One of the challenges with being in an industry so long – even before it had a name – is getting jaded and a bit bored. I go to trade shows, like next week’s InfoComm, and mostly shrug.
The stuff is amazing, beautiful, brighter, skinnier, lighter, faster … lots of things with “ers” on the end. But I’ve seen it. There isn’t much that’s truly different, and really, how could there be?
It’s genuinely different. It’s only kinda sorta digital signage, but is in the mix when you start talking about branding, ambient visuals and experience in retail. I have seen experiential media companies like ESI doing this sort of thing with low rez LED and translucent film, but not in this way and not with a B2B mindset.
In a nutshell, it’s a lightbox with screen-printed fabric, but in this case the light source is addressable LEDs – white or RGB. They can be programmed to accentuate or complement the printed graphics. So you could have a logo and surrounding graphics that are visible with regular backlighting, but elements flare or pulse or radiate or whatever. The video will give you an idea.
You get super-high dots per inch printed graphics, with motion lighting from behind. Glenn Rabbach, the company’s creative director and mad scientist, calls this a new class of signage.
Duggal has a really strong reputation and history in printing and with LED-lit lightboxes, so they really, really know that space. The company has dabbled in digital signage, and has a digital innovation lab at the old Brooklyn navy yards – called Duggal Innolab. But this sort of thing sets the company apart from a lot of companies that do other things, like printing, and could also kinda sorta do digital signage.
There are a LOT of fabric lightboxes out there. Walk down the main shopping streets in any big city and you will see a ton of BIG graphics in windows and on walls. They could, in theory, be cut over to direct view LED video walls. But the costs would and do give CFOs heart palpitations. This costs less than a third of what a direct view LED wall would cost, and the price delta widens the tighter the direct view LED pitch.
This sort of thing, by comparison, would cost much much less – primarily because only a fraction of the number of LED chips are needed to generate the low rez lighting and motion effects. The “bin” of the chips – the tight classification of their brightness and color output – would also, probably, be a non-issue, so that would lower costs, as well (the top fine pitch LED display makers pay a premium for narrow “bins” of the best LEDs).
The argument for going full digital with this stuff would be that messaging can be rotated on short notice and multiple visuals can be on one canvas. And that’s absolutely true. But there are a lot of brands who have a handful of visuals they want to relate in their retail settings, and a lot of them are changed by selling season, at most. Putting in a new piece of fabric takes minutes, as the edges just tuck into extruded aluminum frames. The screen printing can be 16 feet high and as wide as it needs to be.
The LED motion media files are just video, produced using common tools like After Effects. Playback is just a control box with an SD card pushed in with the media.
The company worked with the window coverings firm Hunter Douglas on a demo for its booth at the Architectural Digest trade show in March. It used the tech to create window effects and messaging behind window coverings, and won a pair of show awards.
The company also showed the tech for several days in May at a design event in Times Square.
The next generation of visual displays, combining #graphic images and animated light to elevate the visual experience. Perfect for #retail, exhibition, and hospitality applications. #NYCxDesign #DesignPavilion #Lumipixels #InnoLabhttps://t.co/gL76yDfke3 pic.twitter.com/OtjOJmHNge
— Duggal (@DuggalNYC) May 11, 2018
This is not really competitive to things like video walls, or a threat. I’d see it as complementary, and pretty cool when done well. The day will possibly come when LED wall pricing is at a point that it makes more sense than something like this, but we’re not even close to that time yet.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.