Behind the lights of the Dallas Omni Hotel

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on December 8, 2011 at 11:41 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 11 at 6:58 PM

DALLAS - It's a Dallas tradition - lighting up the skyline with a unique splash of color. The Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel's big and bold facade is now providing an eye catching show from every angle in town.

"Everybody knows when they see a picture of Dallas, you know which city you are looking at, and we knew that this building had to stand out in that skyline," said Omni Hotels Regional Vice President Ed Netzhammer.

The energy-efficient lighting system includes nearly four miles of light bars, and more than one million LED lights.

It's controlled from a tiny room in the heart of the hotel. Pat Anderson from Matthews Southwest, the hotel's developer, runs the program.

"It's really simple," Anderson said. "You would think it's more complicated. It's a pretty simple system."

The system and software from Maxedia Compact is designed for video and animation. Anderson told News 8 it's also used for concert and Broadway productions. It's stored under lock and key.

"We keep it under lock and key so no one can come in here and put things that are not supposed to be on the side of the building," Anderson said.

With a few clicks of a mouse, Anderson can choose from hundreds of pre-made patterns and visuals. Logos and images can be also be imported into the system. He can create a display in less than five minutes. 

"I can adjust colors, sizes, speeds of rotations," Anderson said. "I can rotate it up and down, left and right. I can make images turn around."

Anderson changes the display every seven days. But, he admits, it's a learning process.

"I will get in my car and drive a few blocks and turn around and look [and say], 'Hey, that's cool,' or I need to come back and tweak it some more," Anderson said.

Images such as logos don't always project as well.

"The only limits are the quality of the images," Anderson said. "Imagine this being a visual output like a printer with very low quality. You are kind of limited as far as the quality."

Hotel officials told News 8 they have taken some hits for the digital display, but most of the feedback has been positive.

"Certainly, when you do something this drastic in the skyline, you are going to get different opinions," Netzhammer said. "We are still testing. It's probably going to be six months before we really figure out what to do with the outside of the building."

As for special requests, the hotel isn't taking any. It's only considering a few options, including helping the North Texas Food Bank next September to raise awareness by turning the lights orange for the month.

"We are not taking requests from anybody for anything that's not civic in nature, that's not downtown Dallas," Netzhammer said. "When you have the world's largest billboard, it really could get abused very quickly and I think the citizens of Dallas and the people that live here, you have to respect what they would want to see."

Netzhammer also mentioned that the display might be used in the future as a marketing tool to lure more convention center business. For example, sales teams could include a picture of the hotel with a company's logo in their proposal.

"We will do that and when conventions are in town, we will do something to recognize that convention while it's here," Netzhammer said.

And for those wondering, the lights don't annoy the hotel's guests. In fact, the lights can't be seen from the rooms, other than reflections off of other buildings.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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