Requirements for digital signage
- A person to create & update the content.
- A location that is accessible for your audience but where a TV and a delivery device can be securely mounted.
- You must coordinate with facilities to:
- Ensure the location you've chosen can support the weight of the TV and can accommodate the required power and cables. Power and cable requirements will differ, depending on your choice of device to deliver the content (see below).
- Schedule the installation of the digital signage.
- TV or monitor that's rated for commercial use such as 24/7 operation and supports power saving features. LIS can advise on TV size once the location of the sign is identified.
- Device to deliver the content. Some options include:
- a computer with wireless keyboard and mouse (recommended),
- USB drive -- very simple, but with some caveats
- DVD or Blu-ray player -- high quality but slow
- commercial digital signage player -- expensive, more complex to purchase and configure
- Software to create & update the content. Some options include:
- PowerPoint - easiest to use, but comes with some caveats (read the next sections for more info)
- any video editing software - high quality, slower and more complex to use
- commercial digital signage software - expensive, more complex to purchase and configure
About the TV
Once a location for the sign is identified, LIS can recommend an appropriately sized TV and mount that are rated for commercial use (such as 24/7 operation) and that support power saving features. Commercial and power saving features are required to ensure that your TV will last 3-5 years. You may consider using a cheaper (consumer-grade) TV without commercial & power saving features, but keep in mind that such a TV may fail within a few months of service if it's used for digital signage (i.e. if it operates 7+ hours per day). Also keep in mind that TV repairs are costly and LIS can only provide basic repairs that cost less than $100.
We recommend that you provide us with your index number so we can make the purchase. This way, we can more efficiently tag the screen, insert it into our inventory for security & budget tracking and we can better process the delivery, installation and configuration.
You should include TV funds into your annual budget - your department is responsible for repairs more than $100 and for replacing the TV every 5 years or when it fails beyond repair.
About the device to deliver the content
We recommend that a computer be purchased and installed near the TV. You should also think about whether a Mac or a PC is better for your digital signage needs - choose the operating system that the person who'll be updating the signage is most comfortable with. The computer should have the standard Microsoft Office software - there are no other special software requirements.
There are different physical requirements for the computer, depending on what location is chosen for it. Some location options for the computer:
- Install the computer in a nearby room. The room must be secure from theft but accessible to the person who will create and update the content.
- One HDMI (combined audio & video) wire will need to be run from the computer to the TV. HDMI wires have a length limit of 45 feet. For longer distances, different wires can be used with special transmitters, but this will increase the cost of the sign by $900.
- A second (smaller) 16:9 computer monitor may be required if you cannot see the TV from where the computer is.
- Install a small computer behind the TV using a secure mount
- A secure wall mount is required ($40).
- A wireless keyboard and mouse is recommended ($50). You will need the keyboard and mouse for a brief amount of time when you update the signage.
- A shelf under the TV that can be used to securely install the computer.
- A cable or mount is required to securely install the computer on the shelf ($40).
- A wireless keyboard and mouse is recommended ($50) though wired ones can be used on the shelf. You will need the keyboard and mouse for a brief amount of time when you update the signage.
Using a USB thumb-drive instead of a computer is possible but may be a bit challenging for the person who will be creating the content for the signs. The TVs cannot natively run a powerpoint slideshow from a USB-drive, but can show pictures or video files from a thumb drive. Powerpoint can export the slides to a USB thumb drive in two formats: as picture files or as a video file. Pros and cons of each approach are discussed below.
Exporting as a picture file
We've found that powerpoint for Windows cannot export the slides in the TV's maximum resolution (1920x1080). So if you use a Windows computer to create the signage, your signs will not fill the entire screens. However, we've found that powerpoint for Mac can successfully export the slides in the TV's maximum resolution. You can check the instructions below to see if you are comfortable with using a Mac to create the powerpoint.
Exporting as a video file
We've found that powerpoint for Windows can successfully create a video file that plays back on the TV in full screen. However, the quality of the video file exported from PowerPoint (480p) is less than the capabilities of the TV (1080p), so you won't be getting the maximum quality. If you're OK with this, you can review the instructions below for exporting a powerpoint as a video file.
You can also use a video editing software such as Apple iMovie or Windows MovieMaker to create your signage as a very high quality video file. This may be good for high profile signage that does not need to be updated, but it is a very slow process if your signage will need to change.
DVD or Blu-ray player
You can also use a DVD or Blu-ray player as a device for delivering the signage. For this, you will need to create a DVD or Blu-ray video of your signage. This may be good for high profile signage that does not need to be updated, but it is a very slow process if your signage will need to change.
The final project cost depends on the cost of facilities & contractor work, the size of the TV as well as the device and software for creating and delivering the signage. Please read the sections above for more information on what your options are. A typical 50" TV with a computer will cost about $1450 if you choose to use PowerPoint and you mount the computer behind or under the TV. If you are willing to use a USB drive instead of a computer, the cost of a 50" TV and all other hardware (everything except the facilities work) is closer to $650.
1. Facilities work is required to mount the TV and other hardware, and provide power and cable runs. Contact facilities for an estimate.
2. TV costs: 50" LED TVs with a secure mount offer a good size vs price ratio at around $650. Other options range from at least $400 for a 42" commercial display up to $2000 for 70" TV. A universal secure mount will cost about $150.
3. Device to deliver content (choose one):
- Option 1 - Computer: $500-$900 depending on model
- Wireless keyboard and mouse $50
- Additional monitor $200
- Secure mount: $40
- Lock: $20
- Shelf: $40 (optional)
- Option 2 - USB drive ($20 or less but see caveats below)
- Option 3 - DVD or Blu-ray player: $200 but is slower and requires the use of video editing software & disc recording tools)
- Option 4 - commercial digital signage player: Similar to Option 1 costs but requires digital signage software and server which are in the range of thousands of dollars plus annual support contract fees.
4. Audio & video cabling (choose one):
- Option 1 - If computer is installed under or behind TV: $0 (we will use the HDMI cable provided with TV)
- Option 2 - If computer is within 45 feet of TV - long HDMI cable: $50
- Option 3 - If computer is more than 45 feet away from TV - transmitters & cabling $900
5. Software: PowerPoint software and video editing software $0 (provided for free through the College). If you'd like to look at commercial digital signage software, please keep in mind that this will be in the range of thousands of dollars plus annual support contract fees.
Using PowerPoint on a Mac to Export Slides as Pictures
You will create your digital sign in powerpoint (just like creating a regular presentation) and you will export your slides as a series of JPG pictures that the TV can show without a computer. At the end of the process you will have two things: a powerpoint document that serves as your presentation source and a folder with JPG pictures created from the powerpoint document. The folder with pictures goes on a USB flash drive that can be connected directly to the TV without a computer. You keep the powerpoint document on your computer or server so you can easily make future updates. Note that any PowerPoint transitions, animations or video clips that you insert will not display on the TV. The TVs do support basic transitions such as cut, fade, dissolve.
- Login to a Mac that has powerpoint. You can use your own or one of the Macs in the Library.
- Check that PowerPoint is setup to create & export the slides at a resolution of 1920x1080:
- Click on the PowerPoint menu in the top left and click Preferences > Save
- Select the Save every slide option
- Set Height to 1920 and Width to 1080
- Create or update the slides as needed. Insert any pictures, shapes or text. Note that any transitions, animations or video clips that you insert will not display on the TV.
- Plug in the thumb drive
- Click File => Save as Pictures
- Under format choose JPEG
- Choose the flash drive and type a descriptive name in the Save as box on top.
- Connect the thumb drive to the TV.
- Use the TV remote to select the USB drive and select the folder with your pictures.
- Select the first picture and use the TV remote to set the TV to loop the pictures (Repeat All).
- You can also change the transition speed between slides to Short (~3 secs), Medium (~5 secs) or Long (~30 secs).
Using PowerPoint on a PC to Export Slides a Video
You will create your digital sign in powerpoint (just like creating a regular presentation) and you will export your slides as a WMV video file that the TV can show without a computer. At the end of the process you will have two things: a powerpoint document that serves as your presentation source and a WMV video file created from the powerpoint document. The video file goes on a USB flash drive that can be connected directly to the TV without a computer. You keep the powerpoint document on your computer or server so you can easily make future updates. Note that any PowerPoint transitions, animations will transfer over to the exported video file.
- Login to a PC that has powerpoint. You can use your own or one of the PCs in the Library.
- Check that PowerPoint is setup to create & export the slides at in decent quality:
- Click File => Options => Advanced
- Under Image Size and Quality place a checkmark next to Do not compress and set the target output to 220ppi
- Create or update the slides as needed. Insert any pictures, shapes or text.
- Under the Transitions tab, under Advance Slide, place a check mark next to After and use the up and down arrows to set the delay between slides.
- Plug in the thumb drive
- Click File => Save as and under Save as type select Windows Media Video
- Click Save. This will take a longer time if you have many slides.
- Choose the flash drive and type a descriptive name in the file name box near the bottom
- Connect the thumb drive to the TV.
- Use the TV remote to select the USB drive and select the video file option.
- Select the video file and use the TV remote to set the TV to loop the video (Repeat One).