Finally, now venues are starting to open up as we prepare for the return of live events but, after lying dormant for over a year, how confident are you that your video display technology is ready to receive visitors? Ideally, your in-house technicians should already be working with your contracted AV supplier and support company to bring your systems back online and take them through a rigorous testing process. But don’t despair if you haven’t got started yet or if you aren’t fortunate enough to have an AV technician on staff or a contract with a support company – here are 7 simple steps you can take right now to start bringing your digital displays back to life.
Is all of the installed equipment in place and facing the right direction for footfall?
Digital signage should always be installed to capitalise on footfall – these high traffic areas provide the best visibility for wayfinding information and the best opportunity for advertising messages to influence spending. But there can be drawbacks to installing your AV in busy areas. Displays mounted on pillars are more likely to get bumped out of position and feature displays may need to be removed occasionally to provide access for maintenance or event preparation – and they’re not always put back correctly. This may seem really obvious, but it’s worth checking as I’ve seen issues with this so many times in my career.
Is all of the rack mount control and processing equipment in place?
The little black boxes sitting in a rack somewhere in a back room don’t look very interesting, but they play a crucial role in pixel-mapping computer images onto your displays. The trouble is, because they’re interchangeable, people tend to swap them out if another system has a fault – and then forget to replace them. I’ve often been told that a display isn’t working, only to discover a gaping hole and dangling wires where the control and processing equipment is meant to be.
Does the rack have adequate ventilation?
Most AV racks have vents at the top, along the sides and at the bottom and use convection cooling to regulate the temperature of the equipment they house.
If these vents are covered, the equipment can easily reach temperatures of 40 or 50 degrees Celsius and will stop working. But, because these racks or often in a storeroom somewhere, and blow out warm air, they end up being used as a coatrack or to dry out tea towels, which blocks the vents.
Are the display cables labelled and connected up as per the flow diagram?
While there isn’t one single ‘right’ way to label your cables, most people use a letter for the type of signal the cable carries (like ‘V’ for video) and a number for how many cables of that type are present. These labels should match up with the ‘as built’ flow diagram provided by your AV integrator when your displays were installed and, together, they’re essential to ensure the correct signal ends up in the correct place. The problem is that cable labels have a nasty habit of falling off, which can be inconvenient at best and downright dangerous at worst. A missing label on an HDMI cable could mean that you end up advertising your restaurant’s steak special on the display in the coffee shop, but XLR connectors can be used for audio or mains power, and you can imagine what might happen if you connect 230 volts into the back of a microphone on stage.
Is your power cabling safe at each screen location?
This is a really obvious and really easy fault-finding activity, but that doesn’t make it any less important. The most common scenario is is that cables get pulled and you can see the wires sticking out at the plug. We all know that wires sticking out of a plug are a fire hazard, but faulty connections can also be the reason why your display image is missing some colours or why the image quality is poor. Before you connect your displays up again, check that the connectors are OK, that the pins of the plugs aren’t bent and that all the cable terminations are properly connected.
Are your screens in good working order?
This is as simple as it sounds for a flat panel – it should be quite obvious whether these displays are cracked and smashed or in one piece. LED screens, however, require a bit more of a thorough examination as the individual pixels that each LED panel is made up of could have failed – leaving a black hole in your image when you switch the screen on. Another common issue with LED displays is that the corners got chipped off or damaged. Ideally, you should put content through the screen to check this properly – as some issues may not be visible to the naked eye when the screen isn’t in use.
Is your image quality measuring up?
Now that you’ve done the basic checks on the equipment and power that feeds your display, and made sure the physical screen isn’t damaged, it’s time to check the image quality. A test pattern generator allows you to adjust exactly how many pixels you’re sending out and pixel match the pattern to each display’s resolution. This helps you to identify any missing pixels as it leaves a black dot on the display. The test pattern should also be used to assess a host of other issues that can affect your display quality including bandwidth, colour shift, screen brightness, and the strength of the transmitter.
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above questions, congratulations your system has passed its basic health check! However, we’d still recommend enlisting the help of an AV expert to do a full set of technical tests and to provide ongoing support so that you can welcome visitors back with full confidence in your display system.