Changes in the broadcast industry are bringing far-reaching repercussions. In particular, studios, control rooms and production houses alike are all seeking ways to streamline processes, adapt workflows and work in a faster and more intuitive way. This has given rise to a number of trends across the industry. But should equipment designers and manufacturers be swayed by these when choosing display technology?
One of the most noticeable shifts over the past few years has been the move towards the style of technology we now take for granted in our everyday lives; for example, consumer-style touchscreen controls. Replacing analogue switches and dials with capacitive touch functionality not only creates a more seamless finish to the product, it replicates our smartphones and tablets and is, therefore, more intuitive to use. There are other advantages too; replacing push buttons or rotary dials with touchscreen controls can save on space and actually simplify the manufacture of the product.
However, the end product will be used in a complex environment and design engineers must choose wisely. Some touchscreens have the potential for electromagnetic interference from other internal components and the resulting noise may lead to false touches. On a mission-critical device such as a replay and highlight system for live sports broadcasting or an audio transmitter for live news, this could have serious consequences.
While we’ve become used to touchscreens, relatively high-quality cameras on our smartphones have raised the bar when it comes to image quality. As a result, equipment manufacturers are striving to offer stunning optics with wide viewing angles. There’s also a growing demand for higher resolution displays and, in some cases such as in component displays used in colour grading equipment, displays that are 4K-ready.
The knock-on effect is a shift from monochrome to full-colour displays in equipment as small as a 1U rack. This progress is not without its challenge; for example, when it comes to ensuring that the display is bright enough and contrast high enough across a wide range of viewing angles.
However, while the displays and touchscreens used in consumer technology are rarely expected to last more than a few years, those used in broadcasting need to be considerably more hard-wearing. So design engineers must bear this in mind when selecting the substrates to be used for cover lenses, as well as considering solutions such as optical bonding which can increase strength and reduce the potential for damage from dust or moisture behind the lens.
But if broadcast equipment is to last, it also needs to be designed with future changes in mind. While it’s not possible to anticipate every trend, factoring in emerging developments, such as the growing adoption of 4K, will help extend its life.
It’s also becoming increasingly fashionable to use displays and touchscreen on air. For example, in-studio video walls are popular, while many broadcasters are also looking at how presenters and reporters can use displays to show graphics and visualise data.
When it comes to video walls, an important consideration is how to make the matching of displays as seamless as possible. This means ensuring any gaps between display panels are invisible and that the optical performance of each display is consistent, so there are no obvious visual differences between them. The growing use of 4K is important here too. Even though it is not currently mainstream, it’s vital to ensure that the displays won’t need to be replaced when the capability is more widely-used.
From control equipment through to live broadcast and even post-production, broadcasters are increasingly looking for all-in-one solutions featuring integrated displays rather than remote monitors. Naturally, the considerations for such a solution depend entirely on the environment in which it will be used as well as its function.
However, important factors to consider include how far from eye-level the display will be viewed? What kind of ambient light is the display likely to be used in? How often will the display be used? Is full colour necessary and is any kind of touch functionality or haptic feedback needed?
The need to customise
Many equipment manufacturers are being forced to shorten their product development cycles to match the acceleration of requirements, standards and technologies. As a result of this continual change, many end users are encountering new challenges that don’t yet have off-the-shelf solutions.
In these cases, selecting the right display technology lies in working in close partnership with specialists to develop a solution that draws on the right combination of technologies to meet specific needs. For instance, this could be the option to integrate haptic feedback technology, i.e. vibrations to signal a touchscreen button has been pressed, into Touch Sensors, which can be tailored to suit your project requirements.