Monday, March 26, 2012

Digital Signage Resources

From time to time I post information of interest to anyone interested in digital signage on my web site.  A lot of what I publish relates to the Navori digital signage software platform but many of the concepts also apply to other products.  When you have a minute, check out this page and see if you find anything useful.  Let me know if you don't find what you're looking for or if you have a suggestion for a future posting.  I can't promise I will cover every topic but I will certainly take your suggestions into consideration!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Flypaper's new entry-level content creation product

Flypaper Express is a new, entry-level product that is aimed at digital signage users who want to display professional looking content on their screens.  The product is very attractive for the following reasons:

  • Simple to install.  Integrates itself into PowerPoint.
  • Inexpensive ($99).
  • Produces industry standard Flash or MPEG 4 content.
  • Supports audio and PowerPoint animation effects.
  • Comes bundled with a few templates to get the user started quickly.
So lets take a look at this new content authoring tool...

First, the PowerPoint integration is really good.  Users can work with a tool they already know and possibly even integrate some of their existing PowerPoint content.

The software adds a new toolbar to PowerPoint where you can access all the application's features.  The icons and menus are intuitive so practically anyone can get going without much training.

You can select one of the many included templates and you can also select a standard screen resolution (720p, 1080p or custom).  Opening a template gives you access to the editable content.  It is very easy to  edit text, change graphical elements and replace images to adapt the template to your needs.  

Note that you can also create a new template from scratch but I suggest new users play around with some of the samples until they get used to the application.  People with little experience using PowerPoint may feel a bit overwhelmed as you can pretty well deconstruct all the on-screen elements in each slide.  On the other hand, users coming at this from a creative background may feel a bit limited by the PowerPoint environment.  

You can easily preview your content, however I found the export process to be quite slow and I was testing on a PC with a 6 Core AMD CPU and 8 Gb of RAM so folks running on a corporate level PC may find the need to move up to a more powerful PC (or be patient as the software does its thing!).

Clicking on the icon called "Market" launches your web browser and brings you to a web site that is currently in development (Flypaper Market, coming soon...).  Presumably, Flypaper will open the product up to users so they can create and re-sell their own templates.  Will be interesting to see how that works out. 

Exporting your work is very straightforward.  I tested the Flash export and it worked flawlessly (albeit slowly, here again).

Once you get the file created, the results are quite acceptable as you can see in the screen capture of the preview window below:

The software outputs the files in a folder under Documents > Flypaper Express Presentations and in the example above, the SWF file size came to 997 Kb which is very acceptable for content meant for a 1080p screen.  The Flash output did not suffer too much from image compression artifacts and I would not hesitate to display the results in any venue.

The Good:
  • Inexpensive.
  • Easy to use (especially if you know PowerPoint).
  • Output is perfect for digital signage but you can create any Flash content you want if you are prepared to work at it.  There is nothing preventing you from simply using this product as a PPT to SWF converter but you can do much more.
  • Supports both Flash and MPEG 4 with audio.
  • Ideal for any user who does not have access to a dedicated creative team.  Things will get even more interesting once the Market site launches.

The "not so" Good:
  • You are working in PowerPoint, warts and all... Creative types used to work in Flash may want to look somewhere else.  They will only get frustrated with PowerPoint's limitations.
  • I found previewing and exporting to be quite slow, and I tested on a fairly powerful desktop PC.

In Conclusion... 

Flypaper Express is very good at what it does.  Low barrier to entry for corporate users and small shops (restaurants, retail, etc...).  Anyone looking to produce professional looking material in a cost effective manner should download the trial and take it for a spin!

Creative shops and commercial signage network operators may be better served by Flypaper Pro.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Content is king!

I was doing some research for a client the other day and found some really useful resources for live data feeds. It's not a secret that publishing up-to-date news, stock quotes, weather and market indices is a great way to attract and retain viewers.  There are many sources of RSS data freely available online but most of these feeds are fine for personal use, they're just not intended for redistribution on your digital signage screens.

Expect to pay a nominal fee to access commercial feeds but at least you will be working with material that can be legally redistributed.  Feeds are available through the publisher themselves (like the weather feeds available from Accuweather in the US or The Weather Network in Canada) or through aggregators like YellowBrix.

  • Accuweather offers content packages specially for digital signage use.  You can order RSS feeds (text and graphics) or even Flash clips that update themselves without any programming on your part.  Accuweather has an extensive list of weather related feeds plus news, trivia, sports and more. Pricing is per screen, per month.

  • The Weather Network offers weather related feeds in RSS and XML format.  Global weather data is available so this is not restricted to Canadian locations.  Pricing is based on a monthly fee per feed. 

  • YellowBrix can provide full text content from over 2000 sources, as well as stock quotes, weather, and market indices. Contracts are for a minimum of 12 months, and they can bill a credit card monthly or invoice quarterly.

    For news content, YellowBrix charges by the category. They offer a base package for a monthly fee that includes 5 category feeds.  Pricing varies depending on the application so you need to get a quote based on the type of feeds you require. Stock quotes are sold as a package offering providing access to all the data, but pricing is also highly dependent on the application.

This only scratches the surface of what's available.  It's worth taking the time to contact these companies and get a firm quote based on your specific needs.  The material isn't free but you will find feeds that cannot be sourced freely. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

More drivers spending longer in traffic = increased DOOH revenue

A recent article published in Montreal's La Presse ties Astral Media's growing revenue to the city's crumbling infrastructure.  Many of the island's access roads and bridges are going through major renovations so gridlock has been a huge problem for motorists.  This has created a truly "captive" audience that Astral Media aims to reach with its growing network of LED billboards located in and around the city.

This is an audience that cannot switch channels which is great for the company's out-of-home advertising division.

Here is a link to the original article (in French).

Anyone taking advantage of gridlock in your town?

How to apply branding to your digital signage screens

I recently posted a new video tutorial on how Navori QL software users can apply branding to their screens.  The technique is quite easy to implement.  It relies on the software's Ticker feature.  Click here to view this short tutorial online.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Using YouTube videos with Navori QL

YouTube is a fantastic source of content that you can use on your Navori QL digital signage Players.  You can search YouTube’s huge library of videos online or even upload your own videos and then stream them to your Players.

Click this link to download a free PDF document that explains how you can integrate YouTube content into your Navori QL digital signage.