What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of digital
signage? If it’s a flat panel LCD or plasma display hanging in some public
place like a retail store, corporate lobby or museum, you wouldn’t be
alone. For most indoor digital signage networks, these two display
technologies dominate the landscape.
However, they aren’t the only solution, and in some cases they might not
even be the best or most affordable solution. Equally appropriate in some
circumstances are projected images played back from the same sort of media
server as those used to drive LCD and plasma panels.
Video projectors offer some advantages over flat panel displays. For
instance, in terms of price per square inch of display, LCD and plasma
panels can’t compete. In other words, projectors, which can produce much
bigger images than LCDs and plasmas, can be significantly less expensive
than the largest flat panels per square inch of displayed image.
Additionally, projectors can create images in unexpected places or ways
that are sure to grab the attention of those nearby. For example, some
projectors can be used to project onto fog to create an ethereal look that
just can’t be recreated with flat panels.
Traditionally, projectors haven’t been used widely in digital signage
applications for at least a couple of important reasons. First, there’s the
problem with high ambient light. In full daylight conditions, the
relatively dim projected light withers, creating a washed- out look at
best, and at worst a completely unviewable picture. That’s why you’re far
more likely to find them being used in settings where there’s a high degree
of control over ambient light, such as in museums.
Another traditional objection to using projectors for digital signage is
the relatively narrow range from which they can work to create plumb and
square images. In a retail setting, where a store owner doesn’t want the
public accidentally coming into contact with the projector, working in that
usable projection range can often be nearly impossible. That’s not to say
that projectors aren’t built with circuitry to correct keystoned images,
but rather that the only placement option in a retail setting may be well
out of the area where keystone correction will work.
Fortunately for those who wish to consider projection as a realistic
alternative to flat panel displays, the traditional limitations of
projectors -high ambient light and projector placement limitations- are
Making practical their use in high ambient light environments is a whole
new generation of projection screen technology that intelligently accepts
the projected light for reflection to the eyes of viewers but rejects
ambient light reflection. So successful is this technology that
demonstrations of the new screens have been done in the atriums of large
retail centers with light streaming in from glass ceilings and at hotel
hospitality suites during trade shows where the curtains are thrown wide
open during the day.
Correcting for extreme geometric distortions is now possible and affordable
thanks to new computer software applications that can be used to determine
the severity of distortion and automatically correct the geometry This is
no small feat, given where projectors in retail stores must be placed to
remain safe from the public. Still, such geometric distortion engines can
make the necessary compensation, and in some cases give their users such a
high degree of control that images can actually be wrapped around cylinders
or onto globes.Will video projectors replace LCD and plasma panels as the
dominant display technology in digital signage networks? Probably not. That
said, given the rapid advancements in technology needed to overcome their
limitations for digital signage networks, it is a smart idea for anyone
planning a digital signage network to consider how projectors might make
David Little is a digital signage enthusiast with 20 years of experience
helping professionals use technology to more effectively communicate their
unique marketing messages. He is the director of marketing for Keywest
Technology in Lenexa, KS, a software development company specializing in
systems for digital signage creation, scheduling, management and playback.
For further digital signage insight from Keywest Technology, download our
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