During the past few years, video walls have shown enormous promise as attention-getting vehicles for retail sales, education, traveler information, and entertainment.
As the price of the technology gradually falls, video walls as small as 2x2 are being deployed all the way up to configurations numbering dozens of displays or more. No matter the size, one thing video walls all have in common is the need to manage how content is displayed.
Enter the video wall processor (sometimes called a controller), which is a device designed to capture, display, and manage multiple sources on a video wall and support a wide range of visual inputs, including analog, digital, and HD audio and computer sources.
As a value-added reseller (VAR), your customers will likely have many questions about what video wall processors do and how they can help make the most of their technology investment.
These are a few basic questions you're likely to receive and how to best explain them to your customers:
1. What is a video wall processor, and how does it work?
Think of a video wall as a busy airport with airplanes landing, taking off, and moving about the tarmac. The video processor is like the air traffic controllers who route airplanes to and from gates and direct landings and takeoffs.
The video processor directs how and when to display content, whether as a single image stretched over the entire video wall or as several images and video divided out and displayed on specific panels.
2. What's the first thing I need to know about selecting a video wall processor?
Besides knowing how much money is budgeted for a video wall processor, the most important consideration is selecting a processor capable of controlling the number of LCD displays comprising the video wall. It's okay to consider future expansion and buy a processor with more capacity than needed, but keep in mind that video wall processors typically start around $1,000 and go up from there depending on capacity and features.
3. What type of video wall controller do I need?
There are hardware-based controllers that are typically rack-mountable but do not have an operating system. The pros are high performance and reliability, and the cons are high cost and lack of flexibility.
Software-based controllers are typically used in control rooms and high-end digital signage installations. They run an operating system like Windows, Linux, or Apple OS in a PC or server. The pro is the ability to run more complex applications, but the con is that they are very expensive.
4. Can video wall processors support 4K content?
Yes, there are video wall processors manufactured that support UHD 4K resolution (3840x2160), but unless you're displaying 4K content, you'll be investing in technology overkill that will likely go unused.
5. What special features should I look for?
It all depends on budget, the size of the video wall, and the type of content that will typically be displayed. In general, look for the following features:
- high-speed, dedicated video/graphic bus that delivers real-time performance
- HDMI, DVI, VGA, USB 2.0+, component, Ethernet, RS-232 inputs/outputs
- multiple-display resolution up to HD or higher
- source zoom and pan, image upscaling and downscaling
- HDBaseT-compatible (for cable runs longer than current HDMI limit of 49 feet)
As video wall configurations become larger and more complex, support technology like video wall processors is evolving in order to deliver better performance and greater flexibility.
Keeping up with advancements in video wall technology can seem a bit daunting but knowing answers to the most often asked questions should put VARs in a better position to provide customers with turnkey video wall solutions.