For years industry thought leaders and experts have been pounding the drum to “get into digital signage.” Shows like InfoComm and Integrated Systems Europe have numerous booths dedicated to this market. You can see media players, mounts, displays, and video walls in all shapes and sizes.
One thing that is lacking, though, is the content to put on the screen. As an industry we can tell you all about the technology, how it works, and how to design it. When it comes to what goes on the screen we sometimes are at a loss for words.
“We see content creation as a major scope gap in the standard AV consultation and design-build model,” says Bill McIntosh of Synergy Media, a Pittsburgh-based design-build integration firm. “Most new audiovisual designs include building-wide digital signage solutions as it provides clients the ability to display relevant information and branding in a sexy package.”
When designing a system, then, consider the digital signage equipment as well as the content. “Bring in the technology engineer and the art director and ask what they want to do,” says Josh Hoffert of CastNet, a digital signage software provider born out of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based integration firm Alpha Video.
The content will drive the design of the technology. If a client wants to display a model vertically and you have only done horizontal installs you may have a problem. Having the content creator with you will also help manage client expectations. This is from both a technological point of view as well as content. Your client needs to understand what is possible from both the equipment and within their budget.
The other factor will be the facility’s network. “One of the biggest hurdles we need to overcome is the client’s network” explains Chris Roddick from AVI Systems, another Eden Prairie-based integration firm.
“Clients don’t always have a deep understanding how the technology will work and how it will impact their network. Typically, this can be overcome by educating the customer on how the product works and openly discuss any network impact that may occur based upon the deployment’s design.”
Getting your network engineer involved in the process as soon as possible is critical to the success of the digital signage system.
Walking through the process of designing a digital signage system also requires a lot of consultation and education — discovering what problem they are trying to solve, their budget, and timelines. With digital signage the addition of a content creation professional allows you to accurately design the system to meet your client’s needs.
To Bring Content In-house or Not
So, how does that package get created? Who does it?
“Find someone who knows enough about creative and technology to be able to walk the line between the two in order to put that together,” Hoffert says. They need to “understand the marketing — because digital signage is marketing — and the technical to create the two.”
It also helps for them to understand the system as a whole. “The scope of work for content creation services is critical to delivering a system that matches the client’s expectations,” Roddick says. “With content services you have a blank canvas, anything and everything is possible.”
What you need is an art director or creative services person who also gets the technical specifications listed in the products you install. This is not as challenging as it may have been 10 years ago. The art student of today is creating content on a computer. They get resolution, pixel density, and color schematics.