Making the Move to Dynamic Signage

Are you still wondering if dynamic signage is the arena for you? Here we’ve been writing about how and why the digital print / traditional sign company is the best built enterprise for the job. In case you have missed the posts, start with the October, 2006 post and read each chapter as though it’s an important book!  Really. Go ahead. We’ll wait 😉

You may now be asking, How do I make this move? What do I need to know, and where do I go to get that information? Whew! Thank you for asking an easy question!

By entering the world of digital signage, sign designers and sign company professionals maintain complete control of their client base, and signage portfolio.

Sign makers who have worked for their entire career with static signage can find all of this new territory difficult to navigate. There are many new manufacturers of digital signage products, and it is unfortunate that many of these manufacturers do not have a sign-making background, and therefore do not always speak our language. And, while it may be easy to find companies who offer digital signage software (more than 350 exist today!) and/or hardware, it is much more difficult to learn how to implement the technology for the end-user – our clients.

Training Course for Digital Sign CertificationEnter the Digital Signage Certified Expert (DSCE) program, offered by the Digital Signage Experts Group, the best and most widely recognized certification program for dynamic sign experts. The DSCE course is a widely recognized certification course which covers all of the essential ingredients for anyone who wants to offer digital signage. Who has taken the course already? About 4700 individuals, most from the AV industry. We, however, believe YOU are even better equipped to deliver sign messaging through dynamic systems!

At the School of Sign Arts website, www.schoolofsignarts.com (SOSA) you can not only register for the course, but also they give you a free book, hot off the press for 2012: Making the Move to Dynamic Signage, which sells separately for $75. PLUS, when you register at SOSA, WE at LobbyPOP will donate $5 to the American Sign Museum!

You purchase a program access key code at SOSA for only $195, then go to the DSEG.org website and log in. Upon doing so, you can begin your training course, which is a series of instructional videos, accompanied by a 68-question certification test. Once you’ve filled in all of your answers, you submit your test for review. It is instantly graded, and, provided you receive a passing score, you then instantly receive your Digital Signage Certified Expert certificate via email, and are added to the Digital Signage Experts Group list of … well, Experts!

Making the Move to Dynamic Signage bookWhen you purchase your DSCE course access code through SOSA, you’ll also receive the PDF book: Making the Move to Dynamic Signage …. Did we mention, it’s free! This 48-page guide for the sign professional is approved by founder of DSEG.org, Alan Brawn, CTS, DSCE, DSDE, ISF, ISF-C, this year’s Chairman of the Digital Signage Federation. A great companion to the DSCE course, it includes additional insight, statistics, and information on the current and future digital signage market.

What is the certification course like? There is a complete review at the School of Sign Arts site: Certification is Priceless. How many “traditional” sign companies have taken the course? That, my friend, is a good question. More every day enroll in the course…

On a quiet Saturday afternoon, February 11, 2012 in Lubbock, Texas, Toby Stephens, owner of Elite Sign & Design, clicked “submit” and became a member of a rare breed: The digital print sign professional who crossed over to the bright side and embraced dynamic digital signage as a part of his future. He became a dynamic sign expert.

If you recognize this opportunity and want to get started on a great course, visit SOSA’s sign-up page here.  Get your free book and client assessment surveys. And make your move! Any questions? Call us! 1-888-LOBBYPOP [1-888-562-2976]  or email: amazing@lobbypop.com.

DSCE Course Review

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…

March of the Statistics

Many of our past posts have discussed marketing, retail environments, sign design, content and audio considerations. But why is this dynamic sign technology getting so much attention? Why should you invest in this new learning curve as a digital print or sign professional? From software selection, to network design and configuration, to the right displays and peripherals and then installation and training for the client, it is quite an investment. Is it worth it? Okay, let’s march a few statistics out for March, and then you decide…. (We’ll use plenty of pictures to keep it lively!)

It is no coincidence that with 74% of all purchase decisions in mass merchandisers made in store, an increasing number of brand marketers and retailers invest in this medium.

When electronic digital signage first came onto the scene a few short years ago, there was no way to quantify it in terms of return on investment or impact on the marketplace, or even consumers. With the advent of scanner technology, brand marketers and retailers have been able to immediately determine the effectiveness of P.O.P.

POPAI‘s studies, undertaken from 1994 through this year, have consistently demonstrated significant sales increases for products supported by Retail Marketing across industries and geography.

Digital Signage has been proven to reduce perceived wait time by 40%-60%. That makes for happier, friendlier, more relaxed, and more satisfied clients.

LobbyPOP SayingAt the same time, you have a unique opportunity to tell your audience about additional products and services you offer.  You can be sure they’ll remember… it’s proven that digital signage can increase ad recall by more than 60%. And in case you’re wondering about the bottom line: Digital signage increases sales by 18%-62%!

InfoTrends/CAP Ventures has been tracking the industry since 1999, and adjusted Compound Annual Growth Rates are over 30%.

And, the most recent Digital Signage Pricing Report from Wirespring shows that the cost to deploy displays has dropped 14%. When Wirespring first began tracking in 2004, the cost per node (screen and media player) averaged $8500. In 2010, this had dropped to $3720.

It was only a few short months ago that Walmart released some information pertaining to their (in)famous Smart Network. In case you missed the announcement, the company calculated the following percentage increases in store departments using the Smart Network:

Sales lift by department
  • Electronics: 7%
  • Over-the-counter: 23%
  • Food: 13%
  • Health/beauty: 28%

They also disclosed the point in a product’s life cycle when the network seemed to be most effective:

Sales lift by product type

  • Mature items: 7%
  • Newly-launched items: 9%
  • Seasonal items: 18%
  • Items on rollback: 6%

From two case studies on how the Smart Network affects product sales (thanks to Digital Signage Today for the summaries):

In the first, a breathing-strip manufacturer purchased an endcap campaign, in which a 90- to 120-second message ran on endcap screens with product positioned around it. While the program was running, the brand saw a 100 percent sales lift on the specific product, determined by testing versus a control group.

In another campaign, the retailer wanted to increase the number of shoppers that opted in to receive discounts and offers via SMS. It staged a four-week campaign in which shoppers were told that if they’d sign up by dialing a specific code, they’d get exclusive announcements of new “Rollback” offers. During the four-week period, the retailer saw a three-fold increase in daily opt-ins.

Still with me here? We’re giving you this so you can go forth and conquer your clients’ fears!  Okay, how about YOUR fears 😉 Check this out:

According to data cited by Microsoft’s Edson, there are approximately 2 million digital signs across the US right now, and that number is expected to grow to 7 million over the next 5 years. For that to happen in a nice, linear fashion, it would mean that the industry will deploy 1,000,000 screens every year for the next 5 years.

The above chart shows that Retail remains the largest piece of the digital sign pie, and that Hospitality is second. With Retail, we find every imaginable style of display – from kiosks and endcaps, to video walls and window projections. In Hospitality, the range is not so dramatic. Both present ready opportunities for digital sign professionals.

Hopefully this March round-up of current research has given you a new perspective on your own potential in this arena. Next post, a bit about technology as it relates to content…

For Digital e-Sign Professionals

You may be a Digital p-Sign Professional – offering every wide-format digital print product your clients need. You could also be a Digital e-Sign Professional – giving customers electronic digital signage as well. While “e” and “p” are only 11 characters apart, there is a world of difference between print and electronic mediums. Thus far, over the past three years of engagement with the digital print sign industry, we have verified that the electronic medium presents some challenges for anyone who works in digital print and static signage.

Here are the most common hurdles, and how we address them:

  • File formats and square pixels. To create stunning wide-screen images, and provide the quality your client either expect now, or will expect soon, you have to know a tremendous amount about non-linear video rendering, frame-rates, aspect ratios, and how these translate from one program to another. You will want to allow for long rendering periods – far longer than even a grand format digital print file – if you are crafting a five-minute edutainment sequence. Workaround? The content can and should be created by experts, and delivered to you for your client’s playlist.
  • Choosing one delivery system over another…. and understanding what the heck you are talking about. Digital print experts are able to quickly ascertain the substrates needed for a particular sign, indoors or out. In addition, mounting hardware, installation services – these are all slam-dunk easy parts of the visual communications package. But start talking about wired, vs. wireless, vs. all-in-one systems, vs. push technology, vs. pull technology, vs. cloud-based, vs. RSS feeds, vs. traffic cams, video feeds and existing collateral, and you have digital soup. Solution? Start with a simple questionnaire that places the focus on the client’s abilities and needs. A Q&A logic tree will lead you to the perfect solution. In this way, you focus on the user experience and find a system that is truly usable.
  • Knowing what to ask a customer and how to present this technology. We’ve seen more digital signage installations in the past year alone than we’ve seen in the previous six years combined, because it helps brands and retailers who are struggling to find creative, affordable ways to increase sales and amplify the message.  That is the foundation of what we do at LobbyPOP: we build on this experience, and provide an affordable Digital Sign Expert certification course which addresses this very issue.

 Next post: Media Development