A Networked Signage System for a Community College, Part 1
Apr 26, 2010 6:29 PM, By Bennett Liles
Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.
Keywest Technology was called on to install an extensive digital signage network with remote control displays and distributed operation on the campus of Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kan. David Little is here to give us all the details on how the network was set up and how it works.
SVC: David, it’s great to have you with me representing Keywest Technology on the Networked AV podcast, and this was a job right out there in your own backyard out there in Kansas—a big digital signage installation on the campus of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. First of all, though, tell me a little bit about Keywest Technology.
Little: Keywest Technology, we were chartered in 1998 and incorporated in ’99, and so after several years of video hardware development, … we really at that time saw a bigger future in software. So in 2001, Keywest Technology bought the assets of a company that had long roots with software called Video Data Systems, and they really pioneered in the field that was to become digital signage. We launched our first software-based product called MediaXtreme in 2002, and even though our current MediaZone software is all new code, it retains some of the broadcast conventions found in the original product. [Timestamp: 1:52]
Yes, I have seen a lot online over the past few years about MediaXtreme, and it’s very well-known. Now, on the Johnson County Community College campus-wide digital signage installation, how did you first get involved with the college on this? How did the job get started?
Yeah, it certainly didn’t get started overnight. Maybe it’s important for the listeners to realize that Keywest Technology, back in our broadcast hardware days, we had a working relationship with the college and their broadcast department. So I would say we had a long-standing tradition with them. At one time, we manufactured time-base correctors as well as Hamlet videoscopes, and the college used both of those products. [Timestamp: 2:33]
OK, so they knew you guys were around.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve had the relationship with them for almost 10 years, and then when they began to research products for their digital signage initiative, which was a couple of years prior to actually doing the installation, we gave them insight into what we were doing and some onsite demonstrations, and part of it also was the building to customize for them. [Timestamp: 2:55]
This is no small little placea 234-acre campus, I believe it isand I believe the network goes even beyond that.
Right, yeah, the main campus is about 234 acres, and then they have about three [campuses], and they are just about ready to add four satellite locations, including one in Lawrence, Kan., which is about 30 miles to our west. So it’s definitely a significant-sized community college, and I believe it’s the fifth-largest in the nation. [Timestamp: 3:24]
How many displays are we talking about in this big digital signage network for the campus?
The displays that we installed, there was approximately 75, very close to 75, that we put in—primarily LG displays. However, the campus already had installed, kind of in the hodge-podge format, about 25 displays. So right now, the system is somewhere hovering right around 100 displays in all the campus locations. [Timestamp: 3:52]
OK, and you mentioned this whole network is based on MediaZone, and exactly, for anybody that doesn’t know, what is MediaZone and how does that all work?
MediaZone is our newest digital signage effort, and the editor is really a content management system, depending on the kind of hardware you install on the player software. So MediaZone is two parts. There is the front-end side, which is the editor, and then there is the back-end side, which is the player software. This product is really our very best effort at bridging the gap between what we call video-based narrowcast channels, which is where we started, and now digital signage.
By bridging this gap, it’s important to realize that we’re using our broadcast roots with this software and that really makes it unique to the market, and it’s also why we’re able to deliver broadcast quality in the digital signage environment. We really have come to the point with the MediaZone software, depending on what hardware it’s mated with, that it will perform equally as well for video-based applications as well as for digital signage. And really this requires flexible software that doesn’t care about one type of standard but can conform to many standards. And that’s one of the keys here of what we are doing. We accomplish this by creating a template-based editor that has adjustable pixels. So if you kind of remember back to the days of all the transcoding that used to happen in the analog worldwhen there was POW formats, and C-cam formats, and all these different conversions and line rateswe used actually some of that technology and thought in developing MediaZone, so we’re able to go all the way from as few pixels as you possibly need all the way up to HDTV—not a problem for it.
MediaZone has the built-in template editor that controls the pixels that are played out from the hardware giving us the ability to meet any resolution all the way up to 1080p. And there’s another feature here that makes MediaZone rather unique in the marketplace, and that’s the exclusion of the broadcast-style character generator. For crying out loud, do you remember the CG, the character generator? [Timestamp: 6:04]
All too well.
All too well, yeah. These are things that the people in the broadcast field with nonlinear editors, of course, use on a daily basis. Well, believe it or not, the MediaZone has a CG very similar to what’s used in nonlinear editing, and it’s a plug-in to it. So with this CG, we can generate color backgrounds and boxes and fonts, crawls, scrolls, insert logos, do broadcast overlays, we even generated an alpha key, and it just brings it right in and overlays it on whatever you want to overlay it on. And so, the end result is it that it gives it a really professional presentation quality. [Timestamp: 6:45]
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