The Experience of Digital Signage

Digital Signage, IPTV drive ads and entertainment at Amway center. 2/16/2011 7:00 AM Eastern

The Experience of Digital Signage

Feb 16, 2011 12:00 PM

Digital Signage, IPTV drive ads and entertainment at Amway center.

The digital signage system at the Amway Center includes more than 1,000 screens, which sit on a common network that Harris IT Services monitors daily.

The glass-and-metal spire that rises 180ft. above the new Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., projects a strong impression to the casual spectator that this facility is more than your run-of-the-mill arena. Passing through the doors provides near-immediate confirmation as fans of the Orlando Magic are struck with enough audio and visual stimuli to impress even the most jaded fan. The Amway Center is more than a home for the Orlando Magic. The 875,000 square-foot center, operated by the city of Orlando and owned by the Central Florida community, is a thoroughly engaging multimedia showcase that sets a new standard in fan experience.

Digital signage is central to that experience. The arena boasts approximately 1,100 screens located throughout the premises. The signage network integrates with an IPTV system to distribute a variety of feeds over a common network infrastructure that meets the challenge of synchronizing video and audio content over multiple subnets. This ultimately enables a managed platform for delivering targeted content to IP-addressable players and screens across the immense network.

Harris worked with Professional Communications Systems (PCS) of Tampa, Fla., on systems integration. Harris integrated the digital signage and IPTV network components, and PCS installed the signs throughout the arena to the city of Orlando and the Orlando Magic’s specifications. Meanwhile, Harris IT Services built a core network infrastructure to distribute both digital signage content and 70 channels of MPEG-2 IPTV programming at 16MBps.

Managed Services

The network is managed from a control room featuring more than 800 broadcast and digital signage devices. Employees at Harris headquarters in Melbourne, Fla.—more than 75 miles from the arena—monitor the network around the clock to ensure no interruptions. Onsite personnel from both the Magic and Harris IT Services generate content and monitor network operations, respectively.

The screens rotate dynamic content based on animations, still graphics, and video. On the fly, displays are triggered to show high-impact replays and highlights, venue messaging, out-of-home advertising, or any combination of three.

The system also enables advertisers to display their brands and messages on every screen at the same time, usually in 40-second increments. This offers what the Magic and city of Orlando call “moments of exclusivity” marketing opportunities. Low-latency delivery enables immediate projection of both general fan content and advertiser information on any or all of the 1,100 screens, as well as a separate Daktronics display system inside the arena.

The combined digital signage and IPTV system also ties to a Micros point-of-sale system that allows instant and dynamic changes to concession-area displays and video menu boards, including price changes. Menu boards are directly connected to cash registers, which gives the Magic and its concessionaire a way to monetize menu boards. Harris InfoCaster software can simultaneously display food offerings to drive point-of-purchase sales while entertaining fans with other content.

Design and Integration

PCS was instrumental in testing the system, providing space in its Orlando-area facility for pre-install staging. This ensured a smooth commissioning process while preventing the theft of screens and other equipment. Once delivered to the arena, PCS ran the cables and hung the signs—mainly 42in. Samsung plasma monitors. PCS also designed custom mounts for the InfoCaster media players co-located with the signs, which were mounted at unusual angles per the Amway Center’s specifications.

Harris IT Services installed a fat pipe with plenty of bandwidth to accommodate traffic generated from multiple systems. The team’s extensive knowledge of Cisco-based IP networks was instrumental in providing video and audio synchronization over five distinct subnets. This includes the Harris digital signage and IPTV out-of-bowl systems as well as the Daktronics in-bowl system.

The Harris Digital Signage solution is based on InfoCaster hardware/software solutions for content creation, network management, and media playout; and Punctuate advanced business software built into the InfoCaster platform. The InfoCaster head-end, housing the electronics for the Creation and Network Management pieces, populate about half of a single rack in the control room.

NetVX encoders populate additional rack space in the control room, which otherwise includes nine equipment racks housing a variety of Cisco and Harris gear. The NetVX encoders are multipurpose units, encoding video and audio for digital signage and IPTV playout operations as either single- or multiprogram transport streams.

In the same racks, Harris Panacea routers, Channel One branding systems, 6800+ terminal gear, and Nexio servers process, distribute, and playout both live and prerecorded material over the IPTV system. Diversified Systems served as the systems integrator for this portion of the project.

The Experience of Digital Signage

Feb 16, 2011 12:00 PM

Digital Signage, IPTV drive ads and entertainment at Amway center.

Live Operations

Despite its vast reach, a single operator controls the entire digital signage network. This includes creating new content on the InfoCaster Creation station and managing content from other sources. Once distributed, InfoCaster media players receive and decode video and audio content at the various display points, operating in a store-and-play configuration.

Various levels of synchronization are built into the operation. The InfoCaster players output synchronized AV content at the signs, as well as audio-only content at loudspeaker points in lieu of a Muzak or similar audio playout system. Audio and video synchronization is built into the signage software, eliminating the requirement for traditional hardware frame syncs.

Low-latency is one significant benefit of the system. Spectators watching a game from a suite may have one eye on the court and one on the digital sign. The system ensures that the live action on the court matches what’s on the screen.

The signal flow, along with overall system latency built into the network, eliminates the delay problems. Live HD-SDI shots from various cameras are transmitted via fiber to the NetVX bank, where the signals are encoded and distributed through the network to the InfoCaster media players for decoding and playout. The entire process takes less than one second, ensuring that live action and display screens are essentially synchronized.

Advertising Playout

Back in the control room, the signage system operator is also managing advertising playout. Moments of exclusivity campaigns also require interoperability between the Harris and Daktronics systems. This centralizes control to support effective, simultaneous playout of campaigns for these events.

This is where Harris IT Services’ comprehension of Cisco routers and switches was perhaps most valuable. There is an inherent challenge in synchronizing content over several unique subnets. In most cases, content divided among more than one subnet with naturally be out of sync by several frames.

The IT integration team configured the overall network so that network time protocols were permitted to travel among the different subnets unabated. This enables the InfoCaster Network Manager to trigger Moments of Exclusivity for simultaneous playout across the facility.

This could not be accomplished without interoperability between the Harris and Daktronics system. In advance of a Moments of Exclusivity campaign, a Daktronics operator directs InfoCaster to distribute a trigger to every player in the building. The message is passed over a fiber connection to InfoCaster Network Manager, which triggers the campaign for broadcast both inside the bowl and to the 1,100 digital signage screens outside the bowl.

The final cog in the digital signage system is the Punctuate advertising software. The signage operator builds playlists and identifies pockets of time for advertisements. The Network Manager component provides the program content, noting avails for commercial spots. Punctuate recognizes the avails and fills them with ads to fulfill campaigns. The signage operator identifies high-traffic areas and potential demographics during the playlist building process, establishing requirements for Punctuate to follow for advertising playout across the network.

The integrated production and distribution system for digital signage and IPTV content includes all the components the Orlando Magic needs to present event action, wayfinding information, promotions, local traffic and weather updates, and external advertising on scoreboards, television monitors and digital display signs in virtually every location on the premises. The cooperation of Harris, Daktronics, and PCS across multiple network and hardware integration levels—along with assistance from broadcast systems integrator Diversified Systems— has resulted in a unique multimedia and entertainment experience for every spectator that enters the building.

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