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Understanding Digital Signage Content Management

Understanding Digital Signage Content Management

Most digital signage editors fall into one of two camps: Web-centric editors, which use online tools and prevailing Web-based philosophies of design and screen segmentation, and video (canvas)-centric editors, which use concepts, techniques and tools that are familiar to the television community. Of course, there is overlap and other converging ideas, so it is sometimes hard to tell the difference.

Both types of editing can use any kind of TCP/IP transport and network configuration, so there are areas of great similarity.

In basic terms: The strictly web-based platforms use a playlist model that is less visual, ie, not a “canvas” format for laying out the display. You will see timelines, and have to lay one timeline above (vertically) on your page to signal the software to put this layer “on top” of the others. In some cases, you place these elements into fields called “zones” OR you designate the zone in the timeline. Then you need need to render or preview what you made, to see what it might look like. It is time consuming, and can be confusing. We know, because we used a half dozen such systems over the past dozen years!

In contrast, the canvas-enabled content designer gives you a full visual representation of the sign, proportional to your 1920×1080 display.  One potential drawback of some common canvas style layout design applications is the lack of anything but sneaker-net (walk over with a thumb drive) to get the content to the screen.  Amazingly, LobbyCaster combines the best of all worlds: Canvas-centric design perfect for sign professionals, LAN deployment and Cloud Control Manager. You can’t beat a triple-threat, hat trick like this!

Unlike the more segmented approach using Web-based tools, canvas-centric editors can enhance a playlist with the soft blending of organic shapes using a well-known video trick called layering. Layering is also called compositing. This technique gives canvas-centric editors an advantage in creating warm, soft and inviting screens, which can morph seamlessly right before the patrons’ eyes into different kinds of presentations, via a playlist.

Software that is used to manage a library of media assets is called digital asset management software, commonly referred to as DAM. Products such as Canto Cumulus, NetXposure ImagePortal and ADAM allow companies to build complex libraries, containing everything from videos to photography to PowerPoint presentations and Word documents.

An important element of every digital sign system is the ability to control the schedule of the playlists, and even each element in the playlist. Setting time slots and days of the week, or month, is called “Day-Parting” and you will find this is especially important for retail applications. On the other hand, a building directory will only have a tenant name change, not an entire change of the directory each week.

Proper media resolution and orientation are critical for the customer’s sake. And for your sake, a carefully chosen filename convention is a wise move at this stage. Imagine creating a Valentine’s Day promotion for deployment in three display sizes, 21-inch widescreen, 42-inch non-widescreen and 60-inch non-widescreen. Those files should be labeled in a way that tells you and your client immediately which one to add to which playlist.

For many companies deploying digital signage, a dynamic sign system design partner (like LobbyPOP!) is the option of choice for creating and managing rich media assets; But even if you use our services, make sure you have at least one person on staff with a basic knowledge of rich media and design, for last-minute emergencies and day-to-day maintenance.

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