Last time we looked at what the formula was and how it could be applied to describe a video screen display made up of tiles (screen units).
So now we have a way of describing different shapes of screen displays with a formula BUT what real use is that going to be?
We believe there are four main reasons why such a formula is useful:
- It provides a common method for a wide range of different technologies.
In the 90’s, if you wanted to build an interesting screen shape, you generally used two types of videowall: square block CRT monitors (remember them?), or rear projection cabinets, both driven with some frame store electronics for each screen unit.
Now there are many ways of achieving shapes: videowalls made from tiled plasma or LCD screens, LED display systems – probably the most flexible due to their modular nature. Just look at some of the rental staging rigs seen on Rock tours in recent years for examples of innovation in custom screen designs and shapes. There are also some new technologies around the corner that build well on the modular concept. All these differing technologies can be equally well described by the formula as long as they follow the same principle that a video image can be scaled across the elements to form one large picture.
- It bridges the gap between content creators and programmers.
Those that manage, program and schedule screen networks are generally not the people who design and create the content that play on the screens. In the days of TV based standards for video, everyone knew the score when it came to deliver a piece of content ready to play. You just made sure that it was in the right format and medium for delivery, but it was always going to be the same TV shaped rectangle. That maybe a slight over-simplification, but then developments like widescreen, and play out from inexpensive computer systems arrived, making the process a bit more complex.
There were now all sorts of possibilities with different screen resolutions, aspect ratios, and portrait orientation, which have become widely supported. But now with different shaped screen displays, there are more things to consider when designing and scheduling content. This is especially true when dealing with technical design elements like logos, motifs and pieces of text which must be displayed correctly on the screen display. You aren’t going to get paid if the corporate logo and strapline is cleverly placed at the top of a pyramid shaped screen, but falls off either side of the narrow bit at the top, and just making it smaller would make it unreadable when viewing it at a distance.
Using the concept from part 1 of drawing the screen shape on squared paper, from a screen description given by the formula, content designers can then apply the correct mask to make sure they are producing content to fit the screen shape correctly, and even mark the content with the same formula description, so that the guy at the scheduling end knows what screen it should be displayed on.
- It’s designed to be human readable and machine readable.
The formula looks like it does so that it’s easy to understand and translate (well, for the more technical at least) and reading it you can visualise the screen display shape in your head or at least draw it out on paper. It is also designed to be technically structured enough so that it is machine readable, i.e. you can make software read it and interpret it.
This is probably the most powerful way it can be used. You can attach the formula as another piece of meta data to content files, software configuration of screen layouts, playlists – any part of a system and use it to automate the matching of content to particular screen shapes. Built into a system in a well thought out way, this could be used to hugely simplify the management of a number of complex screen display installations, and also used as a filter to make sure that the displays were only fed with the content they were supposed to be showing.
- It’s platform independent.
There are many systems and solutions out there, and each has its own way of classifying and dealing with concepts and elements like zones, screen layout, content and its format, playlists, scheduling, and so on. Some are more complex than others – some have clever APIs or tools which allow users to integrate the formula as it stands into their system, either at a configuration level, or by developing custom programming and rules that use it.
Others are more simple by design, but can still make use of the formula by integrating it into their content and scheduling processes, even if they are not all as highly automated. That’s one of the reasons why the formula’s look has been deliberately kept simple and character based.
Next time we’ll look at ways that you would use the formula for real in a bit more detail.