After the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007, Spencer Graham was asked to install a digital signage system at West Virginia University to project an emergency message across campus for any just-in-case situations.
After rigorous research and collaborating with engineers and designers, Graham’s response was the installation of the campus’s video wall, which runs on the X2O Media Xpresenter platform.
Located in the lobby of One Waterfront Place, which is the visitor’s center and home base for campus tours, Graham said the video wall is made of eight, 50-inch monitors. Since the wall reaches five feet tall and 18 feet long, it’s hard for the traffic of prospective students to miss its eye-catching images.
“We have approximately one thousand visitors a week,” says Graham, the manager of operations for WVU Information Stations. “The video wall supports content targeted at potential students.”
Graham says the video wall is a secret weapon as one of the university’s digital signage strategies to trump other colleges. He says WVU uses it to immediately convey the university’s heart and soul, and attract new students.
“The video wall has faster-paced message delivery,” he says. “There are ten-second switches between each new image. That way, we impact the students more quickly.”
Check out the construction of WVU’s video wall, and the mastermind behind it.
Graham says that WVU uses the wall to display prospective students’ names when they come to campus for a visit.
“Everyone loves to see their name lit up,” he says. “Students will stand next to their name and have their friends take pictures of them.”
After office hours, Graham says the video wall switches its student-based content to “adult” based content, which includes information on fundraisers and scholarships.
“We include all kinds of information on why people should fall in love with WVU,” he says. “We use [the video wall] as a tool to promote the goings-on at the school. We talk to the audience.”
Aside from impressing new students and projecting funding initiatives, Graham says the video wall is part of the university’s threefold emergency system. He says when there is an emergency, the WVU police press a special button that, in under ten seconds, activates a text message on students’ cell phones, then to their email addresses, then to the video wall.
Graham says that the video wall has been such a success that WVU is looking to incorporate this type of digital signage into the campus’s décor. He also says WVU has installed two smaller walls consisting of three vertical, non-touching monitors at the Creative Arts Center and the Mountainlair. These monitors display a rotating reel of movie posters outside the campus’s movie theater, as well as upcoming on-campus events.
Graham says the video wall inspired the installation of over 100 touch screen monitors across campus for student usage, along with the future installation of a donor wall and wall of honors.
“The video wall is stunning and impactful,” he says. “It’s the first thing that grabs the eye when someone first walks in.”
Here are some tips to consider before purchasing your video wall:
1) Join the Digital Signage Federation
When a university is considering installing a video wall on campus, Graham says that that school should hop on board with the Digital Signage Federation. He says joining the federation will connect interested parties with the Digital Signage Expo, which is a goldmine of information and support on digital signage and video walls.
“Those people were so helpful,” Graham says. “They’re industry giants. They get your hands on the equipment, introduce you to the guy who invented it and provide great networking.”
2) Find good integrators
Even though Graham was WVU’s integrator for the video wall, he says that a good integrator will set a university’s expectations for pricing and for which direction the project is heading. He says WVU works with PC Mall Gov, and uses Samsung, Premier Mounts and Chief for the video walls monitors and mounts.
“In the future, we’re looking to install Elo monitors,” Graham says. “They provide a newer model and their monitors have built-in computers.”
3) Start talking
Graham says that colleges looking to utilize digital signage should talk to other universities about their experiences. That way, colleges can puzzle through what works, what doesn’t, and coordinate new research when needed.
“I love when people call me,” Graham says. “Don’t be shy. Reach out, make friends.”
4) Do your homework
Universities that are new to digital signage should read up on trending digital signing strategies, and keep up with what’s current. Graham says his favorite websites/blogs Digital Signage Today,Digital Signage Federation, and Digital Signage Connection.
5) Centralize your digital signage model
Graham says one of the biggest mistakes a college can make while integrating digital signage is to use a decentralized model of operation.
“When campuses are decentralized, different departments are using different monitors, different messages, different software, etc.,” he says. “You need to centralize your model. You need to sit down and decide we’re all going to use the same monitors, same mounts, same designs, the same software.”
He says when everyone uses the same systems, the college brand is richer and everything runs smoothly.
“This is especially true for emergency messaging systems,” Graham says. “The software has to mate-up with the digital signage system and drive people back to it. Otherwise, the college will be in deep trouble.”
Images courtesy Spencer Graham’s progress blog.
Video: See WVU’s video wall in action: