4/21/11

Inexpensive Digital Signage with PowerPoint 2010

Note: After reading this article, you may want to also read the follow-up article here.

Have you wanted to setup fancy digital signage like that in banks, airports and hotels, but don’t have the budget?
Well, you aren’t out of luck. If you have a slim LCD (or LED) TV with a HDMI port and a computer with PowerPoint 2010 you can setup some decent digital signage.
Step 1: The Hardware:
  • Slim LCD TV (I prefer 1080p models)
  • A PC with a bare minimum of
    • a 2.0Ghz processor
    • 2GB Memory (More is Better)
    • I’m a Microsoft guy so I prefer Windows, but the premise is the same with an Apple
    • PowerPoint 2010 (or Apple Keynote)
  • A VGA to HDMI Upconverter
  • and a HDMI over Cat5 Extender (if TV will be located away from TV)
The setup is pretty simple your slide show software goes on your PC. The VGA output from the computer goes to the VGA to HDMI Upconverter. The HDMI port on the Upconverter goes to the HDMI port of the Cat5 extender. The other box of the Cat5 Extender has an HDMI port that goes to the back of the TV. Run two Cat 5 Cables from your computer location to where your TV is located. Make sure you mark the cables. Port 1 on the host unit must go to port 1 on the receiving unit. Plug in the Cat5 cables to the the Cat5 extender ports respectively.
You can setup the TV as your primary monitor or an extended desktop. I recommend an extended desktop (means you’ll need an extra monitor), since you will not be able to see what you are doing on the computer with the TV located far away. If you don’t want to bother with an extra monitor, make sure you dial in all your PowerPoint settings before you install everything.
You should now have a display on your TV from your computer. Make sure you crank up the screen resolution to 1080x1920 to get the maximum screen real estate. Now, on to the presentation.
The Slideshow:
Be creative. Just remember to set your page settings to 16:9 ratio an to loop your slideshow endlessly.
If you are using PowerPoint, I recommend the following plugins to maximize your presentation capabilities:
  • LiveWeb – Updates embedded websites every time the slideshow loops.
  • LiveImage – Updates linked images every time the slideshow loops.
  • Update Links – Updates linked items every time the slideshow loops.
  • Find more at skp.mvps.org.
I also found that MPEG4 in PowerPoint seem to have a memory leak that will crash your presentation after a day or so.
Conclusion:
That is really it. It only costs approximately 300 dollars if you already have PowerPoint, a compatible TV, and the computer. I had to get the TV and PowerPoint for my project, but it still only cost about $2000. That is a big change from say TightRope which would be about $6000 for a single display installation.
I did get to demo TightRope. The setup we just discussed above is no replacement for TightRope. It is an excellent professional product with extremely more features and functions than PowerPoint.
I also looked at SCALA, but it seems overly complex for what I wanted to do. It is extremely versatile and would be excellent for complex multimedia displays. I am intending to just give a small business the opportunity to display digital signage at a reasonable cost.
PowerPoint will run for months without issue as long as you configure the computer properly (aka disable anything unnecessary). 
Consumer grade TV’s will also work fine as long as you don’t go super cheap and turn it off during non-business hours. I used a 60 inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV for my installation $1300 at Best Buy).
These are pictures on the display recessed into a wall. For perspectives sake, the wall is about 9 feet wide and 10 feet high. So it is a big, bright display. Here it is showing a hi-def picture that doesn’t identify the installation location.
2011-01-20 17.42.28
2011-01-21 22.21.29
Good luck with your efforts. Please comment or ask questions. I’ll be happy to answer.

Post a Comment