The Videowall: All Things Big and Small

By Alan C. Brawn CTS, DSCE, DSDE, DSNE, DCME, ISF, ISF-C

Alan Brawn, Principal Brawn Consulting

Alan Brawn, Principal
Brawn Consulting

So you are in Las Vegas at the McCarron Airport and walking through the concourse and POW, you are overwhelmed by the huge videowall dominating the space. It is to be determined whether you were more impressed with the size of the wall or the content running on it but one thing is for sure, you cannot miss it. Conventional wisdom says that this is the videowall experience. It is big, colorful, dynamic, and sure to gain your attention. I am sure we all have our own videowall story to tell that includes gigantic proportions and full immersion into the experience but if we stop here, we are missing the other side of the story of video walls. We are going to ask you to adjust your current paradigm and consider smaller (yes smaller) video walls, that if properly designed and placed, will provide the desired impact and perhaps in some cases, even better content recall than the behemoths we see scattered all around the world today.

We understand that size matters but size alone does not always tell the story we want to convey. We can easily get lost in size and lose the message that the content wishes to convey to us. In short, we fail in our objectives by using size alone. There are other ways to earn attention. In one of our classes we talk about “Techorating” or using the display technologies at our disposal to architecturally enhance a space. Let’s consider going beyond that concept and using smaller video walls located in places you could never fit a huge wall, in order to create impact and more importantly recall.

This is the cool part from a design perspective because you can actually create impact with fewer displays. Think of “walls” that run up a support column in a building. I am talking about one screen wide by 5, 10, 15, or 20 screens tall. How about creating a mosaic of different sizes of screens in a collage configuration. Consider a distributed visualization system where creative designs are scattered throughout a space and the content is coordinated from group to group. You can mix up portrait and landscape orientations, various display sizes, and with the new video tiles and cubes, you can even mix in square displays as accent pieces. The artists’ palette has now increased exponentially as have the opportunities to create impact in different ways that we are more likely to remember.

In our modern world, we are programmed to look at things in conventional ways. We instinctively know that screens are rectangular in nature and we are predisposed to thinking about them in television formats or computer aspect ratios or in cinematic vistas. By itself this is not bad, but it all has become the viewer’s norm. In other words we expect to see a 16 x 9 aspect ratio screen confronting us and it is easy for us to look at but consider this, it is also just as easy to ignore it. Conventional wisdom says that if we make it big enough it cannot be ignored and that is true as far as it goes. In some cases, huge is appropriate and in others it is actually a limitation.

In our seminars we preach the concept that when “technology, price and applications converge, an opportunity exists”. There is no better example of this than the design and use of videowalls in commercial AV and in digital signage. It is easy to look at the big space and fill that up but it may be more productive to think about opportunities to deliver a message that will be noticed in those smaller spaces perhaps where people congregate or in a waiting line or perhaps where viewers walk through. If we can break away from the comfort of clearly defined aspect ratios and the boundaries and limitations they impose then we are well on our way to recall.

In the end we need to ask ourselves a fundamental question. Do we want people to remember the screens or the message? In the burgeoning world of digital signage we say that if there is no call to action and recall from the viewing experience then we call that entertainment. Entertainment is fine but for most videowalls there is a higher purpose that relates to clearly articulated objectives of what viewing the screen is supposed to accomplish. I suggest that by using videowalls of all sizes and thinking outside of the rectangle as a friend of mine in content creation likes to remind us, then we are well on the way to meeting our objectives.

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