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Digital Signage - Flat Screen Lobby Displays

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Many schools are placing large flat screen displays in public settings like a lobby, hallway, or foyer to display announcements, school news, websites, etc. Please add to this page to share information on this practice!

ISED-L recommendationsEdit

  • We're currently looking at digital signage options as well. These options are very expensive, at least in my eyes. However, there are several factors that make them appealing to us. We're very interested in pulling content dynamically from our website and from other data sources. In particular, the ability to pull in RSS feeds and present them in a nice format is a requirement. We also like that different content creators can have access to different blocks within one page. In the end, we are looking for a product that is really easy to update. Otherwise it will be a wasteful investment for us because the content will grow stale. Here are the ones that we've started researching a bit:
  • We've had 6 plasma displays (a pair of displays each in 3 separate buildings) running for the past three years. Our setup is 1 old PC per building with a VGA splitter and VGA-Cat5-VGA extensions to the screens (the screens are as far as 100 feet from the PC). The PCs have PowerPoint Player and Windows Media Player and pull either a PowerPoint slideshow from a shared network folder or point to a Windows Media stream from our streaming server. Management is a bit of a hassle - VNC access to the PC (from either a Mac or a PC) to load the appropriate show. It really doesn't take long -- a few minutes to update the PowerPoint slideshow content, then about 60 seconds per PC to VNC in, close the current PowerPoint show and open the new PowerPoint show (or Windows Media stream). Our students often submit video clips from weekend sports events or dances or concerts and these are easily embedded in a slide on the PowerPoint show so that the plasmas are more than just scrolling announcements; they are also 1-2 minute video shows. Clubs also submit slides with announcements (the most common is our fishing club which submits a photo of the winner of the monthly fishing competition winner). When we have school events (Open House, dinners, etc...) we get special PowerPoint slide shows dedicated to those events. When major sporting events are taking place during the school day (March Madness, Red Sox home opener, etc...) we stream the TV coverage to the plasmas for the boys to watch between classes (or during lunch or free periods). The plasmas don't have audio (4 of them are near classrooms), but we haven't found this to be too much of an issue. The PCs driving the plasmas are all 5+ years old and while we've lost a few, we've got the OS imaged and ready to roll out and we've got a few old PCs lying around. The whole setup is very low cost and very functional. The management takes a little bit more work than some of the proprietary systems, but we've been able to deal with it pretty easily.
  • We looked at the products from Samsung in this area. They have a software piece that goes along with the product to control content and also stand alone options. From their website: "Leveraging Samsung's proprietary MagicNet Pro software, the SyncMaster 700DXn large format display enables users to control content across several displays using a single computer, eliminating the need for a dedicated PC for each display. With MagicNet Pro, content creation and distribution is simple for all network operators -- users can simply drag-and-drop existing content files, requiring minimal supervision and training. " See the article here.
  • http://www.scala.com/digitalsignage/index.html
  • Also check out AxisTV - http://www.visix.com/products/axistv/index.htm
  • We use an expensive, but decent product by Aavelin. There is a video server behind each plasma screen and using a PC and the Aavelin software you can set up what you want to appear on the screen; the software connects to the video server over the network (and can be accessed remotely if needed). It basically works like Powerpoint but has options for news and weather feeds and video depending on which product you buy. We like it because we don't need a lot of support to run it. You can certainly do it for cheaper stringing together different things from Powerpoint to Filemaker Slideshows to Keynote, etc.
  • This may be off the mark, but have you looked at PageFlakes? You would still need hardware to show the website, but with page flakes you should be able to aggregate at least some of the desired news and events on to one page for display.
  • We use iWork '08. Our Middle and Upper school lobby display shows events from our calendar of interest to students and parents (it does not display faculty information such as department meetings). We have an alternating Week 1 and Week 2 schedule, so in the US/MS school lobby, that designation is made manifest. There is a slide for each day which can be made to scroll nicely when a day has many events. It was easy to modify a spare and elegant Keynote template to reflect our Web site design. Powerpoint could probably be made to do something reasonably similar. Everything from the Used Skate Sale to college recruiter visits and the lunch menu is on the MS/US Lobby display. In between the daily slides, we add recent photos from around school or highlight upcoming events. As a day goes by, we hide its slide using Apple Remote Desktop, though I understand this may be done directly without ARD under Panther. The LS display is a more general weekly display as they have fewer daily events. We share overlapping moments between the two displays where appropriate. The whole thing takes about one hour per week but that work overlaps with work already being done for the parent and student sections of our Web site.
  • We are using Keynote for images with some text slides to describe images. Friends decided to forego any announcements, etc and only uses it for pictures of activities, events, art work etc. It has made it simple to use, and I think it has been a wise decision to use it only for this purpose.
  • Firesign is a commercial product. It integrates with Whipple Hill's podium database. It allows us to schedule various segments to display on different displays at different times. This year we worked with them along with Whipplehill to integrate the data from our website to the displays. Now the displays show news, calendar events and athletics information pulled directly from the website without double entry. The system has worked great and requires little effort with the information being pulled automatically.
  • Monitors AnyWhere lets you control digital signage content on up to 20 different content channels – anywhere in your building – and you control everything from a single PC. You no longer need to connect each screen to a PC or use a Video Extender with all those CAT5\6 cables. Use our VGA over LAN technology as the best way for your signage needs. Our solution can also include a Content Management System which will allow you to design beautiful layouts and update it from anywhere with an Internet connection.


HardwareEdit

  • DVI/HDMI convertors

Anyone have experience hooking up a large flatscreen plasma display to a computer with an HDMI - DVI cable?

  1. Whateer convertor you get should work fine as long as the video card supports the display's native resolution. If not, the scaler on the TV may or may not do a good job at making a different resolution display properly. Your mileage may vary...
  2. I use a HDMI-to-DVI cable (Monster Cable) for my LCD screen. Picture quality is excellent, though sound needs to be run through a seperate cable since DVI doesn't carry audio. I use TOSlink FiberOptic for sound.
  3. I just walked by a booth here at Macworld, XtremeMac, [ http://www.xtrememac.com ]http://www.xtrememac.com. They sell cables like the one you linked to for $20 compared to the one Apple lists at $120. I also noticed that the Apple TV boxes are all connected to giant Plasma displays in the Apple booth using the XtremeMac cable,...
  4. We have a Dell 42" plasma hooked up to a G5 tower by a DVI cable and it works very well. FYI - I did a lot of research into HD sets before Christmas and one thing I learned is that you don't have to pay anywhere near that much for a cable that works just fine. TigerDirect has DVI-HDMI cables for $28.
  5. I use an Itview box and an S-Video or RCA Cable. I get a full screen image that works fine.
  6. BlueJeansCable is my pick: [ http://www.bluejeanscable.com/store/dvi/index.htm ] also great articles on video, audio, and cabling standards: [ http://www.bluejeanscable.com/articles/index.htm ]
  • HDMI over LAN zero client provides the possibility of connecting a relatively large number of monitors and other USB devices through the same local network, without the need of Video Extenders.

SoftwareEdit

  1. FileMaker in kiosk mode is a great solution for this. You can customize the screen and have the person/people doing updates connect to the database remotely. We have a couple of setups like this at RCDS. With FileMaker's new web viewer capabilities you could have "live" web pages on the screen. See link for a video of the web viewer capabilities. http://www.filemaker.com/eight_five/learning/pop_movie.html?src=T01_v1.mov?WT.mc_id=wv_qt
  2. I'd also look into iPhoto as a solution - it can accept PDFs as well as picture files, and it would be really easy to build a library over the course of the year but have a single album as a slideshow that can be updated with new announcements each day. Plus it's cheap, easy, and should already be on whichever Mac you want to use. :-)
  3. ASAPY is best positioned to deliver full-cycle custom application development services to address the unique challenges of your company or institution.

Also see: http://www.shambles.net/pages/school/signage/

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