Sunday, July 17, 2011

My my, what a big screen you have!

We've all seen them. Conference rooms the size of a walk-in closet in which the client wants (and the salesperson sold) a display the approximate size of Rhode Island. As a pointless just-for-the-heck-of-it mental exercise you calculate the optimum viewing distance and, as experience and common sense tell you, it's someplace in the next room. You put it in anyway, and the client is not only delighted, but seems underwhelmed by the reasonably-sized display in the net room over. You go on to the next job, your faith in clients to make good decisions at an all time low. Until the next time.

So what really is happening here? Is everyone being seduced by the "wow" of an oversized display? If you take the time to ask (and can do so diplomatically) the answer is often an attempt to duplicate the home-theater experience.

Commercial applications are all about transmitting information. Displays need to be readable with enough detail for given tasks. If you can read the text on the powerpoint presentation and see the facial features on the far-end videoconference participants you're doing fine.

Home theater, on the other hand, is about an experience. To see the image isn't enough, you need to be immersed in it, almost overwhelmed by it. SMPTE and THX each have guidelines which specify a display that essentially fills ones field of vision. If a commercial installation is to be used for conferencing or document review, there's little need for this. If it will sometimes play media then many clients want at least as engaging an experience as they get at home. And that means BIG.

So the moral of the story? One size, in this case literally, does not fit all. When you see something strange and outside of normal best practices, ask. Knowing that a more theater-like experience could create an opportunity to upsell, adding upgraded speakers, for example, or a surround sound processor. If it's a more vague, "We just want everything to be big" or that there's a similar size room with a huge display in a different facility and they want them to match -- well, you always keep the right to secretly believe that some people are a little crazy when it comes to their AV choices.

At the very least you'll better understand what your client wants and why they want it. Knowing, as they say, is half the battle.

Look for my next entry (a writing one!) later this week.

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