to-performance ratio for their specific application.

Given our substantial in-house engineering strength, we are extremely flexible in how we configure the ultimate solution to match the needs of a client’s project. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all product solution.

And for some clients, we work together with our sister company Infuse Digital to explore financing options and even revenue-sharing plans to clear these kinds of hurdles and get deals off the ground.

Commercial Integrator: Recently, SNA Displays participated in the Themed Entertainment Association’s annual conference in Kansas City, Mo. Did you leave with any key insights or takeaways that will inform and enhance SNA Displays’ continued growth in this market?

Richard Hill: The TEA SATE Conference (Storytelling + Architecture + Technology = Experience) was a wonderfully produced event that included insightful presenters and panel discussions, along with great networking opportunities with our partners. Many of the topics of conversation at this event surrounded ideas regarding how to keep up with the pace of emerging technologies and how to deliver dynamic visitor experiences that draw repeat business.

Harnessing the power of AI was noted as a potential tool for bolstering dynamic content generation, but LED technology was also discussed as an excellent way to architecturally enhance environments than can be ever-changing as content is refreshed for a different visitor experience over time.

Visitor and guest expectations for these venues are now higher, as well. Museums are working to “gamify” exhibits and turn the ordinary into the interactive. Experiential learning is trending up in a big way as guests are looking to interact more with the attraction itself. Owners are seeking solutions that address sustainability, and designers are considering how to leverage technology that enhances the experience rather than distracting from it.

Commercial Integrator: I’d like to get into some of the outstanding DVLED deployments for themed entertainment clients that SNA Displays has brought to life. Where would you like to start?

Richard Hill: Yes, in recent years, SNA Displays has had the privilege of working on a number of high-profile projects in the themed entertainment space.

One very recent notable project was the expansion of the outdoor entrance plaza at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla. For this project, SNA Displays was asked to design, engineer, fabricate and install a freestanding, 3,000-square-foot LED spectacular to welcome guests as they enter the property. It’s known as the Kennedy Entry Experience, and it features a prominent curve to reach guests throughout the plaza, while also allowing for jaw-dropping anamorphic 3D content to further engage the visitor with the space-center experience. The lifelike imagery jumps out of the display and creates a surreal effect that launches the visitor experience into the main park. This one is 30 feet tall and 98 feet long, and it’s the largest of its kind at ground level.

Kennedy Space Center videowall display

Photo courtesy of SNA Displays.

Commercial Integrator:
Would you like to discuss a major rollout that combines themed entertainment and retail? Of course, I’m talking about the American Dream campus in East Rutherford, N.J.

Richard Hill: SNA Displays provided more than 36,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor digital signage for wayfinding, entertainment, out of home — you name it!

Included on that property is Nickelodeon Universe, the largest indoor theme park in North America. We worked closely with the project architect, property developer, media company, and a host of other trades and partners to deliver a consistent product rollout across the entire campus. Each of the dozens of displays throughout American Dream are monitored and managed by SNA Displays’ managed-services business unit: Client Service Group. CSG provides 24/7 proactive monitoring, content scheduling, network operations control, warranty services and much more.

videowall in museum

Photo courtesy of SNA Displays.

Commercial Integrator:
Can we spotlight a few other projects to which SNA Displays and its technologies have been critical contributors?

Richard Hill: In a convergence of the digital canvas and natural elements, SNA Displays partnered with the Dallas World Aquarium to provide a massive digital display backdrop to an exhibit surrounded by real foliage and wildlife. Custom-curated rainforest content is shown on the display, which is 25 feet tall and 52 feet wide, creating a highly immersive element that provides a sense of depth as families explore the aquarium’s famous Cloud Forest Trek exhibit.

In galleries and museums, SNA Displays has collaborated with designers and artists for works featured in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and, most recently, the Gagosian Gallery with the Denominator exhibit. In this application, the artist employs a 2.5mm, 12-foot square cube and AI algorithms to deconstruct fragments of international television commercials and render them in thematically grouped choreographed sequences.

Opening in 2024, SNA Displays will also have a prominent feature in the USGA World Hall of Fame Museum, which is relocating to Pinehurst, N.C.

Commercial Integrator: I know that SNA Displays, as an organization, is highly committed to its partner integrators and supporting them in every way possible. Can you provide some insight into that organizational core principle and share details about SNA Displays’ Preferred Partner Program?

Richard Hill: One of the first things I noticed when I joined SNA Displays is that we are not trying to be everything to everyone and chase after every single LED opportunity. We are highly engaged in projects that are “the right fit” for our partners and us. We have a more select network of preferred partners than some, and that makes our relationships even stronger as we work together to deliver meaningful results. We have a great channel team dedicated to fostering relationships in this network and growing in areas where there is mutual benefit.

Truly high-quality LED display systems that make an impact require multiple disciplines and contributors and, of course, expertise. Our entire team works extremely hard to earn the trust of the architects, experience designers, content creators, integrators, consultants and other stakeholders that make the magic happen.

Commercial Integrator: If people want to learn more about SNA Displays’ technology, its incredible applications in the themed entertainment space or its synergistic partner relationships, how can they do that?

Richard Hill: First of all, people can visit our website, where they can learn not only about some of the wonderful projects, partners and clients we’ve been involved with over the years but also about helpful resources, industry topics and some of the products we provide. I’d also recommend people visit our Limelight blog for a mixture of industry education and fun.

Additionally, we’re highly active in national and regional trade events, and we have a custom-curated training curriculum that is accredited for AIA and CTS RUs. Our next event in the themed entertainment space will be the IAAPA show in Orlando, Fla., in November.

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