Cost-effective Digital Signs

A digital sign is a big TV set in a public place showing information or possibly advertisements. Ideally a digital sign can show upcoming events, announcements, pictures, advertisements, and other stuff that’s relevant to a community of people who might look at the sign.

How can you make a digital sign with off-the-shelf 2014 technology? One way is to buy one of those TV sets that shows slide shows from a thumb drive. Then use your favorite graphic editor (Photoshop, maybe, or Powerpoint exported to a bunch of images), put the images on the thumb drive and show them as a slide show.

Another way is to use the Rise Vision open source (free as in speech, free as in kittens) digital signage system. This is a good way of dealing with digital signs because it lets the signs’ content be drawn from information you already have: Twitter, Google Calendar, Google Presentations, WordPress, and the like.

If you’re doing church signs you also can use the ELCA’s Daily Bible Verse feed from .

What do you need to set this up?

  • An account on Rise Vision, and the appropriate online configuration. Rise Vision has a learning curve, but once you’ve set it up you’re in good shape.
  • A screen for a public place
  • A dedicated pc or a media player device to drive the screen
  • Internet access at the location of your digital sign

Rise Vision provides the software you need to install on the pc or the media player device.

An old pc will work if you can live with the resolution it puts out.

Another alternative is a cheap Android-based (version 4.2.2 or later) media player device with an HDMI port. If you have a television with an HDMI input port and a USB port, and you have wireless internet available, this may be all you need to build your digital sign.

The Tronsmart Vega S89 is an example of such a device. There are a couple of free Rise Vision players for this device available through the Google Play store. The standard software load for this supports rendering of 1080p resolution video (1920 wide x 1080 high). Notice that this device can’t handle full-motion video (movies or TV) in your sign, but it can handle animations just fine.

There are two players in the Google Store to support Rise presentation playback. Both are free. The first of the two seems to have more support for unattended operation.




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