When TrialPay moved into its new office in June 2012, we wanted to provide digital signage throughout the office for employees and visitors to see ever-changing information about our office and business.
We’ve built a number of internal graphs and tickers, as we call them, ranging from showing transaction volume and locations to server and bandwidth loads. There’s some fun stuff in there too — like what’s being served for lunch and dinner during the rest of the month, new employee highlights, and the all important fitness program calendar. Visitors never seem to be able to get enough enjoyment out of them!
With 23 LCD displays mounted on the walls ranging from 42″ to 55″ in our ~27,000 square foot office, we needed to find a way to find a way to get various video sources to all the displays. Our office was being built from scratch, so our contractors installed CAT5e cable to each television location from the AV closet and used commercial grade HDMI baluns on each end to support long cable runs (the longest run is probably 150 feet from our AV closet.) Installed neatly on a two-post rack in that closet, we patch each HDMI cable to Mac minis. Each Mac mini has a mini-DisplayPort out and HDMI out, we adapt the former back to HDMI, and we’ve got two 1920×1080 outputs from each Mac.
But what if we want to display the same content on more than one TV, and not have to manage another Mac? We’re using a number of generic HDMI splitters and they do the job. There are fancier matrix switches around too if you want to be able to plug all sources and outputs into one box, but that would have added thousands to our costs. Since we aren’t changing what display shows what Mac often, there wasn’t any need. The Mac minis aren’t too far from the IT area, but we can remotely manage them via Apple Remote Desktop (or go low tech with a bluetooth keyboard). I wasn’t able to justify the expense of a networked KVM or console server given these aren’t running in an environment where five nines are needed (though sometimes I think our CEO would like that).
Nonetheless, the Macs are pretty stable. After turning off all the energy saver functions, finding the right screen resolution (1080i NTSC, which worked best with the baluns), configuring ARD/screen sharing, and installing Firefox, we were pretty much ready to go. Along the way, we’ve found some interesting tools, such as a tab rotator for Firefox to make showing content easier.
Here’s a picture of our marquee 55″ screens right by our social area — these really get lots of foot traffic so we reserve these for some of the coolest stuff TrialPay’s got going!