How to Choose the Right AV Display

very old projector with text "How to Choose the Right AV Display"

When I am talking to someone who has recently found out I am involved with AV professionally, I often get asked “What projector do you recommend”?

This is almost as hard to answer as the proverbial “How long is a piece of string”?  There are many factors to take into consideration, and most of those factors have nothing to do with the technical performance of the projector or other display device.  Further, there is a general assumption that only projectors can be considered as display devices, which is sometimes true, but not always.  Let’s look at some of those factors.

Mission

What are you trying to achieve by making this change?  Are you looking to display the words of hymns or worship songs for the congregation (so you can save the cost of paper copies)?  Replace Orders of Service?  Illuminate sermons? Or are you looking “to be more culturally relevant” to youth or society?  Do you want to provide a regular movie experience as a community outreach, or provide background content at a social enterprise café?  Or are you simply wanting a way to display the church council agenda during the meeting?

These types of questions are important because what you are trying to do will in a large measure determine what type of content you will want to display.  Hymns and Orders of Service is typically essentially text; content to amplify a sermon might be a mix of images, infographics and text.  Currently, “culturally relevant” is code for video material.  (By the way, to present video successfully you will need good audio system capability as well as the display system.)  A café might use a mixture of TV programming (video) and infographics material.

Different types of material have different requirements that need to be delivered by the solution.  Text needs to be clear, crisp and (above all) readable, so good resolution and good brightness levels are important.  Video needs a solution with very good contrast, and with the technical “grunt” to keep up with rendering 50 to 60 frames each and every second without missing a beat.  This is harder to measure objectively, but good video devices tend to have lots of internal processor power and internal memory.  Presentations can be text based or image based and so tend to need a combination of text and video requirements.

Readability

A critical factor for displaying text is how far the image is from the audience.  Obviously, the worst-case scenario are the people in the back corners – the size of the screen (especially the vertical size) makes a difference with this.  But a large screen may not be any good for viewers close to a display – if it is too big the display fills the field of vision and it becomes very difficult to read when you must physically turn your head to see each end of a line.  The rule of thumb used professionally is that the closest viewers should be more than 1½-times the height of the displayed image from the display, and the furthest viewer no more than 6-times the height of the displayed image.

The predominance of wide-screen formats for video material means that video is less dependent on vertical screen size, but instead depends more on horizontal screen size, within limits imposed by the aspect ratio of the format used.

Logistics & Installation

How do you need to operate your presentations?  Do you need to setup and pack away all your equipment every time you use it?  Are you going to use the equipment in the same place every time?  How technically savvy are your technology operators?

Solutions can be portable, semi-portable, semi-permanently installed or permanently installed.  Devices have been developed optimised for each of these scenarios.  One can select solutions that need to be installed at the edge of a space, or in the middle of a space. 

A potential solution needs to be considered in the context of both what you are trying to achieve and the constraints and advantages of the space (or spaces) in which you are going to use it.

So, before you go shopping for a display device, do yourself a favour and make sure you understand why you want it, and what that means the device you end up with needs to do.

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