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Periodically AVDS will provide industry insider insights for AV tech installation best practice standards:

LED DISPLAY SYSTEMS: AN OVERVIEW FOR BROADCASTERS

by Jim Durant
Univision 23

So...you want your display systems to be truly seamless and get rid of those annoying seams you see on every broadcast using your monitor wall...
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Professional displays display professional results

by Jim Landy and Jim Durant
Univision 23

In today’s ever-changing ultra-competitive commercial display systems market, there is an assumption by some that the differences between the quality of professional commercial grade displays and consumer grade displays does not warrant the higher cost or capabilities.

Professional commercial displays typically come at a higher cost than a TV you could purchase at a local retailer. The typical knee jerk reaction is “I can go to the local retailer and purchase the same size TV for much less.” But in reality, there are key benefits for using the higher quality and more reliable displays that fit into the pro-grade category.

“It’s tough to find a consumer-grade panel that is rated for longer than 10 hours of use per day, roughly double the typical TV-watching habits of most consumers. In a quick service restaurant environment, for example, the displays are expected to operate continuously for 15 to 24 hours per day (as menu boards).

Because they’re built using higher-end components, commercial-grade displays are able to run reliably in that timeframe. It’s one of the reasons they cost more, because the last thing an operator wants is for a display to go blank during a broadcast,” says Keith Yanke of professional grade display manufacturer NEC.

The allure of a potential capital cost savings is usually the justification when considering purchasing consumer displays in place of choosing professional commercial grade displays for any broadcast project.

A better way to think of this, however, according to AV Design Services, is purchasing a consumer grade “TV” versus purchasing a commercial grade display with all of the benefits that are included with the purchase of a commercial grade display monitor.

It’s important to remember the display systems you choose will be on your set for at least five years after the decision is made and typically longer than that. Occasionally you may find other trades attempting to advise you concerning set technology choices, including trades that specialize in other disciplines and lack the technical expertise and background necessary to advise clients properly when choosing the proper AV tech for your set.

Selecting an inadequate display can be a costly mistake, especially when you consider many stations don’t update their sets more than once every five years or so.

Another key point to remember with on-set displays is that high brightness is not needed for indoor broadcast applications.

"It depends on the application. Because an application is indoors does mean there is controlled lighting continuously. Be it a QSR or retail location, sometimes high-bright units are needed because of the ambient light. The correct display at twice the brightness could prove invaluable, and be the difference in getting a brand message across and failing to do so," says Yanke.

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Higher brightness displays also provide users with application flexibility. If all the brightness is not needed, the user can select a lower brightness (500 nit units is standard for broadcast applications) that ultimately delivers lower power consumption and longer life.

In some cases, too, higher-end commercial-grade displays provide intelligence to control brightness levels, automating them depending on the ambient lighting.

A small studio with little lighting issues will find a 500 nit brightness unit is more than adequate. But outside of that scenario, there are a lot of variables at play, and those variables have to be addressed.

It’s also important to consider the software used to drive your on set displays, including CMS and digital signage developers. Most of these companies don’t pretend to be experts in the actual signage itself but instead work with the big display manufacturers to explore proposed applications, locations of the units and the return on objectives to give customers all the options available to them.

“A strategic display partner will explore all the factors with customers, and make sure that they get the right products for their applications and the return on investment aligned with business objectives. Doing so delivers happy customers, ones that will keep coming back to providers as needs dictate,” says Yanke.

Conducting a technical evaluation of different products either directly or through a technical adviser with the proper experience and understanding of both the available products on the market and the application use should be done early enough in the process so the technical aspects are key factors in the decision making process.

Sometimes the “technical” advisor is not technical at all, anyone can recommend on price, your technical advisor should not have the title of purchasing agent, or set designer. A good broadcast set designer will already have a relationship with a qualified set tech integrator to ensure AV tech uniformity throughout the process.

Keep in mind not all AV tech integrators understand broadcast and typically are digital signage integrators working the retail market. Look specifically for a broadcast set AV tech integration firm that understands broadcast engineering completely to assist you in the process.

According to Glen Young, director of product marketing at Philips, “There are many reasons to select a commercial display over a consumer alternative, but the most compelling is image clarity. Commercial displays are brighter, have non-glare screens and don’t exhibit color-shift when viewed from an angle.”

“Commercial displays provide a wider range of settings than consumer displays and in the hands of an integrator experienced with broadcast sets, allows the panel to be perfectly matched to the cameras,” Young added.

Beware of a set design company that leads with a consumer display as a cost savings measure as these displays are not designed to the same standards as professional commercial grade displays. Important factors such as inter-panel illumination uniformity, color gain and offset controls are not considered in the design or even tested during manufacturing.

These display operational performance characteristics go directly into the final picture quality which can be achieved by choosing the right displays.

Operational specification tolerances during manufacturing are tighter and highly repeatable during production runs with the professional displays, where quality has a leading importance over quantity.

Consumer displays specifications are sometimes clouded with specifications like dynamic contrast instead of listing real usable specifications for initial product reviewing, leading to irresponsible technical conclusions to be created.

This can lead to a misrepresented final obtainable picture quality level. Whether you are considering a seamless flat panel LCD or LED display wall, fine pitch LED display systems or individual large venue LCD or LED monitors be aware that there are many things to consider before you settle on a design.

There is a process in making display choices with many facets and requirements to consider. Some of the requirements carry more weight than others in determining the final choice.

The weighted evaluation scale includes some of the following:

  • Overall space to be visualized with display technology
  • Environmental conditions (is the display rated for outdoor use and bright enough if this is a requirement?)
  • How will the content to be displayed (are you in aspect ratio?)
  • Picture quality, color temp and controls to optimize to camera
  • Ease of control and operation
  • Durability/Life expectancy
  • Reusable, reconfigurable
  • Warranty terms, length and execution ease
  • Length of expandability or replaceability (how long will this version of product be available; consumer grade displays typically change form factor once every 6 months.)
  • Initial purchase cost

Notice that the factor of the initial purchase cost is at the end of this list, not the beginning.

It is not at the end of the list because it is the least important or has the lowest weighting in the choice, it is at the end because the items before it need to be compared and weighed first.

Then, based on the final results, the items that pass the minimum project requirements should then be compared to one another by their initial purchase cost in the choice equation.

When consumer grade displays are chosen over professional grade displays it moves almost all the weighting to the economic column.

The other requirements that impact the choice of display to a greatly diminished level or eliminated completely from the weighted list. If you really need to start the other way with the list, bottom to top, then the real first question that needs answered before going through the display choice process is if visual displays are really needed in the first place.

The design of the professional commercial display system is primarily based on durability and quality of image and those specifications are developed with the professional customer’s applications in mind. These displays are made to operate for longer periods of time, power cycled more often, and have longer expected lifespans in commercial use applications.

This includes the higher grade of components used within the display, where the mean time between failures data of components in the professional displays is much longer than the consumer displays.

This minimizes service interventions not only for repairs or replacement but also for color and brightness drift that occur much more frequently with consumer displays than the professional units.

This is where that initial cost savings turns into a money pit over the long haul and a constant drag on your day to day have “to do’s” and negatively affects your operating budget. Professional commercial display features also include more variety of mounting options with tiling and portrait modes designed within the panel, minimizing the amount of external processing required, which leads to higher initial costs spent on the front end, which is a higher cost overall than would have been spent on the professional display side.

Also, with tiling such a key requirement of many broadcasters, keep in mind that consumer grade displays cannot tile without an external image control processor to feed each consumer model independently. The additional cost per output channel of a video processor would push the cost of the consumer set up to the cost level of a commercial grade display that is specifically designed to tile.

Also, most consumer rated displays are rated for landscape use only and placing it in the oft-requested portrait orientation with not only void the manufacturer’s warranty but the heat buildup inside the “TV” will make that display fail very quickly. Plus, when it’s time to replace it with another you will find that the model you own has been discontinued for the more recent model with a different form factor.

Professional commercial grade displays also offer industry leading warranties usually lasting three or more times as long as the average consumer grade display offering, not to mention the fact that consumer warranties become void if used in commercial applications.

Manufacturers also offer easily administered warranty processes through authorized integrators, with items like advanced replacement in case of operational warranty issues. This is a must in today’s professional broadcast market to ensure the display can be replaced quickly and efficiently and is replaced with a same item for the entire warranty duration of the display.

There are real differences between professional commercial grade and consumer grade displays, which reveal the professional commercial grade displays as having real substantial advantages over consumer grade displays, most manufacturers that produce commercial grade displays offer various different versions.

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These versions offer different levels of quality choices for professional commercial grade displays…the “economy” version typically edge lit LED backlight versus full direct lit LED backlight among other feature sets.

Typically the mullions will get larger as the price goes down as well as whether or not the display is IPS rated or UVA rated.

There is a huge difference between the two technologies with IPS offering a consistent wide angle view maintaining consistent color and brightness off angle.

IPS displays were designed to improve on the flaws of TN technology, an entry-level technology that can be identified by its poor vertical viewing angles, primarily in regard to the poor viewing angles and color reproduction.

They do this by simply altering the direction of the pixels within the display to be parallel instead of perpendicular. The result is much improved off-axis wide gamut viewing angles in landscape or portrait mode.

The majority of professional technical personnel involved in choosing displays for their broadcast projects are expecting consistent professional results, as their job security most likely depends on it plus you want to ensure that your budget is spent on the best possible product for your project dollars.

Also beware of bundled “design” packages from set designers or consultants that can sometimes be designed with the “I can rob from Peter to pay Paul” mentality.

Moving budgeted funds from one aspect of the project to another without regard of the impact to the overall visual quality results in subpar AV tech results for your project. Even though the project budget may meet the client’s budget expectation, the overall final visual result is very much diminished from where it should be with regard to AV tech quality.

Expectations are diminished or sometimes completely disregarded. If compromised, it usually moves funding from a highly visual piece to a less visible visual aspect or even more disappointing to the advice/consulting services column in the budget.

It all boils down to the following list of questions which need to be asked of the adviser or consultant when the advice wants to use consumer grade instead of professional grade displays:

  • Who is recommending consumer over professional, are they technically qualified to make that recommendation?
  • Why use a consumer display instead of a professional one other than the initial economics?
  • Where and how did they evaluate the consumer displays of choice?(not just based on size and price)
  • What is their confidence level that this will meet the quality requirements over the lifetime of need?
  • What is their motivation behind the decision?
  • How will it impact the end result/user? (Will you need a color corrector in the signal path?)
  • How will it impact the quality of the content being visualized, will it add positive or negative value?
  • Who needs to live with the day to day end results and have to answer for it?

In many cases anyone saying consumer, usually has no long term skin in the decision making game, after all is said and done it sometimes feels more like a hit and run situation than a consultation, leaving the end user with nowhere to turn.

These types of scenarios have become more and more common lately and have prompted several clients and customers to start changing their buying policies.

Many of our national broadcasters have instituted new mandates stating; “Nothing below the professional product level can be used within their technical equipment environments,” including the sometimes chosen “prosumer” quality product will not be accepted anymore, as many technical managers’ reputations have been burned during live productions.

At the end of the day, they are the ones that will have to live with the end results of the product choice decision. Many years ago, there was a saying of why so many people chose a certain well known tube type manufacturer’s displays in a broadcast use environment over others.

The answer usually went something like this, “No one ever got fired for choosing s***.”

Although not many making the purchase decisions get the praises they should when their choice of products to use in professional applications are solid and show solid professional results, if these same choices result with failure or quality issues, the decisions can turn into what are commonly called, ‘career ending moves’, it’s an expensive mistake not to be taken lightly.

Choosing the correct display is supposed to be an educated choice done by an experienced technical professionals, not by a non-technical visualizer.

When the economics are truly reviewed over the life expectancy of use, the small initial higher cost price for the professional display outweighs the repetitive costs of constant trouble shooting and picture quality adjustments of the consumer level displays. This smaller initial cost allows the decision maker to have more confidence in the overall outcome of the choice.

The uninformed can’t lead this discussion. Experienced pros, however, don’t want to hear another horror story about bad AV tech decisions that costs thousands of dollars. They have heard plenty.

AV Design Services has been offering engineering services to broadcast clients for over thirty years. The company focuses on staying informed to ensure that its team can make the AV tech process as painless as possible.

There is always a balance within the set design upgrade process among the four disciplines necessary to put the right team together: Set design, set AV tech, set fabrication and set lighting.

Design: Set Designers design how the set will look and function

AV Tech: Will work with the set designer and will vet the set technology and value engineer all set tech to ensure that the proper equipment is considered, integrate all of the equipment on site and train the client’s engineering team to use and manage the equipment.

Set Fabrication: Will fabricate and build the set, integrate on site and work with the overall group to ensure the overall design and overall set tech can be installed properly, safely and function properly.

Set Lighting: Performs all set lighting design and installation.

In our experience the best results come easily by getting the right team in place. The best designers will already have these teams in place and typically have worked with these teams for years providing you the best group available. Experience is key.

There are many different display manufacturers, some better than others technically and some better than others when it comes to price. Among those manufacturers there are many different models to choose from. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the choices available. AV Design Services offers comprehensive experience and expertise to select the best displays available. Its team works diligently with the all of the best manufacturers to offer clients the best pricing levels on set display technology and take the guesswork out of the process.

AV Design Services would be pleased to check your set AV tech system design at no charge and value engineer your new or existing design. We have relationships with the best set designers, set fabricators and set lighting firms available today and would be pleased to recommend these professionals to you.

For more information on AV Design Services call (609) 531-2642.