Video Quality

A common phrase around ScreenScape is “video quality voodoo”. Once you crack open the hood on a simple video, you realize how many variables are really involved. Change one thing and the quality of your results can be wildly different. Multiply this across an ever evolving Internet with standards, best practices, tools, and formats and it becomes apparent that ‘simple’ videos aren’t simple.

That said, there are some common factors that influence video quality more than others. These include:

  • a high quality source video
  • proper encoding
  • high resolution
  • a quality media player
  • a quality screen

h264logo


How video encoding impacts video quality

When a video is uploaded to ScreenScape, we accept any number of different source formats, resolutions, and codecs. In order to use these source videos, we take them and ‘encode‘ them to a common format and resolutions that will be used by the various parts of the system, such as duringvideo content creation, previews and the final video playback on a running display.

Why would I need to know about encoding settings?

The closer an uploaded video is to the final encoded video, the less chance there is for a loss of quality during translation. If you observe a loss of video quality after uploading a video to ScreenScape, the culprit is usually a mis-match between your original settings and the ScreenScape settings. We recommend uploading a version of your video that’s as close as possible to the published ScreenScape encoding settings.

When considering video encoding, the factors that have the most impact on video quality:

  • Bit Rate
  • Encoding efficiency
  • Compression

Here’s a solid overview of how video encoding works, along with some of the available tools for re-encoding videos yourself.


Video encoding settings used by ScreenScape:

  • file_extension: mp4
  • size: 1280×720
  • bitrate: 2500kbps
  • framerate: 29.97
  • video_codec: libx264 (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC)
  • audio_codec: dolby_aac
  • audio_bitrate: 128k
  • audio_sample_rate: 44100

Open online event: Discover ScreenScape Connect

ScreenScape Connect brings Plug and Play to Digital Signage

Here’s your invitation to join Jordan Chandler on Wednesday October 1, 2014 at 2 pm Eastern for a live web event about ScreenScape and how you can quickly and easily create a stunning digital display using ScreenScape Connect.

This 30 minute presentation is an introduction to ScreenScape Connect, an exciting new initiative from ScreenScape. Jordan will help you learn how to leverage ScreenScape to increase revenue at your place of business and beyond.

Even if you are unable to attend the live event, please feel free to register to receive the recorded version.

October 1
2PM EDT
Register

Chromecast vs. Connect


On first introduction to the new ScreenScape Connect, a common reaction is: “That looks like the Google Chromecast. What’s the difference?”.

It’s a reasonable question. On the surface the two devices look similar. However, under the covers the design goals and the software powering the two solutions are very different.


Google Chromecast

GOOGLE-Chromecast_main

The Chromecast is a multi-purpose consumer device, designed to do many things: stream video and music, display photos, watch movies, play games, and more.

Its primary purpose is to connect a TV with a second device – e.g. a smartphone or tablet. The design of the Chromecast presumes that there is an operator present interacting with the device – someone to launch apps, press Play, or mirror content from another device.

The value proposition of the Google Chromecast is all about interaction: “send your favourite online shows, movies, music and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Why not Chromecast for Digital Signage?

Chromecast second device 2.png

It’s tempting to think that a Chromecast might be used, out of the box, for digital signage. But the truth is this would be hard to pull off without a major re-think of the assumptions behind the device. Surely there’s a clever hobbyist out there who can rig up some way to make it work… sort of. But for your average person, it’s not a fit.

Why? The design of the Chromecast presumes that every time it’s turned on there’s an operator nearby, likely with a second device in hand, ready to interact with the screen.

With most use cases in digital signage, the luxury of assuming a live operator is completely absent. There is rarely (never?) a user available to click OK or start over in case of the unexpected. Not to mention that in a standard commercial environment, it’s both expensive and impractical to assume that a second smart device could be dedicated to interaction whenever the ‘Chromecast sign’ needed a kick. And who would do the kicking: the bartender, the retail clerk, the fast food vendor, the transit worker? They’re busy, and trained for other duties besides. The requirement is clear: The sign should work completely independently of an on-site operator.

(Out of fairness to the folks over at Google, this isn’t a knock on their product. Digital signage simply wasn’t in their design requirements. It’s no surprise it doesn’t really fit that use case. Square peg, round hole.)


ScreenScape Connect

Dell Cloud Connect

The Connect is a single purpose commercial device, dedicated to doing one thing: power a digital sign.

Its primary purpose is to operate independently; there is no second device or live operator assumed to be alongside the Connect. After it’s set up, it sits at the back of a screen and quietly does its job. Regardless of circumstances like software errors, missing resources, flickering power or loss of connectivity, the show must go on.

The value proposition of the ScreenScape Connect is independence and reliability: “Set it and forget it.

Critical for success in digital signage, the design of the Connect presumes that there is NO operator. There’s no one to turn it on in the morning, press Play, launch apps, or reconnect to the Internet when things go wrong. For the Connect, normal operation is to run for weeks and months without any direct interaction with a human being. It can reboot itself, monitor and restart critical resources as needed, update itself silently, and gracefully recover from unexpected events like power loss and lost connections.

Can the Connect be repurposed and used like a Chromecast?

No. The Connect is single-purpose, designed to do one thing only – power a ScreenScape digital sign. All other features and interactions have been either stripped out or permanently locked down through the firmware of the device.

If you need a device to sling content to from your phone… use Chromecast!



Chromecast vs. Connect?

The Chromecast is not designed to be a digital signage player, and the Connect is dedicated specifically for digital signage. Because of this, there’s very little overlap in how they are used.


Connect or Chromecast direction

Conclusion? While they look similar, the Chromecast and the Connect are very different on the inside. These differences make them suitable for very distinct purposes. For home entertainment use, Chromecast is an excellent choice. For a place of business and digital signage, choose ScreenScape Connect.

YouTube Advisory

If you are using YouTube videos in your ScreenScape display, please be advised:

A recent change by the Google team to the proprietary YouTube player has introduced unstable behavior when playing YouTube videos.

Users affected by this error may observe a black screen when playing attempting to play YouTube videos inside the Smart Player (v1) application. The black screen condition may persist for up to 44 minutes, after which the Smart Player will recover and continue. The condition re-occurs at each instance of YouTube content in a playlist.

Google is aware of this issue and is working on a resolution. In the interim, if you observe this condition ScreenScape recommends that you remove all YouTube content from your playlist (‘Unpublish from display’) and reboot your media player.

Another solution is to use hosted video templates. Using hosted videos instead of YouTube is a better choice for your ScreenScape display. Hosted videos require less bandwidth, will play online or offline, and are free of advertisements

Have questions? Please contact ScreenScape Support for advice or assistance.

New Content Features – Summer 2014

This Sunday our Product team will be introducing some exciting new tools for content creation.

In a nutshell, we’ve upgraded the user interface with new search and sort tools. We’ve also added free images and videos for new users to experiment with straight out of the box. Finally, we’ve added premium collections for industry specific content creation (like Automotive, Food&Bev, or Retail).

Video: PEI’s Finest Golf and Rodd’s Hotels & Resorts Use ScreenScape for Digital Signage



No one understands the benefits of place-based marketing better than ScreenScape customers. Here’s a testimonial from two such customers. One is the operator of luxury hotels and resorts, and the other is an operator of world class golf courses. They are also business partners and now they use ScreenScape to coordinate marketing messages across their multiple establishments.

One of the most important factors in driving profitability as a tourism operator is in maximizing each customer visit both from a revenue perspective and for excellence in customer satisfaction. In this video the marketing folks behind PEI’s Finest Golf and Rodd’s Hotels and Resorts, share how they use ScreenScape to coordinate their marketing programs and spur customer engagement.

ScreenScape University with Kevin Dwyer



Watch and learn as ScreenScape President and CSO, Kevin Dwyer, explains how businesses collaborate using ScreenScape.

Using real world examples Kevin illustrates how Venues can share content with one another, how Groups aggregate Venues to form networks for large scale place-based marketing, and how Content Memberships are used to onboard suppliers and community partners so they too can participate in the process.

The three membership types give shape and structure to the ScreenScape eco-system, allowing industry partners to play their natural role in the retail marketing process.

Do yourself a favour and listen closely. No one explains it better than Kevin!

A chat with Chris Carragher
ScreenScape’s Vice President of Information Technology

Learn a little more about ScreenScape through the eyes of Chris Carragher, ScreenScape’s Vice President of Information Technology.



chris

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background

I’ve been working in software development since the late 90’s and have held various roles in software development and team management.



2. Tell us a little about your role at ScreenScape.

I work with the executive team to understand the business and product vision and help coordinate the execution of this vision. I’m responsible for ScreenScape’s custom template professional services and I manage the day-to-day operations of the engineering teams (staffing, budgeting, performance management, etc.). Also, I’m often hands-on with software development, testing, and support.



3. What is it that interests you in place-based media?

Many people see our software in action in our customer’s venues. These “users” of our software don’t require any training, or even a computer; the software speaks for itself. It’s interesting and rewarding to walk into a venue and see our software making a difference for our customers.



4. What do you see as ScreenScape’s key differentiators?

Not only does our software fill signage needs for our customers, it also creates opportunities for our customers to create content, and business, relationships with each other.



5. Tell us about something you’re working on lately that is important to ScreenScape’s future and might be interest to our readers.

We have many templates in our system that help our customers create content and communicate effectively with their customers. As robust as our templates are, some customers have very specific needs and require custom templates. Custom templates are a cost-effective approach that helps our customers create professional, targeted and branded content. We’ve recently delivered custom templates to several of our customers.



6. Where do you see place-based media going over the next five years?

Cheaper hardware and easier deployments will enable wide-scale adoption.

ScreenScape live demonstration

5 Ways to Lift Sales using ScreenScape:

Join us for a live demonstration of ScreenScape. Here’s your invitation to join Jordan Chandler, on Wednesday July 9th, 2014 at 2 pm Eastern for a live web event about ScreenScape and how you can quickly and easily create a stunning digital display. This 20 minute presentation will take a glance at some real life examples of organizations using ScreenScape. Jordan will help you learn how to leverage ScreenScape to increase revenue at your place of business and beyond.

Even if you are unable to attend the live event, please feel free to register to receive the recorded version.

July 9
2 PM EDT
Register

Case Study: Guelph Public Library

Guelph Public Library embraces ScreenScape to modernize their library.

Established in 1883, the Guelph Public Library (GPL) is the oldest free public library in Ontario, Canada. It provides a broad range of services for people of all ages and backgrounds, many of whom would otherwise not have access to these valuable resources. Its balanced and diverse collection in a variety of formats enriches, educates, and entertains. GPL benefits the entire community and surrounding areas by providing lifelong learning opportunities and affording all of its members the freedom to read, learn, and discover. The Guelph Public Library is the most widely used recreational space and community facility in Guelph serving customers at the Main library plus at 5 branches and a bookmobile. What follows is a recently published case study (also available in PDF).ScreenScape display: Guelph Public Library  

Live Display: See what’s playing on one of their screens right now.

In what place or places are your screens?

The screens are located at main checkout areas within each library location as well as in high traffic areas. Currently, we are running 9 screens across 6 library locations throughout the city of Guelph.

What kind of messaging is generally on the screens?

We keep our displays entertaining with photos from our archival database to endorse local history marketing and promotional campaigns such as “GPL…your other best friend!” We also have upcoming events, community news, service additions and/or enhancements, website promotions such as our Robert Munsch portal, holidays and hours of operation.

What are the main benefits you are seeing from using place-based media?

We know we have a 30 second “window” to sell the library product to our customers while they are waiting to have their materials checked out. ScreenScape is the perfect fit for this communication! It helps to modernize the library with cleaner, more appealing advertising – this is not your grandma’s library!

ScreenScape also reduces the clutter of printed materials leading to better customer service and allows us to customize the information to specific customers and library locations while also permitting us to place the exact same message in all library locations at once. Our communication is improved with timely information and we find ScreenScape a great bang for our marketing bucks.

What do you like about ScreenScape as a technology?

The best is that it’s easy to use, very efficient and reliable. Another perk is that it encourages community partnerships, and we can oversee content of all locations from any internet connected computer. The customizable templates make it easy to create content and this allows us to send a positive message about technology and libraries.

How was the experience of working with ScreenScape?

It has been very professional and a positive experience working with ScreenScape. The installation and start-up process was quick. The strong customer service team there has an excellent response time to any questions we have.

What are your future plans for place-based media?

We will continue to increase community partnerships and the sharing of information with our customers. We would love a library specific portal for the sharing of library specific designs and ideas.

Case Study: Guelph Public Library
Download a print-friendly version here: Guelph Public Library.