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Digital signage guide

Digital signage guide

Digital signage guide

 

A guide to displaying information in public environments



Contents

Digital signage for education, business, retail and public areas
Why not just use PowerPoint instead?
Displays
Touch screens
Advertising
What you need for your digital signage presentations
Presentation graphics software packages
Digital signage software
Media players with pre-installed digital signage software
Digital signage displays
Rigid projection panels and projection film
Touch screens kiosks
Touch screen overlays
Digital signage display mounts
Quick guide to basic digital signage and touchscreen software
Creating a digital signage presentation with PowerPoint 2003 / 2007 / 2010
Creating a touch screen application with PowerPoint 2007
Creating a touch screen application with PowerPoint 2010
Creating a digital signage presentation with OpenOffice.org 2.3 / 3.2.1.36
Creating a digital signage presentation with Windows Movie Maker v.5.1.38
Creating a digital signage presentation with Windows Live Movie Maker 2010

Digital signage for education, business, retail and public areas

Digital signage guide

 

There are dozens of notice boards on walls throughout schools and colleges. Many of these are used for displaying timetables, results, displays of students work and giving information on events, etc.

In shops and public areas, such as libraries, museums, restaurants, hospitals and airports, there too you will see notice boards and posters all giving information or advertising services.

A traditional poster is either a printed A4 or A3 piece of paper which has been produced from programmes such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher or any of the other word processing or desktop publishing packages. When the information on the printed poster needs changing, you then need to change the information in the software package, reprint and physically swap the posters on the notice board.

Digital signage is about using small and large computer screens to display still and moving posters which have different information scheduled at varying times and can be updated from a computer somewhere in the building. A typical set up is a 42” plasma or LCD screen connected to a computer (which could be a mini PC on the back or a screen cabled to a PC base unit somewhere else) plus some digital signage software.

A classic example would be a screen in a school reception area. This can be used to display information on school events such as sports day, drama productions, after school clubs, parent evenings, etc. on part of the screen, and possibly examples of student artwork on another part of the screen.

 

Digital signage guide Digital signage guide Digital signage guide

Example school/college digital signage screen with different information scheduled for morning, lunch and afternoons

 

Scheduling on the screen could be used to display different information at various times of the day. An example would be events information to parents in the morning bringing children to school. This could change to information to pupils mid morning, display of a canteen menu to students and teachers at lunchtime, student artwork displays in the afternoon and more information to parents collecting children at school leaving time.

When the information on the screens needs updating, this can be done from another computer on the school’s computer network. This will typically be done from the school’s reception or admin office, where new presentations/posters and schedules can be designed and sent to the computer attached to the screen in the reception area.

Other areas where digital signage screens could be used would be in student and teachers’ common rooms and even weather-proof (and vandal-proof) screens on the outside of buildings for displaying up-to-the minute information to students and parents in the school grounds.

 

Digital signage guide
Example digital signage screen advertising courses in a public area Scrolling text message along the bottom of screen gives contact details

 

 

In a business reception area, products and services can be advertised, and when important visitors arrive, they can be greeted by a ‘Welcome Mr Smith’, message scrolling along the bottom of a plasma/LCD screen.

Within the retail sector, digital signage can be projected onto large screens in a food court where thousands of people sit, eat and relax during their shopping trip.

Why not just use PowerPoint instead?

Many schools and businesses use PowerPoint on their PC’s for creating presentations to display on screens. Microsoft PowerPoint does an excellent job of allowing you to design and display presentations. PowerPoint is presentation graphics software and is one of the best presentation graphics packages available. Digital signage software is different to presentation graphics software. Understanding the difference will allow you to decide whether PowerPoint, or another presentation graphics package, is a better option than digital signage software.

Most digital signage software packages have the following advantage over PowerPoint:

- Scheduling on an hourly, daily or weekly basis what is displayed on screen.
- Update of screen information over the local network or over the Internet. PowerPoint needs the presentation changing and then you have to set it playing again.
- Some digital signage packages allow any application to 'print' to screens.
- Generally, support for RSS news feeds, for example, to display news from the BBC website, and live video sources such as webcams.
- Some digital signage systems allow dual monitor support for displaying different presentations on separate screens or displaying a single presentation that spans both screens.

The advantages of PowerPoint are:

- Very easy to use and many people are already familiar with this software package.
- Large number of effects and transitions between slides, which are generally not seen in digital signage packages.
- Is already in use every day in education establishments and many businesses.
- Licences may already have been bought and PowerPoint is available for around £100+VAT in the UK, compared to professional digital signage software that can range from £150 to over £1,000 +VAT.
- Supports a huge variety of audio/video formats, PDF documents, Microsoft Office documents, etc, some of which are not supported in all digital signage software.

Displays

Digital signage guide Digital signage guide
Desktop LCD displays

 

We have already mentioned the use of 42” large format LCD monitors for displaying information. However, you can use any spare computer screen you have around such as 15” or 18” LCD monitors or even an old projector which may have been replaced by a newer model.

 

Digital signage guide
Projectors to display presentations on a projector screen

 

Projectors, LCD monitors and plasma screens can all be used to display presentations created on digital signage packages or PowerPoint. Projectors have the advantage of allowing large images to be displayed at a low cost. However, don’t forget to take into consideration the lamp life of projectors. If you are displaying digital signage with projectors in school hours, then the displays could be on for over 40 hours per week. If you are using your projector for display in a shop or public area it could be on for up to 24 hours a day. Some projector manufacturers’ have models in their range designed specifically for 24/7 application. Casio, for example uses an LED-laser light source which lasts up to 20,000 hours with no replacement lamp costs.

Many of the new LCD TV’s that you see in Argos and other high street stores are now inexpensive. However, you need to be aware that these are designed for consumers watching television around 4 hours per day and are not designed for digital signage. Professional screens are better constructed, have better manufacturer warranties and some are designed to be left on all day, whilst others are designed for 24/7 usage. Should you use domestic screens for commercial applications, depending on manufacturer, you could even negate the warranty.

Touch screens

 

Digital signage guide
Large format and desktop touch screens and multi-touch screens

 

Some digital signage packages are designed for use with touch screens. Most shopping centres and airports now have kiosks with built in touch screens that that allow the user to find information or directions.

 

Advertising

Digital signage guide
Large widescreen LCD display for advertising


Digital signage is also known as narrowcasting in advertising circles. In many UK Post Offices you will now see digital signage screens displaying adverts for both local and national businesses. These are installed and maintained by advertising companies who charge these businesses for displaying their adverts to Post Office customers.

A local business could, for example, have its own commercial LCD screen to advertise its products and services and generate revenue by advertising other local businesses as well, perhaps with non-competing products and services to the same type of customer. An example of this would be an estate agent advertising the services of painters and decorators, house removal firms, etc.

In the education sector, potentially there is room for schools and colleges to either advertise paid for courses (especially for night school) or even to generate revenue from local businesses advertising beneficial services to students and parents. An example would be local piano teachers advertising lessons or local fitness instructors advertising aerobic classes.

What you need for your digital signage presentations


To compose and display your posters digitally, you need three basic components:

· Software to compose and display your digital posters, which could be PowerPoint, OpenOffice.org Impress, Windows Movie Maker, or a digital signage software package

· Dedicated PC or media player to play your message

· Display screen on which your message can be viewed (LCD monitor, plasma screen, projector plus projector screen)

OR, a solution that combines two or more of these components, for example, a media player with pre-loaded digital signage software, an LCD monitor with built-in PC, or an LCD monitor with built-in PC and digital signage software.

Presentation graphics software packages

The following packages allow you to design and play presentations and are either free or low cost. However, none of these do scheduling, so whatever presentation you play, it will keep playing in a loop until you stop the presentation, change it and play it again.


Microsoft PowerPoint (Presentation graphics software)

 

Digital signage guide
Microsoft PowerPoint screenshot

 

PowerPoint costs around £119+VAT in the UK and you need one copy (licence) per PC. You can insert text, pictures, movie clips (video) and sound. If you want to show a PowerPoint slideshow on several LCD screens, you could use a splitter box and output the slideshow to say four LCD screens around the school or business. The disadvantage of this is that you can only show the same presentation slideshow to each of the four screens. Otherwise, you would need to buy four PowerPoint software licences to use on four PCs in order for each one to output a different slideshow presentation to each of the four screens.


OpenOffice.org Impress (Presentation graphics software)

 

Digital signage guide
OpenOffice.org Impress screenshot

 

OpenOffice.org lets you download a free copy of Impress, which is a tool to create effective multimedia presentations. You can also download their word processor, spreadsheet, database and other software packages free. Using Impress, you can also create Flash versions of your presentations.

In the illustration above, we created a single slide and brought in a graphic and then inserted text. We could have created a number of slides showing still images and text and then run this as a slideshow. You can also insert animated images, video, charts, spreadsheets and audio (music).

You can install Impress on any number of PCs, free of any licence fees and use it for any purpose, private, educational, government, public administration, commercial, etc. This means you can create your presentation on any number of PCs and output to display screens, all without any licence issues.


Windows Movie Maker (Video editing software - presentations played through Windows Media Player)

Digital signage guide
Using Windows Movie Maker to create a storyboard presentation

 

Windows Movie Maker, which comes with free Windows, allows you to import video, pictures or audio. You can add a title, credits and effects and, once finished, you can save to your PC or onto a CD, send to the Web or digital video camera. From your PC you can play your movie presentation, either through a projector onto a projector screen or onto a plasma or LCD display screen.

When you open a copy of Windows Movie Maker, you first bring in media such as a video, a picture from your computer or from your digital camera. Each insert is previewed in the right hand screen, as shown above. You then drag and drop each one into the storyboard, which runs along the bottom of the software. Audio can be brought in to add music to your storyboard presentation.

Once your storyboard is finished, you can then create effects to your images. These include blur, fade out to white, mirror vertical, spin 360, etc. You can also create transitions on your storyboard between one type of media and another. These include diagonal, rectangle, dissolve, cross out, heart shape, etc.

When you have finished, you can play your storyboard presentation and if you have selected a transition such as diamond, for example, as the storyboard moves from one picture or video to another, it appears in a diamond shape, opening up to a rectangle. Once you are happy with the finished result, you can publish to your computer, a recordable CD, email, or transfer to a digital video camera.

Please note that the version of Windows Movie Maker is different on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. The XP and Vista versions are limited as they will not output HD video resolutions. Windows 7 allows you to make your movie in standard 4:3 aspect ratio or widescreen 16:9. You can select the resolution of your movie depending on where you want to upload to, for example, they recommend a maximum 1280x720 for uploading to Flickr or Facebook, and a maximum of 1920x1080 (HD) to YouTube.

Digital signage software

 

Digital signage guide
Digital signage software for a florists shop

 

When you use digital signage software, you normally start with a blank page, or you can use a template (your own design or perhaps from a library of templates supplied with the software package). You then insert your text, pictures, videos and other media. If you are using a pre-supplied template, you would then click onto the text and change it for your own wording.

Once you have created your presentation (message), you save it. This can then be broadcast (played) onto a display screen or through a projector through your local area network (LAN). Each digital signage software package is different, although many have common features. Most offer a 30 day free trial.

Depending on the digital signage software, some software packages have schedulers, which allow you to specify what time, and on which day of the week you want a specific message to be displayed.

For example, in a florists shop, your design could show a selection of the flowers and plants you sell, with scrolling text to give a message and/or website address and telephone number. You could design another page which shows, for example, wedding flowers, which is saved as ‘WeddingFlowers’. You can schedule this presentation to be played through a projector onto a rear projection panel suspended in the shop window, for example between 12-1pm every day, and then it reverts back to its normal on-going playlist.

Another example would be in a school. You could design a page which tells parents there is a PTA meeting on Friday evening, which is saved as ‘PTAMeeting’. You schedule this to be played on the widescreen LCD monitor in reception area at 3.15 pm daily for 30 minutes, so that parents will see this when collecting pupils. After it has played, it then reverts back to its normal on-going playlist.

There will be common components within each digital software package on the market, such as a design manager or create new presentation option, which allows you to design your message, a play list or scheduler, which lets you decide in which order you want your message to be played. Where a software publisher offers, for example, entry level software and professional software, the entry level will often be a cut down version of the professional edition, and it’s no use paying for features you are unlikely to need for your applications. Obviously, you need to check before making a purchase that the digital signage software includes all the features you need.

An entertainments manager of a leisure complex, for example, is responsible for advertising forthcoming events using digital signage software. He selects a software package having checked he can use the media he wants to work with, still images, video clips, scrolling banner (text) advertising daily events.

It’s his day off on Tuesdays and he needs to advertise the day’s programme of events from 9am in the morning, which changes hourly. Software with 24 hour scheduling means he has to delegate the task on Tuesdays or come in on his day off (not a popular option). Weekly scheduling lets the software work for him and not the other way round.

A store owner has ten stores scattered across the UK, wants to control the digital signage content being displayed on the widescreen LCD monitors, from his office. Using professional digital signage software that includes a scheduler and which updates information over a wide area network (WAN), he can achieve this. Many digital signage software publishers offer standard and professional versions of their software.

Digital signage software packages which are available for digital download or from a CD, are often referred to as 'stand alone packages'. This means you design your presentation on your own PC and then play it using a dedicated PC or media player onto a plasma screen, LCD display or through a projector onto a projection screen.

Trying to play your presentation on your own PC to a display screen is not practical, especially, if you are using digital software that uses up chunks of your PC’s memory. It could be that you have old PC’s lying around which do not have sufficient memory for your everyday needs but which do have enough to run your digital signage presentation. There are also digital signage media players on the market, which are basically small PC’s. Some LCD displays have built-in PC’s.


Repeat Signage digital signage software

Digital signage guide
Using Repeat Signage 2015 to create a digital signage presentation for a non-widescreen LCD monitor

 

Digital signage software packages let you create your presentation using pictures, animated gifs, text, Rich Text Format, PDF, real-time date and clocks, video, webcam, web browser and RSS feeds.

There are many digital signage software products on the market but we found that most required the use of restrictive templates. Their templates were either non-widescreen or widescreen and then just stretched videos and pictures depending on the screen they were being displayed on.

Repeat Signage is different. You design the presentation for the resolution of your screen. For example, you may want to display information in your reception area on a widescreen LCD monitor which has 1365x768 pixels. Repeat Signage lets you design for these screens in full screen mode allowing you to place any number of pictures, text, scrolling text, videos, PDF files, website pages, web browsers, real-time date and clock, etc., exactly where you want them, pixel for pixel.

You can position your text, pictures, videos, clocks, newsfeeds, etc., anywhere in your presentation.  The above is a simple example showing how the various elements could appear on screen.  The only limit to creating interesting presentations is your imagination.  So easy to use, you can have a presentation up and running in minutes.

 

You can also insert PowerPoint, spreadsheets, PDFs and other media, and have access to over 4,000 icon pictures for use in your presentation and download from over 3,000 pictures on the free online portal at www.repeatserver.com to use in your Repeat Signage presentations.


Repeat Signage Standalone Edition, which comes with a free trial digital download, is mainly designed to be used from a shared drive on your local area network (LAN).  Ideal for a small school or business reception area.  www.repeatsoftware.com 

Repeat Signage Standard Edition has full features and you can update your content from a shared network drive, from a website, via FTP or over the Internet at www.repeatserver.com without any ongoing costs. Licence is per PC playing the presentation.  Collect and display content from a spreadsheet, is a key feature, as you can create sales graphics, restaurant menus, school attendance lists etc., and display these in Repeat Signage.  Ideal for retail, healthcare, education, businesses and most vertical markets.   Trial download at www.repeatsoftware.com

Repeat Signage Corporate Edition is the same as the Standard with the additional benefits of being able to collect and display content from a database.

Repeat Signage Media Wall Edition is the same as Corporate with the ability to display same and different content on a 4-screen video wall.

 

Media players with pre-installed digital signage software


There are many media players on the market that can be used to play your presentation to an LCD monitor, large format display or projector with a projection screen. Some come with pre-installed digital signage software, which means you design your presentation on the software and then play your presentation directly from the media player onto your display screen.  Ensure you select one that is compatible with your signage software, e.g. Windows based player. 

OPS Slot-in PC’s are small form PCs that slot into the back or side of large display screens, so that you have no trailing wires from player to screen.

 

Digital signage displays


Digital signage guide
Digital signage displays in landscape and portrait modes

 

When you visit public environments such as airports and shopping malls, you are likely to see information and advertisements displayed on plasma screens or large widescreen LCD monitors. Information can also be projected onto large screens or windows. However, before we compare the various options, it’s important to note that all the displays in this section are commercial displays designed for public areas. Commercial plasma screens and LCD screens do not come with TV tuners and normally do not come with speakers, although some offer speakers as an optional extra. Some manufacturers displays are designed for 24/7 applications and some can be used for both landscape or portrait mode.

Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk


LG Professional LCD displays


Digital signage guide
LG large format displays

 

LG’s wide display LCD monitors are designed for public information display. They are currently available from 42-inch up to 65-inch. They can easily be mounted on walls, ceilings or desktops, and are used in public areas such as, airports, stock exchange, motor shows and hospitals.

 

Digital signage guide
LG wide stretch LCD screens

 

LG have large format LCD displays that are stretched with a wide aspect ratio and these are ideal for displaying two separate contents. The concept is for these stretched displays to replace the conventional LCD display where space is at a premium. Ideal for call centres, casinos and bus terminals.

Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk


NEC LCD public displays


Digital signage guide
NEC LCD public displays in a library
showing the same content on each screen

 

 

NEC large format displays for education

 

Schools and colleges must communicate a large number of messages simultaneously to a widely diverse audience including current and prospective students, teachers and visitors. Embracing digital signage enables way-finding messages, class notices and timetables, class changes, emergency bulletins and event promotions to be communicated in a clear and concise way whilst demonstrating a progressive technology-led environment to strengthen your school branding and PR. The benefits are multitude and best of all delivers a cost saving - both to your budget and to the environment. NEC offers a comprehensive portfolio of digital signage solutions ensuring a low Total Cost of Ownership backed by a robust warranty and support process.

NEC MultiSync® V-series including DST Touch are entry level public displays ideal for education establishments making their first move toward digital signage. They are designed for 24/7 operation.  These have OPS Slots for Slot-in PC. The E-Series are designed for 12/7 usage and do not have as many inputs as the V-Series.

 

NEC MultiSync® P-series are high-end public displays suitable for 24/7 digital signage applications, ideal for higher education and business use.

 

NEC large format displays for public areas

 

Digital signage guide
NEC video wall solutions

 

For commercial retail applications, NEC have a range of X-Series  large format displays for video walls. You can create immense video matrixes, with arrays as large as 10x10 whilst bezels can be virtually invisible starting as thin as 2.7mm. Flexible options with simple paired or 4 panel solutions are ideal for reception halls and public spaces, right up to mega walls for events and situations where presence is everything. You can utilise their Daisy Chain Option Board to set up large arrays of screens, simply and cost-effectively.

Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk


Philips LCD displays

 

Digital signage guide

Phillips LCD screens displaying digital signage and advertisements

 

Philips range of professional LCD displays include models for public signage solutions. These include LCD models with slim bezels and ultra slim bezels, the latter being ideal for video walls.

Designed for professional 24/7 installations, Philips LCD’s can be used in portrait or landscape mode.

Philips manufacturer a variety of AV products including LCD displays, but do not produce digital signage software.

Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk




Samsung LCD displays screens

 

Digital signage guide
Digital signage at transport terminals

 

Samsung make widescreen LCD & LED monitors, some of which include a built in PC with MagicInfo software.


Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk



Sharp large format displays

Digital signage guide
 

Sharp specialise both with their Aquos LCD TV range, as well as large format displays for commercial applications.

They have a wide range of displays  many full HD (1920x1080), designed landscape or portrait, some of which are designed for 24/7 public display applications.

Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk




Sony LCD monitors

Digital signage guide
Sony Bravia B2B high definition LCD screens

 

Sony BRAVIA B2B range are designed for commercial use in business applications.

Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk

ViewSonic LCD displays

Digital signage guide
Digital signage on a video wall of 16 ViewSonic LCD screens

 

ViewSonic is a display technology company that provides complete digital signage solutions.

Designed for use in public display areas as well as meeting room scheduling, digital signage can communicate with guests by displaying valuable information about events or directions as well as provide entertainment.

Although correct at the time of writing, technology changes frequently, so this is intended as a guideline only. For comparison charts and manufacturer specification sheets on current models please visit: www.computermonitors.co.uk


Touch screens kiosks

Digital signage guide
Samsung all-in-one outdoor touchscreen with in-built digital signage software

 

You have probably seen the many interactive kiosks springing up all over the place, in shopping centres, banks and airports. They can be used for way-finding, browsing which stores are in a shopping mall, or for requesting information. Some touch screen kiosks even allow for your corporate logo to appear on the kiosk itself. A kiosk may have an in-built PC from which you can you can run your message.


Touch screen overlays

 

Digital signage guide
Touch screen overlay for LCD screens

 

You can buy touch screen LCD monitors. However, if you already have large format LCD monitors and you want interactivity, then touch screen overlays are available on the market. A touchscreen overlay fits over your existing screen to give it touch interactivity.

It is important to check the overlay specification before purchase, to ensure if fits your make and model of screen. Also import is to check that the digital signage software you intend to use supports touch screens, as not all do.


Digital signage display mounts

 

Digital signage guide
Brackets for large format display screens

 

LCD monitor manufacturers may offer the option of using their own brand of mounts for their screens. However, these tend to be more expensive than brackets that you can buy from specialist bracket manufacturers.

Large screens, whether plasma screens or widescreen LCD monitors, can be mounted singularly from the ceiling, back-to-back from the ceiling, back-to-back at intervals such as when people are walking to airport gates, or wall mounted in a horizontal line, as shown left to right in the pictures above.

 

Digital signage guide  
Video walls using plasma screens or widescreen LCD monitors

 

Large screens can be installed into video walls, in several combinations, such as six LCD screens in an airport, above left, each screen mounted separately at intervals in a horizontal row, such as for advertising meals in restaurants, or a large video wall of twenty LCD screens, as shown above right.

 

Digital signage guide
Unicol modular track system for linear mounting 30-65” screens

 

Theft or tampering with LCD and plasma screens is a problem, especially when used in public areas that cannot be continually supervised. Manufacturers such as Unicol, make a huge range of universal and bespoke brackets to fit all kinds of screen applications including video walls.

 

Digital signage guide

ErgoMounts multiple monitor desk, pole and floor mounts

 

Multiple desktop LCD monitors can be mounted on desk stands, either freestanding, desk clamp or with a bolt through the desk. Multiple monitor pole mounts and floor stands are also available. Manufacturers such as Ergomounts, specialise in screen mounts for single and multiple monitors of all sizes.


Disclaimer: The purpose of this guide is to give a general overview and acts as a guideline only. Information, to the best of our knowledge, is correct at the time of writing. However changes do occur with some models becoming discontinued whilst newer models and features come onto the market. We accept no liability, therefore, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided here.  For updated LCD monitors and large display screens please visit www.computermonitors.co.uk

For details of Repeat Signage digital signage software and a trial download please visit: www.repeatsoftware.com

 


Acknowledgements: Our thanks to, Casio, ErgoMounts, Hitachi, Iiyama, LG, NEC, Philips, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, Unicol and ViewSonic for their valuable input with information and images.