Part One in a Three-Part Series
Clear communications is an art that brings people together. Whether strictly informational or something on a more emotional level, communication is imperative to creating a relationship between the messenger and a group of message recipients.
Worship facilities thrive on delivering imperative messages to members, and certainly have an abundance of messages to communicate. These messages, from youth and study groups to Sunday school and worship service announcements, are traditionally communicated in the form of the written or printed word and tend to get lost on overcrowded bulletin boards. The impact of the printed banner or the backlit sign is more immediate but limited to its lifecycle, soon to be removed and replaced with a new message. This may be fine to promote a one-time event, but the cycle repeats over and over, as costs and time spent creating the banners incrementally scale.
The proliferation of digital signage technology presents new opportunities for worship facilities seeking to enhance communications inside the building. Whether in the front entrance, inside the chapel or in adjoining commons areas, digital signage offers a creative way to broadcast a variety of messages to members through a persistent platform. A modest investment in technology can have an immediate effect on the quality of communication to members, with or without an existing AV infrastructure.
Digital signage offers a platform to electronically communicate important messages, whether in the form of a simple data crawl or in tandem with graphics or video. Every sign presents an opportunity to deliver a unique message to a unique audience, and gives worship facilities a powerful tool to enhance communications and take full advantage of existing real estate.
It is relatively simple to launch a digital signage system. Worship facilities absent an existing AV backbone require only a creation/scheduling tool, a playback device to play content on the screens, and a simple CAT5 cable to network everything together. Those with an existing infrastructure have the benefit of additional design elements and raw materials in the form of graphics and video to integrate into the creation platform.
A single operator is typically all that is required to operate a single-site digital signage system. The creation and maintenance of the message is accomplished using simple data sources to drive the signage output in the form of a text file, a database or a calendar to name a few. Only basic knowledge of computers is needed to create a design background, or template, in the preferred font, size and color, and to subsequently update and maintain these messages.
A network management system tool ensures that the templates are played out on the designated devices. Sequences are scheduled at the creation station, using creation and network management tools to repeat the same sequence all day or change to new sequences at pre-determined times.
Many churches with AV and/or broadcast technology employ part-time operators or utilize volunteers to operate equipment. A part-time employee or volunteer with computing knowledge can easily import standard industry graphics (Bitmaps, Targas, JPEG and TIF files) or create graphics using PhotoShop.
Text files and data crawls may be tied to messages in the template through a series of simple dialogues boxes without using scripting or a programming language. This improves the look and quality of the message being displayed, and provides a simpler creation process.
The ability to import video sources from inside or outside of the building adds another layer for worship facilities interested in catching the eyes of their members. Broadcast and/or production-equipped facilities can import software-compressed video clips from editing systems, streaming video from websites or multicast IP streams from encoding devices; as well as live video from cameras or set-top boxes within the facility. Live video signals are accepted from simple video capture cards, accepting a composite video signal or a TV tuner card that can recognize RF input signals.
In addition to appearing on the digital displays inside the facility, the output of the player can be encoded with a third party device to create an internet video stream for members who could not attend services.
A quality digital signage solution will allow operators the creative freedom to specify which overlapping regions of the screen the graphics or video should appear. Some systems allow for an operator to draw “boxes” for still graphics, animations, crawls and video, all tied to appropriate data sources to continually update messages on each display based on the day and time.
A playout device is required to translate the output from the creation station to the display screen. Worship facilities with more than one screen with require a separate device for each unique output. This is imperative if different messages are created and assigned to different screens, such as if sending different messages to the lobby or the preschool. However, facilities that are looking to translate identical content to two or more screens simply need to add a distribution amplifier for each additional screen. This will allow the system to distribute copies to multiple screens from a single playout device.
Digital signage can provide worship facilities with a dynamic platform to change and rotate messages that would otherwise be given far less attention. It also allows facilities to take better advantage of their real estate, sharing an infinite amount of information to members across different areas of the building.
The next segment of this series will focus on expanding a digital signage network to multiple sites, the tools and skill sets required to operate such a system, and the benefits of communicating with a wider audience across two or more locations.
Paul Schwantes is Business Manager, Channel Sales America for Harris broadcast Communications. The Harris InfoCaster Creation Station excels in digital signage solutions for houses of worship, supporting many different types of elements and combining them into a layered composition that resembles content you would see on a television channel. www.harris.com