Central stations are essential for efficiently and effectively monitoring multiple streams of information for organizations in the security and video surveillance industries.
They allow for faster and more accurate mission-critical decisions and increase the effectiveness of the entire organization.
However, while the technology has improved so that even a budget-priced system might “do the trick,” it is important to resist the temptation to cut corners when it’s time to install or refresh the system. This especially applies to the main component of a central station — the video wall.
So how does one select the right video wall? The first step is to …
1. Consider the space
While selecting the right technology is important, how and where you install it can have a major impact on its overall effectiveness.
For example, room size, wall space and viewing angle must all be considered. It would be an obvious mistake to install a video wall that is too small or too large for the room, or not powerful enough to handle all the demands of the system.
In addition, most video walls are designed to work best when the user is not directly in front of the display screen. However, as you move further off-angle, brightness and color may be affected to varying degrees.
It is therefore important to verify the product specifications in advance to understand how viewing angles will impact a person’s interaction with the content.
Another factor to consider is brightness levels. A system can be too bright or not bright enough, either of which can make it uncomfortable for long-term viewing. A poorly positioned or installed display — no matter how cutting edge the technology behind it — can also significantly diminish its effectiveness.
2. Choosing Wisely
While some unique spaces could do well with front-projection systems, central stations are best served by three main categories of solid-state display technology, not all of which should be considered interchangeable. These include LED or LCD flat panels, LED-lit DLP projection cubes and rear-projection display cubes.
Rear-projection display cubes may be sufficient for smaller rooms with ample space to the wall, while LED and LCD panels may best serve spaces where the distance to the wall is limited.
Flat panels and projection cubes are also ideal for larger, multiscreen applications, since any number of them can be combined in an array to create a video wall of almost any size.
3. Sweating the Details
Once you’re ready to specify the technology, it’s important to do in-depth research on the top brands.
Check for brightness uniformity. If brightness is not uniform within each screen, the overall video wall may exhibit a “checkerboard” appearance, which is undesirable. Most cubes offer uniformity of 95% or better, while LCD panel uniformity is not typically as high.
Additionally, because uniformity is not measured right to the edge of the bezel on LCD panels, it is recommended to test and view the solution in advance with content that is the same as or similar to what will be displayed to ensure that the uniformity meets expectations.
Auto-brightness and color balance features are also critical when multiple displays are used together in a tiled array or video wall. All the tiles must be well matched and remain that way over time. Most video wall display products include capabilities to finely adjust the color for best matching performance. However, over time, color or brightness may slightly change or drift, requiring readjustment.
LED video walls also offer a large achievable color gamut, which is the range and purity of the colors a display can reproduce. The red, green and blue LEDs all emit a much narrower range of wavelengths than a broad-spectrum, white-light source like a lamp. This allows more deeply saturated colors to be reproduced, as well as increasing the range of reproducible colors.
Another important consideration is contrast. Higher contrast enables easier and faster recognition of the information displayed and reduces eye strain. It also handles ambient lighting within the room better.
4. Cost beyond the initial sticker price
Considering the ongoing operational costs such as power consumption, HVAC and maintenance is important in determining the right solution for your application.
In a 24/7 central station, you can expect cubes and LED tiles to have a useful life of approximately six years or more. These solutions are designed for high reliability, very low maintenance and minimal performance degradation over time.
All displays consume power and require cooling, but not all display technologies are the same in this regard. LED tile video walls consume energy more efficiently than most other display technologies. The improvement can be as high 400% or more, depending on which displays are being compared.
LED tile video walls also benefit from the long life of the LED pixels themselves. The useful lifetime of a display’s light source is often defined as the number of hours to reach half of the initial brightness. By this measure, LEDs typically last much longer than lamps, whether used only as a light source or employed directly as pixels in a video wall.
5. Beyond the display: video wall controllers
To manage content and information across multiple screens, video wall controllers and video processors are used.
With the growing proliferation of networked and mobile technologies and the increasingly distributed nature of business, content distribution systems are playing an increasingly important role in central stations. Open, flexible, and more user-centric, they can remove boundaries between disparate locations and technology platforms being used, and enable expansive collaboration for many of the world’s most mission-critical operations.
The bottom line: Whether installing a budget system or the latest cutting edge display, a poorly planned system could prove more costly over time if it is incompatible with the demands of the environment or inappropriate for the space.
A system may lack the flexibility to adapt should requirements change or may not be sufficiently future-proofed to keep up with the evolving technology.
Working with a knowledgeable and experienced integrator who can also maintain and service the system will minimize the risks. Backed by decades of experience, the correct partner can help build the right solution for each customer’s specific needs, properly integrate the video wall with any existing hardware and software infrastructure, ensure an ergonomic work environment, and ultimately select the right system for reliable 24/7 operation with long life, low maintenance components that precisely meet your needs.