How Big a Display Board Is Right for Our Venue?

With displays, bigger is almost always better. But how much display does your project need?

By Morgan MacArthur

We need to address the first and dominating factor of the display-- its size.

Home televisions and most computer monitors are a consistent resolution and aspect ratio, with units conforming to one of a few common standards. And no matter what size of television you purchase, or what resolution it can display, it will generally be 16:9 in aspect ratio.

Suffice to say the videoboard industry is not that organized. There are a number of reasons, like far fewer units being produced than televisions, and far more varied installations and sizes necessary to integrate with venues. But the bottom line is, most large-scale LED screens are custom-built one-offs.

Large-scale videoboards are made up of individual tiles, built into large cabinets. Every manufacturer that builds their own cabinets, build their tiles in a unique size, shape, depth, weight, and quality. This means that each vendor's finished board will be made up of different elements, and likely the end-product will be slightly different from each.

Most vendors can come within a few inches of a customer’s exact specifications, but every vendor’s proposal will be a little different. Cabinets can be assembled in virtually any shape-- which can lead to very creative and exciting end products, but again, that screen will also require custom-shaped content.

The location in a venue where a large display can be located is generally not designed beforehand to be 16:9 friendly. As most customers wanti to fill a space with the largest video display possible, the end result can be literally any aspect ratio. To fill that screen with images or video requires custom production, and additional equipment to drive the unique shape (and potentially additional zones altogether) of this display. This leads to more expense for back-end equipment, like the aforementioned processors, scalers, and more.

Take a drive down the Las Vegas strip, and you won’t see a two screens alike-- every installation is a custom size and shape. In addition to aspect ratio, the more spectacular displays are built with modules that can curve, bend, and even actively change shape. These premium installations understand from the outset that they will need significant creative staff and budget to continually create custom content.

In the end, almost every project is unique. Most clients want to install the largest screen possible for a location, so here are some tips on making sure you can.

Weight can become an issue when the display is large enough, and wind load is an absolutely critical factor for any large outdoor signs. Soil strength and condition where you are building, or high water tables can play havoc with a project, often when the project is already in process.

The more you know about your location, the better your vendor can provide for you. Know what you are building on, know what's behind every wall, know what kind of exposure your screen will be subject to.

The bigger the sign, the more visible it is-- but a larger sign can be so large that viewing angles become an issue. From a distance, viewing angles are unimportant. But at nearer distances, a viewer can be seeing a screen straight on in the center, but at 45 degrees or more at the edges. This can affect the image quality significantly.

Even with caveats, wanting the biggest LED sign means you are looking at a big cost. There can be value in considering a larger sign with lower resolution, to get all the impact without all the cost. To that end, we will look at pixel pitch and resolution next.


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