THURSDAY 05 SEPTEMBER 2019
Choosing the Right Display Technology for your Broadcast Application
Whether designing equipment for audio and video monitoring, instrumentation for live production switching, or products for signal analysis and monitoring, design engineers have always needed to carefully consider which display technology will meet their particular requirements. Today, however, the pace of change and several trends across the broadcast industry are adding to the factors they need to consider.
Broadcasting has been going through a period of significant change for several years, with many broadcasters having had to rethink their business models. Naturally, this is affecting every area of the industry, with studios, broadcast control rooms and production houses alike all working to streamline processes and adapt workflows. Simultaneously, those who use equipment in these environments are increasingly looking for products that will also enable them to work more intuitively.
In this article, Bazile Peter, Global Product Manager - OLED of Densitron, highlights some of these trends and explores the challenges in finding the right display technology to cost-effectively address user preferences while still delivering the required performance and remaining relevant in the long term.
Consumerising the user experience
As the use of touch functionality and extremely high-resolution displays increasingly pervade consumer technology, user demand is leading growing numbers of broadcast equipment manufacturers to take steps to give their products a more consumer feel.
If selected correctly, the displays featured in these products have the potential to contribute considerably to delivering the desired user experience and differentiate their quality from other lookalike products. For example, it is becoming increasingly popular to incorporate touchscreen controls into equipment, something that is easily demonstrated by recent product launches across the industry.
Replacing analogue switches and dials with capacitive touch functionality offers the possibility of creating a more seamless finish to the product, as well as incorporating the sort of interface that end users are accustomed to using in their daily lives. In addition to this, the extent to which replacing push buttons or rotary dials with touchscreen controls can save space and simplify manufacturing is also increasing in popularity with design engineers.
However, the technologies making up the touchscreen need to be selected carefully. If design engineers did not take into account the potential for electromagnetic interference from other internal components, resulting noise may lead to false touches. On a mission-critical device such as a replay and highlight system used in live sports broadcasting or an audio transmitter in a live news broadcast, this could have serious consequences.
Replacing analogue switches and dials with capacitive touch functionality offers the possibility of creating a more seamless finish to the product, as well as incorporating the sort of interface that end users are accustomed to using in their daily lives.
Another area in which displays used in broadcast equipment increasingly reflect consumer technology trends is the image quality expected. Equipment manufacturers are increasingly moving to distinguish themselves within their markets by offering products featuring stunning optics with wide viewing angles. Not only this, but there is also a growing demand for higher resolution displays and, in some cases, such as in component displays used in colour grading equipment, displays that are 4K-ready.
Moreover, the market is also witnessing a shift from monochrome to full-colour displays in equipment as small as a 1U rack. All of this presents a number of challenges, particularly when it comes to ensuring that the display is bright enough and contrast high enough across a wide range of viewing angles.
...while the displays and touchscreens used in consumer technology are rarely expected to last more than a few years, those incorporated into professional broadcasting equipment need to be considerably more hard-wearing.
A further consideration when incorporating more consumer display features into broadcast equipment is that while the displays and touchscreens used in consumer technology are rarely expected to last more than a few years, those incorporated into professional broadcasting equipment need to be considerably more hard-wearing.
Design engineers should bear this in mind when selecting the substrates to be used for cover lenses, as well as considering solutions such as optical bonding, which can increase strength and reduce the potential for damage through the ingress of dust or moisture behind the lens.
Another consideration stemming from the longer lifespans expected from broadcasting equipment is the need for displays to be designed with emerging user requirements in mind. While it’s not possible to anticipate some trends, factoring in emerging developments, such as the growing adoption of 4K, can help to future-proof products to some extent.
A further trend affecting display considerations is the growing use of displays and touchscreens on air. In-studio video walls are becoming increasingly popular, while many broadcasters are also looking for ways for presenters and reporters to use displays to interact with graphics and data.
For video walls, an important consideration is how to make the combination of displays as seamless as possible. Not only does this mean ensuring that any gaps between display panels will be as invisible as possible, but also that the optical performance of each display is consistent so that there is no obvious visual difference between them.
The growing adoption of 4K across the industry is also of significance for both video walls and on-air displays because even if 4K content is not mainstream at present, it is nonetheless important to ensure that the displays do not need to be replaced when the capability does become necessary.
While it's not possible to anticipate some trends, factoring in emerging developments such as the growing adoption of 4K can help to future-proof products to some extent.
With an ever-increasing demand for equipment that can help to increase workflow efficiency, another product development trend that can be seen across the industry, from control equipment through to live broadcast and even post-production, is a move toward all-in-one solutions that feature integrated displays instead of requiring the user to glance at a remote monitor.
Naturally, the display considerations for a solution such as this depend on the sort of environment in which it is to be used and the function of the display. Important factors to consider, however, might include how far from eye level the display will need to be viewed, what kind of ambient light the product is likely to be used in, how often the display will be used, whether the full colour is necessary and whether any kind of touch functionality will be needed.
Many manufacturers have to shorten their product development cycles as the pace with which requirements, standards and technologies evolve increases. As a result of this continual change, many end users are encountering new challenges that don’t yet have ready-made solutions.
Certainly, when it comes to display technology, there is rarely a perfect solution. Instead, the key to selecting the right display often lies in working in close partnership with a specialist to develop a solution that draws on the right combination of technologies to perfectly meet your particular needs.
Densitron takes this consultative approach to product development, using our in-depth knowledge and global display experience across a range of sectors.