Captivating a Crowd

A Look at How to Deliver a Rich and Cost Effective Video Wall Project

Video walls are digital signage installations that comprise more than a single display.  Content is typically displayed seamlessly across the displays, providing a large format and immersive experience that can deliver diverse types of content.  While videos and informational overlays are a popular content choice, they can also be utilized to show multiple zones of mixed types of content.

It is important to understand what you are trying to accomplish beyond putting up digital signage and checking a box as well as have an awareness of what decisions can impact hardware cost and total cost of ownership of a solution.

Without understanding your goals, there is a risk of diminishing your brand or not communicating your message with your users.  Failure can take many forms, but here are a few outcomes:

  • Blank screens
  • Hacked screens
  • Wrong content
  • Ignored signs
  • Missing the opportunity to create an experience (yelling versus engaging)

Critical Success Factors
While our experience at Now Micro tends to be device focused, years of assisting our partners with implementations has shown some critical success factors that allow you to focus on your key deliverables and not the underlying hardware platform:

  • Reproducibility, consistency and automation
  • Remote management
  • Well-defined content or robust devices

Our goal is to shepherd our customers through the parts of the process we are intimate with, allowing you to realize the vision based on your deliverables and strengths.

Reproducibility, consistency and automation is about automating or otherwise moving work away from deployment time.  A lot of configuration can be done prior to the system being installed, and can be accomplished with a spectrum of tools from scripts to Now Micro’s Configurator. Moving work to earlier in the process lets you test more of the deployment and prevents inconsistent application of procedures and rules in the field. Even the last steps in the field can often be automated, leaving time for other issues and to focus on the final physical pieces of your deployment.

Remote management allows you to manage your systems without having a user present at the station.  While graphical remote tools are useful, a lot of common configuration and break/fix issues merely require the ability to download and execute a script.  Being able to perform non-OS security updates, configuration updates, software or driver upgrades or even OS rebuilds with a management tool can make a huge difference to total cost of ownership of a fleet of devices.

Well-defined content for video wall projects can make the difference between a “me-too” strategy and a dynamic and impactful installation.  Content for video wall projects is often not well defined during procurement or rapidly changes as partners find what kind of content and messages resonate with their purposes. In particular, interactive video walls are becoming an increasing percentage of installations as they promote engagement and provide a freshness and novelty not seen in non-interactive installations. Delivering a unique and original interactive video wall can have a wow factor that further amplifies your message in social media and word of mouth.  Having a robust player that can handle current and future expected content can make the difference between a rapid refresh cycle and a slowly, continuously improving fleet of devices.  Performant, reliable and cost effective devices are available and can help you stretch time between your refreshes.

Understand Current Technology Limitations
Many limitations in technology can be overcome, but it pays to be smart and compromise when it has a significant impact on your cost of implementation.  Here are a few key parameters we would recommend:

  • Keep the resolution of the total displays under 8k in any dimension
  • Your CMS software has the biggest impact on hardware component choices
  • The second biggest impact on component choices is how the displays are attached to the player (topology)

CMS Hardware Acceleration
Software used for playback/CMS has a large influence on hardware choices.  This is because some software packages can use hardware acceleration in common scenarios to optimize usage of hardware.  Being able to utilize hardware acceleration allows you to use less costly players and invest in other things that may make your installation more robust and performant for the lifecycle of your devices.  Now Micro can help CMS customers and end-users “right size” their hardware based on our wide experience with the spectrum of available software packages.

A Detailed Look into Common Display Connection Topologies for Video Walls
There are a few basic buckets for display connection types in video walls:

  • Single Channel/1:1
  • Direct Connection
  • Network Synchronized Video
  • Multi-stream transport
  • Video Distribution

The choice in topology can have a large impact on capabilities and cost of the overall project.

A single channel player is one of the most common deployment types.  In this scenario, a single display is connected to single device.

In a direct connection installation, the player would have a single output per display.  Depending on requirements, the outputs may be clock synchronized to reduce tearing in video playback.  This is a cost effective, and reliable way of handling small to medium size video walls.

Network video synchronizing is similar to the single channel player model, but the playback software is synchronizing playback across all devices in the wall to reduce tearing.  Some implementations can require special network switches.

Multi-stream Transport is part of the DisplayPort standard and allows a single connection to be looped through a set of displays to stitch together a video wall.  While the displays can be more expensive in this scenario, the player needs are simplified.

When using video distribution/video controllers, an external box is used to take one or more input signals from a player and drive the attached displays.  This can introduce additional complexity to the installation as well another single point of failure in the installation.  A direct connection design can be more cost-effective and simpler.

Creating a Lasting Impression

Video walls can be a compelling, captivating showcase that drives customer loyalty, brand awareness and other organizational communication goals.  Knowing a little bit about what decisions in product selection can drive cost and customer satisfaction can eliminate some the uncertainty and allow you to focus on the key pieces of your project.