Software for informational display
June 3, 2005 8:16 AM   Subscribe

The library I work at has recently purchased a plasma monitor to use for displaying information on library services and upcoming events. I am clueless about what sort of software (Win XP) I might be best served in using to display such information.

Mostly, I would be interested in text and graphics with some eye-catching transitions, and for this, Powerpoint slideshows seem to be a potential solution, but I would also like to intersperse some video segments.

I am fairly well versed in Adobe Premiere, and I could certainly use this to do most everything I want, but that solution would be fairly labor-intensive (also, I do not have access to an HD edition of Premiere, so any videos I created would look pretty chunky on the monitor).

There must be some reasonably-priced package out there that is designed for such an application and is easy to manage. I've not had much luck in finding any products that may be demoed, and it's furthermore difficult to even distinguish between the different offerings available.
posted by hoboynow to Technology (15 answers total)
I don't know if it handles video, or how well-versed you need to be with Flash, but Slideshow Pro is a nice tool. It creates Flash-based presentations; it was developed by Todd Dominey.
posted by o2b at 9:57 AM on June 3, 2005

You could use Opera, and show anything that you can show on a webpage.
posted by signal at 9:58 AM on June 3, 2005

One great solution is called WatchOut, though the licencing can be expensive.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:02 AM on June 3, 2005

Powerpoint slideshows seem to be a potential solution, but I would also like to intersperse some video segments.

Huh? What's wrong with PowerPoint's video capability?
posted by grouse at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2005

Where I work, we're considering electronic signage for next year. The vendor I like has told us that the visuals are typically done in Flash.
posted by gimonca at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2005

posted by prostyle at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2005

On topic, I suggest Flash.

Off topic, while much better than older models, be aware that modern plasmas can still suffer from image burn in. Alternating between static elements and full screen video should minimize this potential problem.
posted by Monk at 11:25 AM on June 3, 2005

Listen to monk. We had a plasma screen at work for only a few months of occaisional use and it got burn in from a presentation. Even a vast improvement means it's still a very real problem. Ensure that no part of the presentation is a constant. (Eg avoid having a kind of standard library letterhead on the text pages, or other things that will be constant across multiple pages of the presentation). That could make it harder to make the overall design and appearance look good, so there might be a tradeoff.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:07 PM on June 3, 2005

I'll third. I think for the purposes of signage, a plasma screen is a terrible idea (an LCD would have been the right answer). Whatever you do, take great care to avoid static displays, especially in the first 100 hours or so of the TVs life. Keep the contrast down and the picture moving.

Also, as far as I know, HD video editing is still a pricey endeavor. No way around that.
posted by drpynchon at 12:28 PM on June 3, 2005

No specific answers for you, but I know they use video displays in a similar way at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh that seem to work out pretty well. Maybe get in touch with somebody there?
posted by Carol O at 2:46 PM on June 3, 2005

I was just about to suggest asking the Carnegie Library in PGH- a friend of mine works there, and part of his job for a while was inputting fun facts into the database for these displays.

So yes- I second Carol O's answer. :)
posted by elisabeth r at 2:53 PM on June 3, 2005

I've done quite a few of these before - nothing comes close to Flash in terms of flexibility and animation control. However, if all you want to do is display some text and video then PowerPoint ought to do fine.

Our clients who use these in foyers etc. have to replace them every 12 months because of burn-in, even if we're careful with the designs as discussed above. Still works out cheaper than buying an LCD, apparently.
posted by blag at 2:54 PM on June 3, 2005

Most of the outdoor signs (that often crash or otherwise screwup) seem to be running powerpoint. I might be wrong on that, though.

You might want to figure out a way to ensure that if it does BSOD that the computer turns off right away or something similar. It would suck to burn a BSOD into your plasma TV...
posted by shepd at 6:14 PM on June 3, 2005

We have a flash application we developed at our library that has separate windows for upcoming and current library events (pulled live from our events database), Library hours, Google News with images, local weather radar and forecasts, etc. The patrons love it. It's too customized to drop in to your application, but I've emailed you at the address in your profile if you'd like the .fla files and the middleware to look at.

Flash is definitely the way to go, although I've been drooling over RSS screensavers made with Quartz Composer recently.

We use AMFPHP middleware to allow Flash to talk to MySQL databases. Once you wrap your head around it, it's quite fast and powerful.
posted by ulotrichous at 8:45 PM on June 3, 2005

Flash can easily extract data from XML sources, so you could put RSS feeds in it.
posted by signal at 5:25 PM on June 7, 2005

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