5 Things to consider when choosing a video display

Should you go for the LCD or plasma video display? It depends. Here are a few tips to help you choose.

Picture quality
Plasma displays reproduce color more accurately with deeper blacks and display moving images with remarkable clarity. They provide excellent performance with their high-contrast levels and color saturation, and have the edge when it comes to viewing angles. In fact, plasma screen have as much as 160° viewing angle, whereas LCDs display at 130-140° angles. However, they also carry the risk of image burn-in (the permanent disfiguring of a screen image caused by the continuous display of a high-contrast object).

LCD displays, on the other hand, don’t have quite the color accuracy of plasmas, but they’re brighter and have a sharpness advantage with a higher number of pixels per square inch. These additional pixels make LCD technology better at displaying static images from computers or VGA sources in full-color detail. Applications with large amounts of data and written material display particular well on LCDs. What’s more, there’s no risk of image burn-in.

With LCD screens, there are essentially no parts to wear out. They last as long as their backlights do, with displays lasting, on average, 50,000-75,000 hours. That’s why LCD screens are especially good for applications such as digital signage or displays that require around-the-clock use.

Plasma screens, however, use a combination of electric currents and noble gases (argon, neon, and xenon) to produce a glow, which in turn yields brilliant color. The half-life of these gases, however, is only around 25,000 hours. The glow they produce grows dimmer over time. They’re also prone to burn-in or ghosting of images, although this is less of a problem with newer models.

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Buyer beware: Increase in counterfeit cable alerts

There’s a lot at risk if you install non-compliant cable, either knowingly or unknowingly. In addition to low network performance from counterfeit and low-grade cable, installing non-compliant cable can result in violations of state and local building codes and fire regulations. If a contractor installs non-compliant cable and it causes damage, such as a fire, the contractor can face civil liabilities and monetary damages stemming from negligence, fraud, and breach of contract and warranty. In addition, contractors can face criminal liabilities stemming from building code violations. Enforcement can include halting the installation and removing and replacing the cable, which can be extremely costly. Other criminal penalties can include fines and imprisonment. The costs of using counterfeit or non-compliant cable can be very high indeed.

Over the past few months there has been an increase in Intertek Testing Services (ETL) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) warnings concerning unauthorized, hazardous, and/or counterfeit cable. The following alerts have been issued this year:

January 15th, 2013: UL warns of potentially hazardous communications cable

January 28th, 2013: Intertek Testing Services Warns Consumers of Counterfeit ETL Verified Mark

January 31st, 2013: UL warns of potentially hazardous communications cable

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EDU Digital signage: Knowing your price points (part 4)

This is part four of a four part series on digital signage deployments. For part three, click here.

Today we’ll discuss the advanced digital signage deployment that includes multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display with extensive functionality, such as individual screen messaging. If you are considering a larger deployment with a fully integrated network solution, enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Extensive negotiations, including a number of RFPs and RFQs, may be necessary to specify and negotiate the price of the system for your needs. Also pay attention to any SaaS feeds outside of hardware and labor expenses.

Advanced ($8000 and up) — $$$$
Advanced digital signage systems can deliver the ultimate in management, control, and functionality for K–12 institutions. These state-of-the-art systems feature heavy-duty processors for playing bulky media files and streaming seamless video in higher resolutions. They’re fully networked, large-scale solutions that are designed for scalable, multiscreen, and even multilocation deployments.

These types of systems are well-suited for large school districts with many buildings in different locations, specifically districts that need to be able to display a wide range of bandwidth-heavy media and stream (or narrowcast) unique content to the individual screens based on location and time of day, and be able to verify playout on those screens. This stage adds a video server residing on the network, which means you can add live video through the use of connected cameras as well as streaming and stored video capability.

The price of these systems is really infinite, as you have the ability to add as many screens as possible. But once you go into multiple locations, you want immediate central management capabilities.

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EDU Digital signage: Knowing your price points (part 3)

This is part three of a four part series on digital signage deployments. For part two, click here.

A step above the moderate solution is one with TV capability. This solution is for producing the same content on all screens and encompasses multiple-screens/multiple-zones/multiple-room displays with live TV capabilities.

Moderate with TV capability ($5500 to $8000) — $$$
This system is very similar to the moderate system, except that this level gives users the ability to integrate live TV into the digital signage content. This is done via a TV tuner or capture card that is part of the media player. It picks up TV signals via satellite or digital cable, much like a receiver on consumer TVs.

This becomes particularly useful if you don’t readily have the ability to update content. In lieu of this content, your displays can show programming from acceptable sources—network news channels or your local community’s public access channel, for example—in a split-screen configuration on your signage.  It’s also nice for situations when you need up-to-the-minute information, like updates from the Weather Channel or bulletins from the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Typically, when reaching the moderate and TV-tuner level, you use a higher level of digital signage software. Higher-end software not only enables you to create multiple content zones on the screen, but also easily schedule content for each zone (so you can schedule content for the day, week, or month by zone) and better control elements on the TV feed, as well as content override features for interrupting routine content streaming with emergency alerts programmed from a remote location.

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