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Size is everything – four things to consider when choosing your display

Top tips from AVIXA on things to consider when determining the perfect display configuration based on the size of the room and number of people its providing for

Top tips from AVIXA on things to consider when determining the perfect display configuration based on the size of the room and number of people its providing for 

Perfection. That’s what you hope to achieve with an AV design. A well-executed system requires that every detail work in harmony, creating a truly exceptional experience. When it comes to video, you can’t just hang a screen on a wall and expect viewers to get the picture. The visual principles of AV design are about much more than a 4K display or some other cool technology.

When you’re designing a display environment, you need to consider the following questions:

Where will viewers be seated?

Where should the screen go so the greatest number of people can see it?

How big should text appear so viewers can read it?

Answer these questions so that the message conveyed through a presentation or other visual display reaches the viewer effectively and comfortably.

Here are four things to consider when determining the perfect display configuration.

Text size

Here’s a very straightforward concept. To ensure the audience isn’t straining their eyes trying to read text on a display, it’s important to use the proper text size. Design decisions about text size should conform to principles of visual acuity — the audience’s ability to perceive finer details. Take into account character height, font size and the font height-to-distance relationship.

Text height will help determine the maximum viewing distance from your screen. In general, use what we call The 150 Rule: Text Height x 150 = Max distance from the screen. So, for instance, if a line of text is 3 inches, the maximum viewing distance is about 37.5 feet (3 inches x 150/12 inches per foot).

Farthest viewing distance.

Even though the good kids sit up front, it’s important to show those in back some love, too. As people sit farther from a screen or display, it’s more difficult for them to discern the message. To ensure that the screen is properly set up for those sitting farthest away, ask yourself: What are your viewers supposed to see in the first place? How far away might the farthest viewer be?

With these two criteria in mind, you can determine how high on-screen images must be so the folks in back can see them. The math required takes into account how carefully viewers will be looking at the content — whether they’ll just be observing the image or actually inspecting it.

Nearest viewing distance. Admit it: You were once scolded for sitting too close to a TV, thinking it would somehow enhance your viewing experience. Well, your parents were right. And in a conference space, sitting too close to a display can definitely mess with the message.

What’s considered too close?

The simple answer is 1x the width of the screen. In other words, make sure that the distance to the first row is no less than the display width. Moreover, the top of a screen should be no higher than 30 degrees above the standard line of sight for a seated viewer in the nearest viewing position. The middle of the screen should fall about 15 degrees above the standard line of sight.

That kind of advice needs a diagram, so take a look. Ever seen that person with the perfect sightlines?

Viewing angles.

So the people in back and up front can see comfortably. What about the viewers at the sides? You know them: They came to the meeting late and try to sit or stand inconspicuously along the wall or aisle. Can they see? It’s actually pretty easy to tell.

When designing the display environment for optimal viewing angles, think of a 90-degree field of vision with the axis at the center of the screen. It’s best for people to sit within this 90-degree area — basically 45 degrees to either side of the display’s midpoint.

…Next Steps

It’s easy to forget, but important to remember, that something as simple as an eye strain, for example, can ruin an AV system — even if the system includes the latest and greatest gear. Therefore it is important to calculate, observe and ensure that your display specifications are correct.

And of course, there is more to designing a great display system than getting the specifications right. There’s the choice of technology (projector or monitor?) and the effect of lighting on the display environment, plus much more.