How to choose screen and sign for digital outdoor advertizing: Part 1

Chief editor - Vladimir Krylov

We continue publishing articles devoted to various approaches to choosing optimal linear sizes and the type of the large outdoor electronic screens. Let us consider the following case. You plan to use the electronic screen on any square on weekdays and to move it to some special place on weekends or during some important sports, political or cultural events. Let's begin with the most difficult and the simplest thing at the same time.

If you need the best large electronic digital screen - (i.e. you do not have such problems as price and recoupment), like making a “special order” for an exclusive car more expensive than Mercedes 600 - you should undoubtedly choose between the newest full color LED screens of a cluster type, the newest rear translucent laser systems and the newest rear projection systems on the basis of JVC projectors. The manufacturers can adapt these systems for 24/7 operation mode in adverse weather conditions if you don’t have money limits. Don't worry you will get the best, advanced digital screen.

Now let’s talk about more simple, but at the same time the most difficult thing. There are some demands that are applied to digital outdoor advertising and the support of large sports competitions, political campaigns and cultural events (shows, concerts). The organizers and the majority of Western, Russian and CIS advertisers already have developed the basic requirements to what they spend the advertising budgets on.

First of all, it is the scope of audience or how many people will see this digital outdoor advertizing. It is defined by:

  • Pedestrian’s flow in the place where the outdoor screen is located.
  • Automobile flow.
  • Size of the area (square) and the number of people gathering at this place during some feast celebration, concert, sports and political events.
  • By “depth and width” of the scope of these flows (i.e. from where the digital screen and the information can be seen, at what time and during what period of time people and the human flows, including automobile flows, can observe this information).
  • Efficiency of the digital advertising campaign at a certain place at this carrier.

To answer these questions it is necessary first of all to determine the place where the large outdoor digital screen will be located and then to decide what will be the linear sizes (proceeding from the location characteristics of the outdoor screen) because they determine the amount of people who will see the information on the advertising screen.

When we come to an oculist, we look at small 1-5 cm letters from a distance of 3 m. The majority of people can see 5 cm letters without any difficulty. And if we want people to see the information (minimum 3 text lines) from a distance of about 100-150 m, the size of your digital advertising screen or sign should be no less than 4 m, and it should be more than 4 m above the ground. If the100-150 m area is not limited with the trees and buildings at its perimeter and continues as far as 300-600 m with a central highway or a street, the vertical size of the outdoor digital screen should be about 9 meters, and it should be more than 5-6 m above the ground.

As for Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow, for example, the square and the scene are at the distance of 200 m from the digital screen and the central avenue continues as far as 1 km. Thus it is necessary to provide a outdoor screen no less than 12 m in height and to place it 7-9 m above the ground. The horizontal size of the advertising screen depends on the typical TV correlation close to 3:4 or 9:16 (i.e. 3x4 m, 6x8 m, 9x12 m, 12x16 m, etc.).

In general, our eye perception and distance (from which we can perceive visual information) characteristics are the most important criteria for the calculation of the amount of people who will see the digital outdoor advertising passing by or taking part in meetings. It is important that the outdoor screen or sign should be visible not as a single point - it should be readable. So the linear size is of great significance.

When we came to these conclusions it has become clear why several huge digital screens and signs by the size of 9x12 meter and 12x16 meter appeared in America at Times Square in New York during last 2-3 years.

Besides, the horizontal viewing angle influences greatly the quantity of the people that will see it (though this characteristic should be adhered to the location of the digital outdoor advertizing screen). If your square is not only more than 50-100 meter in length, but also has the same or larger width, the horizontal viewing angle should be 80-160 degrees. If your outdoor advertising screen or sign is placed on a highway and is not seen from the sides (for example, in the Stary Arbat street in Moscow), the horizontal viewing angle of 30-40 degrees can be enough.

Now let's talk about characteristics influencing the quality of digital advertising screens and signs.

Digital screen brightness, contrast and color palette support

These characteristics are important first of all if it is planned to use an digital outdoor sign or screen in daytime and if it is impossible to prevent the digital screen from direct sunbeams. In this case you should choose a system with brightness of no less than 8 000 cd/m2 and even 12 000 cd/m2. But if the outdoor screen does not face direct sunbeams (for example it is installed on a porch of a building, and the building protects it from the sun), the digital screen brightness of 5 000 cd/m2 could be enough.

Digital outdoor screen resolution

It is a very interesting technical criterion. Our eyes can’t perceive and apprehend small type (even if the resolution of the digital screen is the greatest) even from a distance of optimum recognition. The linear size of the outdoor screen or sign will be so small that you need to have better than normal eyesight or use binoculars to see at least something. Thus, you will simply waste your money.

Besides, it is necessary to take into account one more purely technical detail. All signs and screens as newest lamp or LED or plasma displays are digital initially, and any television signal - PAL, SECAM with 240-320 lines - is analog, not digital. Even some engineers mix these things up. Therefore there appeared such a concept as “sufficient resolution” - about 160x120 pixels - which allows you to transfer the majority of TV signals.

I.e. the better is the resolution of the large outdoor digital sign or screen, the less work is spent on transformation and the better is the quality. On the other hand, if it is 100 000 or 500 000$ more for you, maybe it is reasonable to limit your demands with “sufficient” or even smaller resolution. It is proved on practice (Moscow, Omsk, Novosibirsk) that it is quite possible to work even with resolutions of 120x90 or 80x60. Linear sizes, the area of vision and the scope of the audience are much more important for getting advertising tenders. But still optimal resolution of digital outdoor screen should be 160x120 pixels.

Operational and climatic characteristics and modes of operation of the outdoor digital screens

  • Repair ability. It is a main characteristic. It is very important in Russia and CIS whether there is a service center or company that can make repairs or replace parts (as Western companies provide guarantees for everything). Therefore it is necessary to notice not only who guarantees what, but also how these guarantees are carried out. Thus it is better if the operating of the electronic screen is not so complicated and if the screen is quite repairable. Do not turn advertizing business into engineering research.
  • Working temperature. It is better in Russia and the countries of CIS if the working temperature varies from -50 to +50°C.
  • 24/7 working mode. It is optional, but if the digital outdoor screen is reliable and repairable, then it usually provides this mode also. The digital screen should consist of modules and should be mobile for sports, cultural and political campaigns. The outdoor digital screen must have direct video broadcasting mode for sports, cultural, political campaigns.

Now, as we stated providing the basic characteristics, we can choose among various types of digital outdoor screens taking into account price criteria applying to specific place and situation. It is necessary to find a compromise between the linear sizes, brightness, “sufficient resolution” and the type and cost of the whole digital outdoor advertising system. Thus it is necessary to take into account the upgrade ability of a system. I.e. is it possible to begin with one type (for example not so expensive for a certain linear size, but having insufficient resolution), and then in due course (in one or two years), to upgrade it (for example, only the electronic part) to more accomplished?