Blog: Jeff Hastings 
Jeff Hastings (Bio)
Tuesday, 03 February 2015

I've been noticing an amusing trend emerge of late — people posting images to Pinterest and other social networks, documenting digital signage gone awry. In most cases, these images depict a once-impressive digital signage installation brought to its knees by what's well known in PC circles as the "Blue Screen of Death."

No doubt these images are striking, but candidly I worry that these images unfairly cast a shadow on the entire digital signage industry, when certain segments have never and will never fall victim to the Blue Screen of Death. I'll circle back to that theme at the conclusion of this post, but in the meantime I'll offer some perspective on how 4K is evolving our industry in unexpected ways.

4K is proving to be a turning point in our industry, because it marks the point at which dedicated solid-state signage players are starting to pull ahead of PCs in terms of functionality and performance. In the latest research report on the World Market for Digital Signage, IHS predicts that "media players will demonstrate stronger growth potential in future years than PCs, as many companies are launching appliance-based media players with similar functionality and longevity, at a noticeably lower cost, than traditional PCs."

Let's take a look at why this is the case:

First, the graphics engine and CPU in high-end solid-state players are now more powerful than those in all but the most expensive PCs. Not only can they decode 4K H.265-encoded video at 60p, but they also deliver interactive, full-screen HTML5 content or a multitude of sophisticated HTML5 assets simultaneously. We're finding that 4K players are being used to play back conventional 1080p content with sophisticated HTML5 and other dynamic elements, due to the richer experience they provide. There are PCs with advanced graphics cards that can match this performance, and there are also very compact PCs that use relatively little power. However, there are none that provide both, and match the cost or the reliability of the equivalent purpose-built player.

Secondly — and this is nothing new — any integrator or store operator will attest to the fact that reliability is as key to the success of a digital signage installation as compelling content. There's absolutely no reason to approve the effort and expense of a digital signage installation if the content doesn't compel the customer to buy, or if the screen doesn't reliably display this content — in some cases 24/7. This is another key reason why purpose-built, solid-state media players that have no moving parts will continue to pull ahead of PCs in 2015.

And lastly, the perceived wisdom has been that a PC is required for large and complicated installations, but that is no longer true. Spectacular results have been achieved on large video walls, outdoor LED displays and mass stadium and retail rollouts driven by the new generation of dedicated players offering advanced capabilities and total reliability.

As this perceived wisdom is overturned, we should start to see a reduction in the number of high-profile "Blue Screens of Death" that I mentioned previously. We can expect the digital signage industry to move past this disappointing era; onward and upward to a better place where we've eliminated the Blue Screen of Death in digital signage.

Posted by: Admin AT 02:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 29 April 2014

One of the upsides of frequent business travel is that I get to visit some amazing cities. While my work schedule keeps me very busy on the road, from time to time I have the opportunity to duck into museums in some of those cities.

Digital signage in museums is nothing new — most now have monitors displaying information about entrance fees, current exhibits, concessions, among other things. But an emerging trend I find fascinating is that digital signage is quickly gaining acceptance as a new artistic medium. No doubt portraits and photography still reign supreme, but in many cases a growing number of contemporary artists are embracing digital as a legitimate art form.

Just a couple months ago Robert Wilson concluded a special exhibition at the Musee du Louvre in Paris, France. His video installation, "Living Rooms," featured pop sensation Lady Gaga in the re-creation of several renowned paintings housed at the Louvre. The striking installation is the perfect juxtaposition of modern artistic technique and classic artistic works, resulting in a provocative interpretation that blurs the lines between traditional art and modern pop culture.

Additionally, late last year Michael Nyman exhibited his work at the Summerhall Arts Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland. As one of Britain's most celebrated and innovative composers and film-makers, Nyman wanted to take his extensive familiarity with Dziga Vertov's silent 1929 masterpiece, "Man With a Movie Camera" (itself an experimental film with no story and no actors), and "re-imagine" it by replaying it on eleven screens — with each version subtly different. Nyman's 10 film interpretations share identical frames that are synchronized to the original film, and additionally all of the films share a common soundtrack written by the artist and composer.

Art is constantly evolving as artists seek out new ways to express their vision, and it's clear that digital signage is becoming a new tool of the trade. In addition, the recent onset of 4K is accelerating the acceptance of digital content within the art world. Dramatically improved video quality is winning over even the most discerning critics, accelerating the move to digital display as the canvas of tomorrow.

While on the surface this might seem like an unlikely combination, my belief is that digital signage is perfectly suited for the art world. Not only does it enable the artist to re-create his or her vision with exacting precision, but digital signage introduces motion to art forms that have traditionally existed as static images. For progressive-minded artists this is an alluring option, so it's no surprise that artists are embracing digital signage in their work. Personally, I can't wait to see how this digital renaissance plays out in the years ahead.

Posted by: Admin AT 11:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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