Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guidelines when encoding your videos for playback in Navori QL

Here are a few simple guidelines when preparing video material for playback in Navori QL.

  • Do not exceed 10 Mbps.  You're just asking your PCs to work harder at rendering the file and there is no visible advantage at playback.
  • For best performance you can encode the files in AVC1/MP4 or H.264
  • Do not use the FLV format as it is known to cause memory leaks that will eventually affect playback and could cause crashes.
  • Do not re-encode files because this will cause all sorts of issues.  For example, file size will increase and playback quality will significantly decrease.  Always go back to the original uncompressed content and work down from there.
  • 720p files (normal HD quality) play very well on older Intel Atom based PCs while 1080p files (full HD quality) are probably better used on higher end PC equipment.
  • It's probably best to stay away from proprietary codecs like DivX as they can be unreliable.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Managing multiple screens and videowalls in Navori QL

Ever wanted to manage multi-screen/single PC installations using Navori QL?  Ever wanted to position the QL Player window at specific screen location or perhaps restrict its size?  Need to manage content to be displayed in mixed screen orientations all running off a single PC?  Check out my latest tutorial: Managing multiple screens and videowalls in Navori QL

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Live TV on digital signage screens... pros and cons

Many digital signage users want to display live TV on their screens since it's relatively easy to do.  There are lots of software and hardware components available that will let you display live TV from any source (cable, satellite or over-the-air) so why not do it?  After all, you can install a good digital TV tuner card or USB device in most PCs and this will let you display live TV on your digital signage screens.  If your software platform supports the TV tuner card you will be able to schedule playback of the channel and in many cases you can even integrate the live TV feed in a screen layout with other content.

So what's stopping you?

Well... before you take the plunge you need to ask yourself if live TV content is worth the cost.  I am talking here about licensing costs, not just the costs associated with acquiring and deploying the hardware and software required to make it work.

You see, anyone who wants to re-broadcast a live TV feed must first obtain the rights from the TV networks or from their cable/satellite company.  Laws vary from country to country so anyone interested in displaying live TV on their digital signage screens should definitely seek advice from a lawyer before they proceed.  No one wants to get sued or fined for not complying with local copyright laws.

Here are a few links where you can find more information about the legality of displaying live TV on digital signage networks:

Does live TV fit in your overall content strategy?

Here are a few very important points that many digital signage users overlook.

  • Does live TV add or detract from your message?  
  • Do you feel you need to display live TV on your screens because your own content is "weak" or uninteresting?  
  • Have you considered adding live data feeds or soliciting viewer involvement through interactivity, QR Codes, SMS or Bluetooth?  

In most cases, you will get a better outcome if you update and refresh your content often or get your viewer involved in what's playing on screen.

On one hand, live TV is seen by many as a way to display professional, high quality content at zero cost (because they don't factor in the cost of acquiring the distribution rights).  They are not aware that live TV may in fact reduce the impact of other content displayed on your screens.

If you operate an advertising network in a public area and mix live TV with your own content, you may simply end up diluting the impact of your client's advertising.  Viewers who are looking at the TV content will be less inclined to pay attention to other ads on your screens.  You may get more total viewers but are your clients really getting their money's worth?

However, there are plenty of venues where live TV works...  Take sports bars for example.  But sports bars are required to pay their cable company for redistribution rights and in most cases they are forbidden to alter the signal.   This means they are not allowed to re-purpose the live TV broadcast and mix the signal with other content like 3rd party advertising.  So, they can play the latest hockey or basketball game on a big screen but they cannot add their own advertising at the same time (on the same screen).

Assuming you have acquired the proper redistribution rights, you should be allowed to play back live TV on your digital signage in full screen format for any given time as long as you do not alter the TV signal in any way.  I don't see any problem with switching back and forth from a full screen live TV feed to local programmed advertising as long as you don't integrate the live TV with other advertising content on the same layout.  Ultimately, I would caution anyone reading this to seek the advice of a legal professional and confirm this with your local TV provider.

In a sense, digital signage technologies give users the ability to create their own private TV channels.  When treated as such, users can distribute content that they create themselves or that they commissioned from a 3rd party.  In any case, they own the content so they are free to distribute it in any way they want.

Things can get complicated when dealing with content that you don't own.  You must decide if the content is worth the cost of acquiring the usage rights.  In most cases you may find it's better to stick with your own content.