Hy-Vee Grocery

The Truth in Specification

Joey Davis October 25, 2017 1486 Views 0 Comments AVI, blog, Whitlock

Businesses and organizations who make the decision to purchase and install an LED digital display solution are not simply buying a piece of tech off the rack. They are partnering with a manufacturer like NanoLumens to arrive at a fully customized solution that is built to fit a specific space and a specific purpose. Prior to selecting a manufacturer to partner with, well-versed end customers will frequently contract an industry consultant to help establish a few conditions, or specifications, they would like met by their display solution. This consultant will then translate these requests into concretely testable metrics. Inquiries will be dispensed to a selection of known manufacturers who will assess the proposal and make clear which of the required metrics they are confident in their ability to meet. This whole arrangement is fairly standard, but there are poignant differences in the way manufacturers handle these processes. For instance, separate manufacturers may both claim that they can produce 8-bit grayscale, but while it’s one thing to claim something, it’s another thing entirely to prove it.

The Proof is in the Performance

When participating in any sort of performance comparison against other manufacturers, we at NanoLumens will often ask the judges (or clients, or consultants) to test the same content on each manufacturer’s display so that differences in performance are viewable immediately. The reason we do this is because often, when showing off their products, LED display manufacturers will try to present content that is tailored to the specific abilities of their own display. We prefer an even playing field. Think of this as the large-format LED equivalent of how Best Buy or Radio Shack tune all their televisions to the same channel. If each is showing the same content, the differences become obvious.

Grayscale quality, mentioned above, is one of the specifications most commonly put to the test in these types of comparisons. Grayscale is the industry term used to indicate how well a display differentiates separate shades and tints of similar colors. There are a variety of ways to test this metric, but one of the simplest methods we use is to import onto the display a picture that features several shades of the same color. Though we use several different pictures, a specific example that’s easy to visualize in your mind’s eye depicts twelve trees in a field vanishing into fog. This picture functions as an ideal litmus test for grayscale quality for a pair of reasons. First, it is a fairly generic image. We aren’t asking manufacturers to display a picture of the world’s most complex fractal. It’s just trees. Second, the foggy nature of the picture means that as grayscale quality changes, the number of trees visible changes as well. Most displays showing this photo will only present nine or ten of the trees, but on a NanoLumens display all twelve are distinctly visible. Each manufacturer may claim they offer 8-bit grayscale, but what the picture of the trees -along with other test images- proves is that the term “8-bit grayscale” doesn’t mean the same to everyone. Specs like that need to be tested in-person to be trusted, but the fact of the matter is not all manufacturers will let that happen.

Test the Specs in Person

It’s not just in these wider group comparisons that our ability to meet specifications stands out. For each specification that a client or consultant sets, we will set about proving that we can meet it, first explaining how we plan on testing it and with which equipment we will perform the tests. We then volunteer to walk through those tests in person with the client or consultant, usually at one of our facilities. Often, the client or consultant will bring their own resources to perform tests as well, a piece of due diligence we allow and encourage. Many manufacturers will not pull back the curtain and let clients walk through tests with them, but we are so confident in the quality of what we produce that we only make claims we know our tech can back up in person.

We exercise such comprehensive diligence in this process to achieve the end goal of characterizing the LED Screen to produce a customer specification compliance document, but also to provide internal benchmark data for future product improvement. In the large-format LED display industry, it’s commonly said that you get out what you put in. With that in mind, it seems quite prudent to figure out what your manufacturer is putting into their display, for only then can you really understand what you’ll get out of it. When conducting due diligence to learn how each manufacturer prepares their displays, be sure to consider parameters regarding, among other things, the quality of manufacturing policy, configuration logistics, and thermal efficiencies. Further details on these topics and many more are covered in our free webinar, Not All LEDs are Created Equal, which can be found here.

~Wes Funsch, 
NanoLumens VP of Operations