Before beginning any digital signage project, you will need to assess your site and your
Surveying the site where the digital screens will be placed.
Ensure that you can adequately mount, power, and have room to troubleshoot the installed LCD,
plasma, or other screen. Be sure to have a technician verify the power levels for every location,
so that it's clear of line noise and consistent, and there's enough airflow. Excessive heat can
cause sensitive electronics to perform inadequately or even fail.
Also determine the lighting at all hours of the day. If it's under fluorescent lighting or in
areas with a lot of sunlight, you may need panels with suitable coatings, the kind that reduce
the amount of reflective light. And along with the ambient light, determine how much ambient
noise is present. You may have to use larger speakers, at different angles, for your site's
Don't forget to take into account the size of the audience you plan to reach. Plasma screens
with wider viewing angles may serve you better than LCDs in certain spaces. Surveying traffic
flow patterns at different times of the day will also help you determine optimal screen
Ensuring that you have the necessary network connections.
If you don't, you may have to look into setting up a wireless link, which is also ideal for
isolated storefront areas or deploying digital signage in historic, architecturally significant
buildings where wiring isn't feasible. Or consider using standalone content player units near
the signage (admittedly, this won't allow you to stream live video from off-site or via the
Internet, but it offers a solution if you're just playing pre-recorded content, such as
If you have a wired Internet connection for content delivery or plan to use a private VPN over
public broadband link, verify that your ISP can support your needs. Many providers limit the
amount of bandwidth that customers can use. If this happens to you, your Web-routed content
may be unable to stream content to digital signage nodes at the edge of your applications.
Even if you don't use the Internet, keep in mind that the larger the files, the more bandwidth
and processing power you'll need. Industry pros will tell you that DVD-quality video (for
standard NTSC resolution of 720 x 480 Hz) requires approximately 40 MB of file space per
minute. For 1080i digital signage, you'll need 140 MB per minute. What's more, data-heavy
files can cause network bottlenecks and if not provisioned for appropriately, can lead to
costly downtime and unhappy users.
You may even want to consider a private leased-line connection. Yes, it's expensive, but it'll
enable you to keep tabs on bandwidth usage, monitor data flows, and direct bandwidth to digital
signage links with the highest demands.
And what if you plan to set up a distributed digital signage network with, say, 100 or more
sites miles apart, with some locations in rural areas, out of the reach of DSL or CATV
providers? Satellite instead of terrestrial lines may be what you need, particularly if you
plan to multicast DVD-quality MPEG2 video to different signs. If you do go the satellite route,
be advised that you might need signal decoders to convert what's captured by a dish on the
rooftop, as well as a router that processes packets for content fed from an IP link.
Evaluating and planning content.
When it comes to content creation, you have a few options to consider. You can create the
content internally using your own resources, outsource the content creation to a marketing or
advertising agency, or do some of both. You need to consider a number of factors to determine
the best approach for your needs, goals, and budget.
The first step in planning content is to outline what you want to display, how you want to
display it, and how often you want to change it. Do you want to show live streaming video, RSS
news, or stock ticker feeds? Do you want to share breaking news stories? Do you want to
deliver constantly changing updates, messages, promotions, specials, etc? With digital signage
almost anything is possible.
Today's digital signage solutions offer you a wide array of options and nearly endless
presentation opportunities, including video, audio, still images, tickers, HTML, and flash
animation. You can display the same content at multiple screens or you can display unique
content at each individual screen. You can even schedule the content to change at regular
intervals or scheduled times based on your desired messaging or audiences.
You can also display one message or incorporate multiple messages on the same screen. Some
areas of the screen can change while other areas remain fixed. Each element on the screen is
referred to as a “zone.” A zone is a customizable area that can be sized to almost any size or
location on the screen. Each zone can be managed individually so you can dynamically change
the content as needed. One zone might show a streaming video or live “TV” feed, while another
shows the local weather update. Still another area might show a changing menu or schedule.
It's all up to you. Your digital signage system can be as simple as a rotating PowerPoint®
slide show or as complex as a very elaborate six-zone display with live feeds, real-time
messaging, and dynamic content scheduling.
If you're starting to feel a little intimidated by all the available options and decisions,
don't be. The good news is that many of today's digital signage media players are preloaded with
a wide selection of templates and user-friendly design tools that make in-house content creation
a viable, affordable option. Once you've determined what you want to display, conduct an internal
review of your available resources. Do you have the available staff, experience, and existing
collateral to create the content? If the answer is yes, then you might want to consider in-house
content creation. There's probably a good chance you already have a library of resources from
company literature, Web sites, etc. Start with them. Most of the content creation systems
available with digital signage media players are fairly easy to use and require limited training.
Like most things, the more you work with it, the better you get.
If your internal resources are limited, you can easily find a large number of third-party
content creators that can deliver world-class digital signage. Creative costs can vary so you
might want to explore a few options. You'll also want to make sure you see their work, talk to
their customers, and get estimates in writing. You might want to consider using both internal
and external sources. Have an expert develop content to be displayed and then you can simply
modify the content in-house as you see fit.