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Wonder walls

Video walls are growing in popularity by the day. Part of their appeal is how they inspire imagination. While static signs remind us of the past, video walls tell us the future is now and deliver the “wow” factor, whether for a company looking to convey an image of cutting-edge technology or a retailer elevating its brand.


February 22, 2013
By Michael Ferrer NEC Display Solutions

Topics

Video walls are growing in popularity by the day. Part of their appeal is how they inspire imagination. While static signs remind us of the past, video walls tell us the future is now and deliver the “wow” factor, whether for a company looking to convey an image of cutting-edge technology or a retailer elevating its brand.

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High-definition screens can be integrated to create huge, visually stunning displays at events and parties of all kinds. The effect is great, but the technical challenge can be complex. Make sure you can turn to your supplier for help.


 

Video walls are scalable and come in varying shapes and sizes. The six- by five-foot version at Victoria Secret’s Manhattan store is an excellent example. Bezels are shrinking, yet continue to offer refined picture quality and higher resolutions. An eight- by seven-foot video wall in New York’s Viacom lobby is a perfect illustration.

Video walls inspire creativity, too. “Digital mannequins” at the Diesel Store in the Big Apple do just that. And they even “interact” with actors or form bold backdrops, as in the Broadway production of “Sondheim on Sondheim” or the Plaza Theatre’s “Fabulous Palm Spring Follies,” respectively.

While all clever deployments of video walls, organizations still need to think through their implications and have a plan for success. Here are some tips for getting the most from your video wall deployments.

First, determine your customer’s digital signage needs and goals. It is important to give strong consideration to the video wall’s purpose. Will the video wall be used for branding, advertising, wayfinding, or something else? Will it be interactive? If these questions can’t be answered with specifics, then a highly functioning video wall system will be difficult to design. And the customer will not be happy after spending a lot of money renting it.

Content is king. Determine in advance the number of images for display at one time. Talk about the types of content to be shown before the hardware gets installed. You don’t want to be tweaking content on the fly minutes before a grand opening. Also, in what resolutions and formats will the content be designed? It’s imperative to have this conversation with the content creators up front.

Next, go native. The content needs to match the screen’s native resolution. All the hardware components should match so you don’t have bandwidth restrictions. Some graphics cards can’t handle full HD. Flash has limitations. You need experts involved to stretch Flash content with native resolutions, for example.

Choose professional-grade products. Use displays that can be colour-calibrated to achieve brightness and colour uniformity from screen to screen. Industrial-strength monitors can handle the most rugged of applications, while those sold at Best Buy do not run 24/7 and cannot handle commercial demands. Go with high-end products for their reliability, inputs and colour-calibration capabilities.

Choose appropriate mounting systems with access for maintenance. This is very important since labour is the most expensive part of any video wall project. Is the existing wall structure sound? Get a structural engineer involved to make sure that it can support a video wall. For the maintenance portion, ensure that you use pull-out mounts to service the video walls correctly and safely.

Keep it cool. Video walls produce a lot of heat. Proper cooling and ventilation need to be part of the overall project and budget. Purchasing displays that offer integrated cooling fans will ensure unfailing operation.

Determine the electrical requirements. Make sure you have thought through all the necessary components for the video wall system. If you’re deploying 15 screens, you can’t power them all off one outlet. You need dedicated power. If your customer is a hotel, you do not want someone to turn on the microwave in the kitchen and discover that the video wall has shut down. Discuss power conditioners and surge protection with the systems integrator.

Use trained professionals for the video wall installation. Do yourself a favour and connect with an experienced partner for the installation. That partner will help you locate power sources and data jacks, and help you do the job correctly the first time.

Perform colour calibration as part of system maintenance. This will ensure a consistently great-looking video wall for years to come. Also make sure you budget maintenance and cleaning of your video wall rental to ensure functionality and a great look for the long term. If you don’t vacuum the vents, for example, the ensuing heat accumulation can destroy the monitors. Maintenance contracts should be discussed up front.

Keeping this checklist in mind can help you make the most of your video wall rentals and endear you to audiences and your customers alike.


About the author
Michael Ferrer is National Manager of Solutions Sales and Operations for NEC Display Solutions and a former Systems Integrator. He can be reached at mferrer@necdisplay.com.