Pierre Menard is the Director of Research, Development and Innovation at Skyline Exhibits. He has been with Skyline since 2012. Pierre began his career as a welder, machinist and shop manager and progressed to leading engineering teams and developing proven processes to bring new and innovative products to market.
A Buyer’s Guide to Trade Show Digital Displays – Part II
In Part 1 of this article, we broke down the features, benefits and strategies to mitigate risk for selecting tablets, kiosks and TV screens. In Part 2, we will cover computer monitors, projectors and video walls built from LED tiles.
Computer monitors are quite often much smaller than TV screens and come in a smaller range of sizes. Many TVs come in sizes in excess of 50 inches, while computer monitors often top out at only 30 inches. Typically, computer monitors have more pixels per inch than TV screens because they are designed for up close, long-term viewing. Choose computer monitors over TV monitors for longer interactions, where the attendee will be reading text, typing answers or playing a game. Be sure to adjust the brightness of the screen to the ambient light conditions as well to avoid fatiguing attendee’s eyes.
At first glance, projectors seem to be an ideal trade show technology. Projectors are reasonably priced, in a small package, and capable of displaying large moving digital content. However, for trade show success, projectors require three things:
- Enough brightness (measured in lumens) to overcome show hall lighting. We’ve determined that projectors need to be at least 13-15,000 lumens to deal with show hall ambient lights (a typical office projector is around 3,500 lumens, a home projector is less than 2,000 lumens). Less lumens require a strategy for controlling the ambient light by installing in a darkened room or enclosing the screen in a darkened “tunnel.”
- A screen to project onto. Just putting up a white fabric will result in sub-par results. Projector screens have evolved as much as projector technology. Light gray/silver screens result in much better images because blacks look blacker, and bright colors are not as washed out as when projecting onto pure white. Reflective coatings can also dramatically improve the brightness, and a dark border surrounding the projected image absorbs stray light and gives the impression of a brighter image.
- A clear light path between the projector and the screen that is free from obstructions (including attendees).Depending on the projector, that usually means a distance free from obstructions of at least 8-12’, which prompts mounting the projector overhead, which may bump into show hall regulations, depending on the booth size. A strategy for a shorter clear path, without reducing image size, might be to use a short-throw projector, or short-throw and rear projection. This type of projector reflects the image off a mirror to simulate greater distance. The mirror is not 100 percent efficient, so brightness is lost, both in the reflection and project from the rear. At the time of this writing, short-throw projectors should only be used in conjunction with also controlling ambient light.
Two final considerations when implementing projector technology is aspect ratio and sound. Many projectors have a native aspect ratio of 4:3 like an old TV or laptop computer. In this type of projector, 16:9 content is emulated by dynamically resizing the content at a lower brightness and lower image quality. Regarding sound, it can be disconcerting if your audio sources are separate from the screen. Be sure to place the speakers near the screen and test before going live to make sure it feels like the sound is coming from the screen.
A video wall is made up of multiple displays placed together, creating one giant image. Each individual screen shows a portion of the image, sometimes referred to as a “zone.” The displays used in video walls are commercial displays, because they must have a very thin bezel around the screen to stack them close together, and they must be capable of displaying “zones”— not generally possible with consumer-grade TVs (a simple 2x2 array can be displayed on consumer grade TVs if a connected to a PC with a higher-end graphics card). The modularity of video walls enables digital images much, much larger than even the largest single-screen monitors.
Many options of digital displays can be implemented to deliver your message at a trade show. Rather than selecting the technology and fitting the content and message to the digital display, best-practice dictates starting with the message (or story), which drives the content, which drives the medium (digital display technology). As the digital display increases in size and becomes a more critical design feature to connect with your customer, plans must be created and resources (time, money and people) must be budgeted to mitigate risks.