Digital Signage, Sharing Content & Size/Dimensions

This KB briefly describes best practices related to the size/dimensions of shared content

When creating digital signage content, especially when intending to share it with other campus units, it is important to understand the concepts of dimensions and aspect ratios. 
Content such as images and videos have specific dimensions, a width and height measured in pixels. Likewise, the templates that divide the total screen area into distinct content areas also have widths and heights measured in pixels. 

While it is possible to create content that fits exactly into the template regions pixel-per-pixel, it becomes challenging to do so when sharing content with other units. that use their own templates that may contain content regions of many sizes of which you have no control. However, many types of content, including images (e.g. JPG/PNG) and video (e.g. MP4 and WMV) can be resized/scaled to fit regions of differing pixel dimensions. For best results when scaling, content and template designers alike focus on aspect ratios rather than just pixels. 

Aspect ratio is simply the ratio of width to height.
Digital Signage Content Aspect Ratio 16:9
As best practice, template and content designers are encouraged to design content and templates around the most common aspect ratios. The two most common are 16:9 and 4:3. Content designed to a specific aspect ratio will able to be resized to a region with the same aspect ratio without appearing warped or having empty spaces surrounding it. It is also recommended that content be designed to “scale down” from larger pixel dimensions to to fit smaller regions with smaller pixel dimensions.

Thus, when designing content for 16:9, a pixel dimension of 1920x1080 is appropriate. 1920x1080 is the typical native resolution of digital signage displays and a simplistic template that had a single region encompassing the entire area of the screen would fit content that is 1920x1080 perfectly without any scaling. For templates that divide the screen into several distinct content regions, that same content would scale down into any region – but would look best in regions that had dimensions such as 1280x720 or 960x540 because they share the same 16:9 ration of width to height. 

It is always better to scale down than to scale up so that your content can retain maximum quality when scaled. Using content with the dimensions of 960x540 will scale up to fit in a region that is 1920x1080 but may not look as clear as content that is either the same dimensions or scaled down. The rule of thumb is that you can’t add quality that isn’t there to begin with. Designing for a high resolution and scaling down ensures that the quality will be present whether displaying full screen or scaled down.

Additionally, when sharing content, it is a good idea to be clear not only about the subject matter of your content but also about its pixel dimensions and aspect ratios. This should be done in some manner in the content name/description within FWI Content Manager as well as the filename itself. 
The following content for example:

Filename: S:\Public Affairs\PA-CCFD2017-16x9-1920x1080.JPG
Content Name: PA-CCFD2017-16x9-1920x1080
Content Description: Campus Charitable Fund Drive 1920x1080 for all 16:9 Regions

So when it comes to sharing content, is just providing 16:9 enough? While it is wise to be efficient in our work, it is a good idea to provide both 16:9 and 4:3 versions. While it is highly unlikely that a display will have a native resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio, it is very likely that templates used for displays with a native resolution of 1920x1080px will have regions with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

A 4:3 version of the content item above may appear as this:

Filename: S:\Public Affairs\PA-CCFD2017-4x3-1200x900.JPG
Content Name: PA-CCFD2017-4x3-1200x900
Content Description: Campus Charitable Fund Drive 1200:900 for all 4:3 Regions

It is important to remember that the native resolution being 1920x1080px (16:9) does not mean you won’t use a template to create primary regions for your content that could be either 16:9 or 4:3.
Digital Signage Content Aspect Ratio 4:3
And, of course, in all of this we are discussing only “primary regions” that will contain the larger and most important content elements rather than any of the other, more numerous, regions of various sizes used for date/time, weather, tickers, etc.

How many campus units are currently utilizing templates that have regions that are either 16:9  is unknown but over time content creators and template designers alike should gravitate towards the use of these common aspect ratios. Doing so will make it easier to share content between campus units and even make template design easier as there are tools built directly into the FWi Template Designer that allow regions to be resized to 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios without having to calculate the width and height themselves. 




Keywords:Digital Signage, Content Sharing, Content Size, Content Dimensions, Aspect Ratios   Doc ID:76828
Owner:Thomas K.Group:University of Illinois Technology Services
Created:2017-09-25 12:01 CDTUpdated:2017-09-26 09:16 CDT
Sites:University of Illinois Technology Services
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