Part 2: May Your Resolution Be Right

More fun with technology! If you are up to date, you have followed these posts for a while. Our Part 1 of this two-part series on resolution is very important if you plan to use the information provided here, so give it a good read.

Okay, ready?

HD Resolution (or Frame Size):

There are 2 standard HD video resolutions:  1280×720 and 1920×1080 (width x height).  Both are displayed in widescreen (16:9) image format and use square pixels (the tiny individual “dots” of color that collectively make up the full image).  In contrast, standard definition (SD) video is a single resolution of 720×480 (for NTSC), using different pixel aspect ratios (non-square) to create either widescreen (16:9) or standard (4:3) images.  The square pixel format yields a more consistent image on a variety of display types, whether it is a plasma screen, LCD, or LED TV (or computer monitor).

A third format exists, better known as HDV, that is common among consumer-oriented video cameras.  This format is 1440×1080, and uses a non-square pixel size to render a widescreen image.

 Now, factor in Progressive Scan (p) and Interlaced Scan (i) and entire world of bandwidth considerations comes into play. This post is just not big enough to cover the subject, so get the amazing Guide when you register to take the DSCE course. 

Here’s the scoop in a nutshell: In a perfect digital world, we could say that it would always be better to display full frames in a progressive scan format, since each frame is a complete picture … and since current technology is certainly capable of keeping up with huge amounts of bandwidth, why would there be a need to compromise?  Bandwidth is still an issue, however, especially in video transmitted over the Internet or through cellular service.  The other issue is that many consumer or “pro-sumer” video cameras can only record high-resolution (1920×1080) video in interlaced scan format, since the hardware can’t support the higher bandwidth required by progressive.  Don’t lose sleep over this – just use resources provided by your media house to guide in the right file rendering size.

The MP4/H.264/AVC format is capable of producing very high quality video in virtually any common resolution, including HD.  It has been almost universally adopted as the standard for streaming video … and HD video in general.  It is the preferred format for YouTube, Vimeo, and iTunes, and is the most common encoding method for commercial Blu Ray discs.  The H.264 codec can also be used to encode MOV files.  MP4 files can be played by the QuickTime Player on any Mac or Windows computer, the Windows Media Player on all Windows 7 based systems, and by most smart phones.  Most of the currently available digital signage systems are compatible, too … WooHoo!

Multi-tasking mp4For these reasons, we at LobbyPOP prefer to render final video as MP4 files, to ensure compatibility across the spectrum, whether it’s playing from a locally-controlled digital signage player, remotely controlled system, Blu Ray disc, or streaming via YouTube.  Of course, when the need arises, we can render in virtually any desired format … but generally speaking, an MP4 file will work for any computer or digital signage system. 

There are many further details that may be discussed in the future, such as the accompanying audio formats for video files, bitrates, encoding profiles, etc., but it is too much to cover in this installment.  Hopefully this crash course will help to gain an understanding of what HD video is all about.

For more: LobbyPOP provides an excellent Guide for LobbyPOP Pros and Digital Signage Certified Experts. Just sayin… 

 

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Part 1: May Your Resolution Be Right

Here’s Part One of Two about the technology that transforms a blank flat panel screen into a communications dynamo! Just what you’ve been waiting for! (Hmmm?). It’s time for a wee bit of technical jargon, and it’s not going to hurt a bit. When it comes to digital signage (the moving kind), the one most confusing piece to translate from our world of static to the calisthenics of dynamic displays is: What resolution for content creation, and what settings for my screen will display it properly?

The easy part is the screen, really, if you can push some buttons enough times, maybe even break down and read the manual, you will find it. (Just practice at your own shop first, on an identical system, so you don’t look silly in front of your client.) As for content, however, you may feel like you’re jumping through hoops to get a handle on this, depending on the application for the content display and delivery. Is it for cellular delivery? Cabled? Wireless? Flash drive? A zone on the screen? HDTV? SD Kiosk?  YouTube? Yep, it can be different for each!

Content Delivery VehiclesFirst, the good news: If you (wisely) use a media house to create and render your content, you shouldn’t have to stress over square vs. rectangular pixels, frame rates, HD vs. SD, and all those other definitions. Now, the not so good news: You need to know this stuff, if you want to guide your clients through the conversation about content so you can order the right thing from your media house!  So, here’s a little bit to get you started. The full blown Guide is available for those seeking their Digital Signage Certified Expert credentials from the Digital Signage Experts Group, if you order through SOSA.

To understand the current standards for HD Video and how it applies to digital signage, we’ll need to take a look at some basic terminology. To create the illusion of motion, video (just as with film movies) consists of a series of images displayed in rapid succession.  Each single image is referred to as a Frame.

The most common frame rates include:

  • 24p – NTSC 24 frames per second in progressive scan format 
  • 25p – PAL 25 frames per second in progressive scan format
  • 30p – 30 frames per second in progressive scan format.  This is the standard video rate for most common applications.
  • 50i – PAL 50 interlaced fields (25 complete frames) per second (see “HD Frame Format” below).  This is the standard video frame rate for PAL television broadcast.
  •  60i – NTSC 60 interlaced fields (30 complete frames) per second.  Technically, it is 59.94 fields, or 29.97 frames, per second.  This is the NTSC standard for all television broadcast, DVD, and consumer camcorder.
  • 50p/60p – 50/60 frames per second in progressive scan format, used in high-end HDTV systems. 
  • 72p – 72 frames per second in progressive format.  This is a more-or-less experimental rate that is finding applications in high-speed video recording, which can then be played back at a lesser rate for ultra clear slow-motion video.  It is also the current maximum rate available for WMV video.

HD Video File Formats:

Okay, here’s where it all comes together for useful applications … like digital signage.  HD Video can be created and stored in many different file formats.  The file format you choose should be based on the hardware and software that will be used to view it.  For example, the digital signage software/hardware system you select may specify compatibility only with certain file formats for video.  Here’s a list of the most common file formats and their most-used applications:

MPEG-2:  Blu Ray Disc, DVD

MP4 (or MPEG-4), also known as H.264/AVC:  Blu Ray Disc, Internet Streaming (YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes, etc.), local computer playback (Mac or Windows), mobile devices

WMV (Windows Media Video):  Windows PC playback, Internet Streaming (although your video may be converted by the host)

MOV (QuickTime):  Local computer playback (Mac or Windows), some DSLR (Canon) and camcorder native recording format

AVI:  Windows computer video (massive storage required for uncompressed files!)

But wait … there’s more to the story.  Next Post: HD resolution and the wonders of MP4! In case this is just not quite fun enough, LobbyPOP provides an excellent Guide for LobbyPOP Pros and Digital Signage Certified Experts. Just sayin…

Our Predictions All Came True…

Back in 2007, one of our blog posts predicted that the “traditional” sign industry trade associations would be looking at dynamic digital signage as the new frontier. That, we can now boast, is a prediction fulfilled. See our July post of 2007 for the exact prediction for the International Sign Association’s involvement to come. That day has come!

Digital sign pioneer and explorer, Lyle Bunn, Strategy Architect, published this in Digital Screenmedia Association news:

Enter the massive base of static sign and digital graphics providers. It is telling that both the Screen Graphics Industry Association (SGIA) and International Sign Association (ISA) have dramatically increased their focus on digital signage in their respective October and April Las Vegas conferences.

How about another prediction – one so important we built our entire LobbyPOP premise upon it. We began our foray into electronic digital signage in 2006 after extensive research, specifically choosing an “Edutainment” format for our own specialized content. LobbyPOP content is very recognizable, and always provides engaging graphics, quality video, voiceover and music to present interesting and important facts about a particular industry’s products and services. We dubbed this “edutainment” as a reflection of the education and entertainment value encompassed in quality content. Now, without blowing our own horn too much, this year in March, Digital Signage Today featured an article which touted a “new” concept, “Infomercials coming to digital out of home.” Wow- the sound of thunderous applause here at LobbyPOP headquarters! 

In a move that in hindsight seems incredibly obvious, advertising technology firm rVue has partnered with a direct response TV firm to bring direct response ads to the digital signage networks using rVue’s Demand Side Platform.

 Yes, it seems incredibly obvious to us!

“It is a very exciting time, and we’re really working hard on bringing forward some what-we-believe-to-be-very-important initiatives and solutions for our space,” rVue founder and CEO Jason Kates said in a recent phone interview.

As anyone who follows our blog knows, we squirm when the words “important” “initiatives” “solutions” and “our space” are all in the same sentence.

“We must be one of the last media in the world who haven’t had this developed as a full-blown opportunity for us,” Kates said.Social Media, Google, Online Content Convergence

Perhaps. Perhaps not… Can it be the new frontier has been soundly mapped already? Hardly! We have much to learn and review when it comes to touchscreens, social media on display, and content delivery technologies. We are eagerly watching developers create the new, converging technologies that will empower screens like never before. We are beta testing some exciting new content delivery vehicles as well! You may therefore be looking for our next big prediction, considering our track record 🙂 Well, we never want to disappoint, so here goes:

We see Google, Social Media, and Microsoft all becoming critical to the digital media platform. What we see also is the confusion this creates in the marketplace, as clients and media providers try to sort out what is relevant and important. Of course, we have some thoughts on these subjects. You’ll have to read our next posts to learn more…  Remember our motto: A Step Ahead… is a Great Place to Lead!

Part 4: CLEVR Readability for Dynamic Digital Signs

If you are following this series, you know we are talking about the science behind good sign design, and how this applies to digital sign content as well. In our first post, we reviewed content considerations as  a whole. This brought us to Part 1, CLEVR acronym for Conspicuity, Legibility, Visibility and Readability. We reviewed Conspicuity and what it means in the application called Dynamic Signage. Part 2 discussed Legibility, and how this relates to dynamic content for digital sign systems. Visibility and a great tip for improved dynamic signage was presented in Part 3. If you haven’t read up on the premise, do so with the links above.

And now, to complete the series, Readability is our subject today!

A readable display allows people to quickly and accurately recognize and understand information, in particular, alphanumeric characters. The message should be clear and unambiguous. In traditional sign design, a few words to convey important information is all that is required. The same can be applied to dynamic signage. Again, these displays are not television. It is not a seated audience, for the most part, watching the screen with no other distractions. In an ideal world, there would be nothing but the screen. In reality, there is likely to be other signage, noise, people milling around, and multiple distractions. The dynamic display message, therefore, should be built much like static signage.

This means the concept of readability takes on great importance. If you have only a few minutes to engage your viewer, you should make certain your message is readable – that the message is conveyed quickly and clearly. While we love our HD content, LobbyPOP always includes on-screen text and clear voice-over in bite-sized chunks to assure no part of the message is obscured or lost. Text is often white with a pin-line outline, to assure it shows clearly on any motion background.

Dynamic Signage displays are alphanumeric displays, using letters and numbers, along with graphic images and sound, to convey messages. The contrast ratio for the characters is an important element in readabiliy and legibility.

ReadabilityIn their book, Human Factors in Simple and Complex Systems, Robert W. Proctor, Trisha Van Zandt explain that under optimal conditions, for black text on a white background, the font stock width-to-height ratio is ideally 1:6 to 1:8. For white characters on a black field, the optimal ratio is 1:8 to 1:10. Thinner lines for white on black images are required because of a phenomenon called radiation or sparkle. This is where the light color “bleeds” together due to the contrast -the eye’s reaction.

Keeping the core message concise, and the entire message in a ten to fifteen second clip, is a good rule of thumb. This does not mean that a 30-second spot is not desirable. On the contrary, the core message can be emphasized and repeated in ways that assure readability and recognition. This is the heart of all advertising: Repetition. So whereas traditional static signs can be read several times over in the space of a few seconds, thereby assuring a point is communicated, a dynamic sign can enhance this and “force” repetition upon the viewer by repeating the same points in slightly different ways, with supporting information in concert, much like bullet points in a presentation. 

How many words? How much information per minute? We have validated that seven words or less for the core messaging, and up to eight supporting messages within a 60-second spot can be read and comprehended.  So go forth and multiply your advertising!

Next post: The Power of Imagery – why this is in the wheelhouse of dynamic digital signage!

Part 2: CLEVR Legibility for Digital Design

If you are following this series, you know we are talking about the science behind good sign design, and how this applies to digital sign content as well. In our first post, we reviewed content considerations as  a whole. This brought us to Part 1, CLEVR acronym for Conspicuity, Legibility, Visibility and Readability. We reviewed Conspicuity and what it means in the application called Dynamic Signage. If you haven’t read up on the premise, do so with the link above.

TextbookToday, we focus on Legibility. As we learned, CLEVR is evaluated according to the application.  Within a textbook, for example, conspicuous text is not the aim. Legible and readable content is of great importance.

A document from the International Sign Association (ISA) regarding sign legibility gives us a clear definition, “Legibility: The physical attributes of a sign that allow for differentiation of its letters, words, numbers, or graphics and that directly relate to an observer’s visual acuity. Legibility is considered an objective stimulus.”

What does this mean for dynamic sign content?

The “physical” attributes would in this case be the contrast between message text and background, the clarity of the image, glare or reflectivity of the display screen, size of the text and graphics, and the motion effects that may be in play.

Typographic elements are the focus here, no pun intended. Font style, size, color, spacing, and whether the font is ornate, upper case, lower case — these are all factors that create degrees of legibility. Obviously, light yellow letters on a white background will not be particularly legible. If, however, you add a black pin-line around each, you can increase legibility. Now, factor in motion – if you have created an electronic message with letter characters that bounce on the screen, you have decreased legibility. The same goes for very small fonts, which are commonly used in the “fine print” for car commercial interest rates and lease information.

Signhugger.com Blog Series

Signhugger.com Blog SeriesA case can be made for some legibility loss, however!

We, as sign designers, are sometimes drawn to a zesty or ornate font, in order to convey a particular spirit or feeling in our messaging. Some typefaces are just designed to stand out from the crowd. To the degree that a typeface has personality, spirit, or distinction, however, it almost always suffers proportionally on the legibility scale.  We have found over the past three years that when designing dynamic content, less is more. The most legible typefaces are “transparent” to the reader–that is, they don’t call undue attention to themselves.

Look for fonts that not excessively light or bold, weight changes within character strokes are subtle, and serifs, if the face has them, do not call attention to themselves. Use zesty or elegant cursive styles in moderation, and keep their movement to a minimum.

Next post, we look at the quality of Visibility. Yes, another factor in good dynamic sign design!

Waiting Room Opportunities

We estimate that 8,000,000 businesses are prime candidates today for lobby signage. The application of dynamic sign technology will improve customer satisfaction, lift sales, and build credibility. Here is a partial list of markets that can be well-served with signs of this type:

  • Dental Office
  • Local hospitals
  • Health Spas
  • Pediatricians
  • CPA/Financial Planners
  • Lube & Tire Service Centers
  • Restaurants
  • Train Stations
  • Veterinarian Clinics
  • Doctor’s Offices
  • Medical Labs
  • Health Clubs
  • Beauty Salons
  • Community Centers
  • Assisted Living Centers
  • Post Offices
  • DMV
  • RX Pick-Up Sites
  • Banks

😉 Not necessarily in that order!

Tell Your Story – Part 5

This is a series all about marketing through good digital signage design. The first in this series related the importance of “story” or narrative. The second offered a perfect advertising message that wins sales. The third post covered the “song and dance” To Do list for your content. And the last two posts cover what not to do – Part 4 was What to Avoid in your content messaging. This post is What to Avoid in your content formats.

First, avoid using simply static images in a sequence, trying to mimic video. The technology is already far advanced beyond a PowerPoint show or series of jpg images. You don’t have to spend a lot to get high quality video content with educational impact. LobbyPOP Pros can offer a wide range of affordable video sequences.

Second, avoid Flash! This is not a platform-agnostic file type. If you are displaying on a commercial screen and later want to deploy through web and smart phones, you will find some serious roadblocks. You also limit the number of partners who can assist you in customizing and changing the content. In addition, flash images lack the emotional depth of video, and are easy to spot when comparing campaigns. Today’s technology has allowed marketers unprecedented flexibility, targetability and accountability in reaching and impacting their audiences. Digital networks are a perfect storm of advanced technology platforms.

Third, Don’t skip the music! Studies prove that consumers are more sensitive to and appreciative of a dynamic message that is delivered with an appropriate music bed.

Fourth, invest in knowledge of your target audience demographics. Unless you know what buying motivators exist for potential clients, and what colors, style, and “right brain vs. left brain” approach works for that industry, your message can backfire.

LobbyPOP Pros offer LobbyPOP content which encompasses the “hot buttons”  and critical messaging desired by nearly every industry, all developed through a research study commissioned by Sign Biz Inc. that cost over $100,000. LobbyPOP content is the only digital signage media in North America to be built on this exclusive research.

Next Post: Story of a CPA and a Digital Sign