By Kurt Dupont
Haven’t you seen those signage boards everywhere, from restaurants to airports, and from conferences to corporate reception areas? Do you know what makes them run?
Image Courtesy: Kurt Dupont
What makes the screens change? What makes the information get updated? And by information, we mean everything from flight timings to menu prices, to video clips and weather conditions!
You could use any of the expensive solutions that will be a struggle to keep abreast of, or even pay expensive renewals all the time. And you will need support all the time! Did we tell you that support is not free, nor it is cheap? Now, there’s a program already installed on your computer, and almost every computer in your organization that can do it all! Yes, that program is PowerPoint.
You can perfectly use Microsoft PowerPoint to create high-quality digital signage presentations for your information displays. PowerPoint is great for displaying clocks, news auto-sourced from RSS feeds, weather forecasts, messages, announcements, advertising and so much more on your high definition TV and other display screens.
Why PowerPoint? Because, it was born to display information, slide after slide, and with some subtle transitions and softer animations to go along. OK, you want to run page turn transitions and bouncing animations? We wouldn’t want you to do so, but we leave that choice to you!
Did we not add that PowerPoint is very easy to use? Editing is also very nice as you just open a presentation, change your information and save it quickly. And there is no need to export information to other file formats like images and movies. You just need the plain PowerPoint file format, which has indeed become a real standard. And we know there’s a risk of sounding so enthusiastic about PowerPoint; even Microsoft may not be so amazed of their own product!
So this is a good time to let you know that PowerPoint has an amazing add-in architecture, through which mini programs can plug into PowerPoint to extend abilities. One of these add-ins is DataPoint from PresentationPoint, a Belgium-based company. DataPoint technology can source and display all sorts of info on your slides, and even to update the slide content automatically without even exiting your slideshow!
We will explore DataPoint in another post, but for now, you should know how you can create an impressive digital signage system. Here are a few things that you have to take into account when you use PowerPoint for your digital signage or information screens:
1. Screen Orientation
This might sound ridiculous, but you must think about your display orientation. Typically, digital signage information screens have the landscape orientation. Most likely, this is because we are used to seeing televisions and movies in landscape orientation.
But think about it. Are there situations where you want to use a portrait-oriented display? For example, in the airport, you often see portrait orientation for the flight information. Why? Because, with portrait orientation, they can fit more information on the same screen. For flight information, you only need departure time, flight number, destination and gate number. Not that much information at all, because other than the destination most of the other fields consume up to six characters, at the most. When you put those 4 columns on a portrait-oriented display, then you can show many more flights on the same screen. If you would use a landscape-oriented display, then you probably end up with a bigger font size, with lesser flight info, or use a split screen encompassing 2 columns. The flight information shows on one part and the relevant information about the flight on the second part of the screen. Such displays also require the audience to change their glare from left to right, and left again in succession!
Or let’s take this example. At funerals, you often see a television nowadays where they display a picture of the deceased. When you use an image of a person there, you typically see a portrait picture in a landscape display, right? Many undertakers make that mistake. If you mostly display portraits, then change the orientation of your television to portrait. It seems that this turning of the television is not done. No, a television screen in landscape mode, displaying a portrait image where two-thirds of the screen is black, seems to be much better. Even worse, the undertaker may set the picture to fit the screen. This makes the picture of the dead person seem strange with such a wide face!
So, first of all, before you start designing your presentation, take a decision on how you are going to hang your televisions. In case you are using existing infrastructure somewhere, ask about the orientation of the televisions or displays. There are of course other possibilities like hanging your screen at a 45° angle for some special effects. But that is something entirely different.
2. Screen Resolution
The other important task is to check the specifications and settings of the television or the display connected to the computer. When this is not correctly set, then you get black areas on your screen, like on the image here. Why? That’s because screen dimensions or resolutions have a relation between the number of pixels in width and the number of pixels in height. In other words, this width and height relation is called the aspect ratio. A common aspect ratio is 16:9, also known as Widescreen. This is supported by HD displays, and 1920 by 1080 pixels is a commonly used resolution.
Image Courtesy: Kurt Dupont
Conversely, older computer screens had an aspect ratio of 4:3, also known as Standard resolution. Think about 800 by 600 pixels. And there are more formats possible, including 16:10.
It is important to know how many pixels you will have on your presenting television screen because that has an effect on your presentation design. Apply the same dimensions of your television or signage display on your slide design settings. More detailed information on this interesting topic can be found here. Did you know that you can enter the number of pixels at the PowerPoint slide design directly, there where you normally see inches or centimeters?
3. High-Resolution Images
For high impact with your digital signage presentations, you will need high-quality composition images that are clear and sharp. But be careful: PowerPoint compresses images by default. Your high-quality, premium images, that you ordered from a professional photographer for this special occasion will be lost in quality.
Image Courtesy: Kurt Dupont
Make sure that PowerPoint is leaving your high-resolution images in high quality when the presentation is saved. Read all about this at this article.
4. Use Color Palettes
For colors on your slide, you can try random colors. Or you can use the design rules, and use related colors from a given color scheme or palette.
Image Courtesy: Kurt Dupont
There are many websites out there, where you can find professionally developed color palettes: Adobe Color CC or Coolors to name a few. Typically on such websites, you can select a predefined color palette or create and experiment with your own favorite colors.
5. Advance Slide Setting
Probably you are used to advancing to the next slide with a mouse click in PowerPoint. This is normal for a typical presentation in a meeting, but this is not valid for a Digital Signage presentation. Such presentations have to run on their own, without user interaction or intervention. You want them to play slide after slide, to give as much information on a short term.
Open your presentation and click the Transitions tab. At the group Timing, uncheck the option On Mouse Click and check the After option. Set a reasonable time in seconds that allows a normal user to read all the info on the slide. You can set this timing on each slide individually or just click Apply To All here.
6. Slide Show Type
For Digital Signage presentations, you want to repeat the slide show over and over, all day long. Click the Slide Show tab on the ribbon and click the Set Up Slide Show button.
At the Show type, you have 2 possible ways:
- Select the option Browsed at a kiosk (full screen).
- Choose the option Presented by a speaker (full screen) and make sure that at the Show options, Loop continuously until ‘Esc’is checked.
7. Use Software for Scheduling and Distribution
So far we discussed the options to design your digital signage presentations in PowerPoint. Now we can give some more information on how you get your presentations from your design computer to your information screens.
You can use our simple ShowPoint or our iPoint package with more features. ShowPoint is great to just auto-start a presentation when a computer is started. With iPoint you have much more control. It allows you to set up a playlist of multimedia files. Then you schedule playback of that playlist on a given remote information screen. iPoint will automatically distribute the playlist files to the remote locations and start the playback at the starting time. You, as the administrator, you can use the scheduler application and see in real-time what is displayed on the remote screens, via thumbnails of your iPoint players.
Kurt Dupont, based out of Belgium heads PresentationPoint, a company that creates several amazing PowerPoint add-ins. After his Computer Science studies, Kurt started with Andersen Consulting (Accenture nowadays) in Brussels.
After three years he moved to the Brussels Airport Terminal Company that runs the Brussels airport – this last placement inspired the start-up of Take-off (now known as PresentationPoint) in 1998.
See Also: Take-Off: An Interview with Kurt Dupont