Jan 13, 2017

Top 5 questions to ask when selecting a video wall

FUTURE REVIEW 6 min read

Millions of square feet of video walls are being installed annually − and the market is enjoying double-digit growth. There are more options than ever when it comes to building large video walls for 24/7 control rooms. While some video walls must “wow” prospective viewers visually to catch their attention (i.e., advertising ala digital signage), others focus on ergonomic design, functionality, serviceability, and critical data within a continually manned 24/7 decision-making environment (i.e., control room).

The contenders – LCD, RPC and LED

Only Tiled LCD, RPC (Rear Projection Cube) and LED (Direct View LED) are considered to be viable technologies for control rooms in critical infrastructure environments. These include utilities, traffic/transportation agencies, and security and surveillance centers, where having accurate, real-time data can mean the difference between life and death. Each video wall technology has its own strengths and weaknesses, so how do you determine which one is right for you? 

The purchasing decision should be driven by the particular requirements of the application. That means resisting the temptation of a special sales price, shiny new housing or initial brightness. The most important factors focus on image quality, reliability and other aspects that help you choose an option that performs consistently at optimum levels for the long term.

We believe that there are five key questions to consider when choosing a video wall for your 24/7 operation. We’ve rated these criteria with respect to the various video wall technologies on the market today:  LCD, RPC and LED, indicating their suitability to critical infrastructure environments as follows:

GREEN – Optimal

YELLOW – Satisfactory

RED – Not Recommended

1. Image Quality: What is the level of color, brightness and contrast consistency over time?

Image Quality_ImageColor and brightness are of vital importance in control rooms and are critical factors in comparing displays. While every video wall technology provides plenty of brightness for control room use, the real challenge lies in maintaining a constant brightness over the entire wall, over time.


Things to consider: Are the colors and brightness consistent across the wall? Do you need manual intervention to keep the wall balanced in respect to color and brightness? Will the display units still be equalized (internally consistent) five years from now? Or, even more fundamentally: is it even possible to balance these discrete image generators across an entire wall?

Moving ahead slightly, the fact that Barco’s new RGB laser video walls for 24/7 control rooms deliver the best possible color gamut and are the brightest displays make them the most attractive option for critical infrastructure environments.


2. Ergonomics:  What is the viewing distance for control room operators?

Ergonomics_imageA display wall installed in a control room should be ergonomically friendly for the control room operators and supervisors. It is a well-known fact that the display wall should be designed for operator legibility − i.e., can he/she read the fonts?

FIN Graphic_Image

Legibility is a function of the right combination of the desired pixel pitch plus the aggregate resolution required to display all applications across the wall. Users should also consider the screen viewing angle that enables the operator to maintain a consistent view of the display wall with limited [little or no] brightness drop-off. Proper screen selection and positioning the operator in front of the video wall will produce the most positive result.


3. Reliability and Serviceability: What are the expected long-term reliability and service needs?

Reliability_ImageControl rooms are built to provide situational awareness in order to facilitate fast and accurate decision-making, so uptime is of paramount importance. Failure of the video wall could lead not only to crises, but devastating financial and company image problems.

These factors are critical in developing the requirements for a 24/7 environment:

  • • Designed for 24/7 usage
  • • Redundancy and/or high availability
  • • Modular design for fast and easy servicing
  • • Spare parts and service availability


4. Longevity: What is the lifespan and upgradeability of the video wall?

Longevity_ImageThere is an inverse relationship between advances in video wall technology and the typical lifespan of the actual control room facility, i.e., video wall technology evolves much faster than the building housing the control room deteriorates. As a result of this dilemma, investment protection is often overlooked when evaluating the various video wall options.

In most cases, large screen visualization solutions have an average lifespan of eight years, but with the latest laser illuminated models, can extend to more than 11 years. But beyond the estimated lifespan, you should also consider the following factors:

  • • Designed for longevity in a 24/7 operation
  • • Supplier EOL (End-Of-Life) and EOS (End-Of-Service) policies
  • • Maintenance contract offerings and commitments
  • • Form, Fit, Function technology upgrade offerings
  • • Investment protection

Note:  It is also very wise to invest in a display wall that has the ability to be upgraded over time to avoid costly re-construction work.


5. Total Cost-Of-Ownership (TCO): What are the total costs incurred over the control center’s lifetime? 

Total Cost of Ownership_ImageThe cost of the video wall should be evaluated over the expected longevity of the control center – not the lifetime of a display unit. Most 24/7 control rooms typically have a lifespan of 20 years, so you should consider the total investment in the solution over this time period, factoring in total costs for procurement, operation, cooling and maintenance. Based on a lifespan of 8-11+ years for today’s video walls, facilities will need to upgrade or procure an additional video wall at some point in the future.

Each of the video wall technologies require a different level of operating costs, which are driven by the following factors:

  • Longevity
  • Equipment system power consumption
  • Cooling requirements
  • Reliability
  • Serviceability

And the winner is…

Of course there are many other factors you should consider when choosing a video wall technology. When taking the requirements of control rooms into account – and “testing” technology vs. those requirements − the most logical conclusion is that Rear Projection Cube (RPC) is the best overall solution.

The RGB Laser for 24/7 Control Rooms is THE ultimate video wall for critical infrastructure monitoring
If all of your needs point toward procuring a rear projection cube, then don’t settle for anything less than Barco’s RGB Laser for 24/7 Control Rooms display. Leveraging decades of experience in rear projection video wall technology, Barco evolved this solution to feature a laser light source, offering a quantum leap in performance, quality and ergonomics.