The Designer’s Guide to Developing Digital Assets for LED Video Boards
As with all design outlets, there are best practices for designing assets for an LED board. Something that is designed on a computer screen may look different on the LED video wall and vice versa. It is important to keep these in mind for maximizing your visual impact on event attendees. Here are the most important things to keep in mind when developing LED video assets:
Make design elements as big and bold as possible in relation to slide size
A common misconception is that since LED video boards are significantly bigger than a standard television, then you can fit more content onto a single slide. In fact, the opposite is true. You want less information and graphics per slide on an LED board for 2 major reasons.
The first reason is that even though LED boards are bigger than a standard TV, their pixel density is significantly lower which translates to lower resolutions in relation to screen size. Insane Impact utilizes a 6mm pixel pitch – meaning the pixels on our screens are 6mm in distance apart. The lower the pitch, the higher the pixel density and higher the resolution. 6mm is a very “tight” pitch in regards to LED video walls. However, it typically translates to a lower resolution than your 1920x1080p monitor. To put it into perspective, a 6mm video wall would have to be 38 feet wide by 21 feet high. Most video walls, especially mobile units, do not achieve a size this big.
In addition to the technical reasons, from a marketing standpoint it makes sense to design bold as well. Consumer’s attention spans are short enough as is, but when they are in an event-setting it can be even worse. There are many times I am sent ads by my client that is a print ad that they want me to put on our LED boards. The problem with this is that there is usually too fine of print and too much print. Even if consumers can read it they simply won’t. The bottom line is the bolder and more concise the message, the better.
Design still slides to exact pixel count of intended display portion
What is most important is that slides and videos are designed at the same ratio as the intended display portion of the video board. For example, if you have a square digital advertisiment display panel and the resolution of the video board is 480p x 480p, then a 4,000p x 4,000p file will scale seamlessly to our screen all the same. However, a resolution file than the board itself will not translate to a higher image quality on the board. The file is only as clear as the board it is being presented on. That is why It is best to design slides at the same specs as the actual board instead of blowing up the image to be giant. In addition to having no effect on actual LED viewing quality, it is less data transfer to deal with and it will give you a more accurate representation of how the file will appear on the video board.
Videos are different, however. Since video is typically in a 16:9 format, as long as the board it is displaying on is 16:9, then there is no point in resizing it. For example, if you have a 1920x1080p video clip, it would be a waste of time to shrink it down in size to 864x480p for a video board. LED display software scales it down automatically. Again, all that is important is the ratio. However, if you are doing a custom video display application, i.e. a 2:3 tall aspect ratio, then I would recommend using the exact resolution for simplicity’s sake.
Avoid pure white backdrops wherever possible
Traditional white backdrops on digital assets are advised against for LED video boards. The main reason is that white backdrops display imperfections on LED video screens. While good LED video board providers will take extra steps to ensure that every pixel and LED module is ready to go, it is an inevitable reality that LED modules or pixels will go bad before and even during shows, and a white backdrop amplifies the noticeability of this big time. To be safe, you want to try to use less white for this reason.
Another reason is that light text and graphics laid over a darker backdrop will make the image pop much more. From a general aesthetics standpoint, assets look best with a dark backdrop and a light foreground. A lot of white on a screen can appear so bright that it blinds attendees, especially at night. Compared to other types of screens like LCDs, LED screens shine extremely bright, and having pure white typically appears unpleasantly bright to viewers and washes out the intended message or image that it is laid over.
The last major reason for avoiding white backdrops is for power consumption. White content utilizes significantly more power than other colors. This can cause clipping of the video board if power is not ample. As long as there is enough power, this is not an issue, but when there is power constraints on-site this can be a big issue. All of our mobile units with on-board power are tested to withstand 100% white content, but that is not always the case when supplied power elsewhere.
How to avoid white backgrounds:
From personal experience, it can be tough designing ads that aren’t against a white backdrop. Since traditional logos are over white. If you only have a jpeg with a white background, it may not look the best having this laid over a non-white background. The best way to make it easy on yourself is request raw assets in PNG or Vector, something that does not have the white background. If all you have available is a jpeg with a white background, another option is creating a white container on a template for sponsor ads to go into. If you need all-white content that is fine, but be sure to communicate it in advance so the proper power and screen maintenance steps are taken. That is why we request LED files at least 5 business days in advance to show-time to revise and prepare.
In conclusion, the 3 golden rules for developing LED content for video boards is 1. Big and bold images/text 2. Design files to correct pixel ratio and pixel count, and 3. Avoid white backgrounds whenever possible. If you follow these rules, you will get the biggest impact from your LED message.
Insane Impact also offers design services free of charge, so if you want us to do it, or have any questions at all in regards to content, give us a call at 515-221-2924 or fill out a form on our contact page, and we will be happy to help you out.