How to Create Content for a video wall
Before ordering a single piece of equipment it is essential to fully define the purpose of the video wall and how it will be used. Sometimes the initial reasoning is to create the “cool factor” but over time if the content isn’t well thought out and expertly created than the newness will fade and the investment will be lost. Additionally, understanding what content will be created and implemented will dictate the hardware for your wall. Like any digital signage a video wall can serve any purpose including Wayfinding, Menu Boards, Directories, Ambient Architecture/Techorating, Informing, Advertising, Entertainment, Emergency Notification (to name some) as well as a combination of them. Here are five factors that should be considered when choosing the hardware and creating the content.
By using multiple monitors you are increasing the amount of pixels that will display the images. If you are using standard High Definition (1920 x 1080) images and/or videos and interpolating them on a 2 x 2 wall (or larger) then the quality of the image will suffer. Your 2 x 2 wall is a 4K display and to maintain a high quality picture would require 4K images and videos. These are readily available (although not at the quantities of HD) but do require a greater investment to purchase. Unusual resolutions where there are an unequal amount of monitors horizontally and vertically can be misunderstood as well. A 1 x 7 video wall for example which has a resolution of 13,440 x 1080 needs to be visualized as if it’s a 7 x 7 wall in terms of resolution. Think of your images as if you are displaying a horizontal slice of a full sized video across the screens. Running a single video across the entire 1 x 7 wall would be greatly pixelated (as it would on a 7×7 wall even if the original video is 4K. To maintain high-quality images in a wall of this type would best be managed by having separate images across 2 or 3 monitors rather than across the entire row of 7 or perhaps use ultra-high resolution photographs that can be animated to create motion. If you are shooting your own video there are 16K cameras available that would be ideal for a 4 x 4 video wall but stock video in resolutions that high are essentially unavailable.
Depending on the make and model of the monitors you are using the mullions (the space between each monitor) will be different. When creating content the bezel size needs to be taken into consideration or the images will not flow smoothly across the screens. Think of it as if you are looking at a person walking behind a window that is made up of many panes of glass in a frame with several horizontal and vertical slats. If the “slats” in the window frame are miscalculated then the image behind it will look wrong. As of this writing, you can assemble video walls with bezels as small as 2.3 mm (although there is a premium cost for the smaller bezels) but less expensive units could have bezels in the 5 to 8 mm range. Additionally, there are cases where video walls are built using standard monitors that have one to two-inch bezels. This will work but as long as you are combining the monitors to make larger images than the bezel compensation must be addressed.
Digital signage media players handle video walls differently. Some players will have multiple outputs (one for each monitor) while others will dedicate one player per monitor and then connect the players to sync content. Regardless of the players used it is important to understand how the content is broken into segments to be displayed on each monitor. Using the pass through feature of many of the walls available today typically doesn’t offer pixel to pixel resolution but instead interpolates the 1080p image over a 4K wall so to maintain the high quality image make sure that an appropriate software/hardware solution is being utilized.
Video walls can be touch enabled as well either by combining multiple monitors that have touch capability or by assembling the monitors and building a frame around the wall that will recognize the touch. Depending on the technology used the content will be created in a different fashion.
Last but not least is the distance that participants will be viewing the wall. Although this may seem like an obvious factor we see entirely too many examples where this simple thought has not been taken into consideration. As a result there are times where text is too small to be read or sometimes the text is too large and as a result appears blurry! The content designer needs to know this information to use the appropriate text style and size for effective compelling signage.
In most cases when a video wall is specified and designed an outside vendor will be used to create the content. Whomever you choose (and there are ample choices available) be sure to engage the provider early in the process to help you determine the appropriate hardware and to have plenty of time to design and create the software – it’s not as easy as it seems.