David Rycyna, founder and CEO of Cirrus LED Systems, one of the best leaders in the market according to Axial

This month, our CEO and founder, David Rycyna, was named one of Axial's "Growth 100: The best and brightest leaders in the middle market." This honor was in part due to Cirrus' constant innovation. "When one of his clients was working on a project in the outdoor LED screen industry, he realized the industry was devoid of any real innovation. That realization led to the foundation of Cirrus Systems, which today makes software and manufactures an interchangeable tile system for outdoor LED signage. Customers like banks can market going interest rates seamlessly, or Dunkin’ Donuts can advertise a current promotion," comments the Axial's article. They also recognized us for our excellent customer experience and success at building relationships. For more information visit the Axial's Growth 100 page.

Choosing the Right Sign: Dynamic (LED) vs Static, Size, Color, Pixel Pitch.

Choosing the Right Sign: Dynamic (LED) vs Static, Size, Color, Pixel Pitch.

Your customer knows a sign will help them increase sales and brand recognition. But, most of the time, they refer to you, the sign shop owner, or us, the LED sign manufacturer for advice as to which type of screen is the best for their business. Many will have a preference as to whether they want a dynamic sign, such as an LED display, a static one, or a combination of both. It is part of our job as a LED experts, to take into consideration things such as a customer’s budget, type of business, location, audience, city ordinances, and any other relevant details to give them the best possible advice. With studies proving that as much as 50% of new customers claim to learn about a business due to it’s on-premise sign, it’s clear digital outdoor signs increase sales and create awareness. Still, screens come in many shapes, types and sizes. So, which one should you recommend in each case?

Dynamic, Mixed or Static Signs:

The biggest advantage of a dynamic sign - or a sign that can change it’s content often - such as LED displays, is its flexibility and versatility; the display can be changed easily and one LED sign can display several different pieces of content. LED panel with seasonal textPeople stop noticing every day things if they always remain the same. We stop looking at that stunning house or the wonderful bridge view on our daily commute after we’ve seen them day after day. Likewise, static signs become stagnant after a short period of time. Dynamic signs allow the owner to change the message often, and use current events to keep the content engaging. That way, passersby will always notice them, not only because the content changes often, but also, because it is fresh and relevant to that moment. Self illuminated signs, such as backlit screens, are also usually easier to read at larger distances and from different angles and illumination levels. PA- Lancaster -That pet place-Sign Medix, Inc- BEFOREOn the other hand, static signs are normally cheaper than digital signs since they don’t require any complex technology to run or sophisticated software to manage the content. However, most digital displays can be leased for a small monthly fee and the increase in sales can more than pay for the monthly installments. Another advantage of static signs is that they offer a wider range of design choices. LED signs can display trillions of colors and great imagery and videos, with innumerable shades and gradients, but the screens themselves are normally squares or rectangles. Static signs are made out of more malleable materials and can be made into beautiful pieces of art. That pet place LED Sign A third option, that allows to take advantage of the benefits of both static and dynamic signs is to have a mix of both; an LED sign surrounded or encased within a static screen. It was found that businesses who use an electronic sign display, in addition to traditional signage, typically see an increase from 15 percent to 150 percent in terms of sales. A much bigger, artistic and eye-catching screen can be built in a cost effective way, yet businesses can still take advantage of the flexibility and dynamic aspects of an LED display. This design guide can help you with more ideas on mixed EMC signs to showcase to your clients. Questions to guide your customers to the right decision between dynamic, mixed and static signs: 1.- Customer budget: If the customer has a very low budget, a small, static sign might be the only way to satisfy them. On the other hand, leasing a dynamic sign is always a good option since the increase in revenue brought by the sign can pay for the monthly leasing fee and then some. 2.-Type of business: a) How many products does the business sell? Business that offer wide variety of products, such as retail stores (Pharmacies, restaurants, apparel, hardware stores, etc) can greatly benefit from a dynamic sign since it allows them to advertise many different products one after the other. b)Does the business sell seasonal products? Seasonable products can also benefit from the flexibility of an LED sign since different products can be advertised at different times of the year. c) Does the business keep large stock quantities and sometimes use sales to get rid of excess inventory? A dynamic sign can help the business advertise its products based on their inventory levels. d) Does the business have sales of different products often? Dynamic signs can help promote different sales at different times. 3.- City ordinances: Many times the city regulates the type of signs businesses can use, their size, how often they can change them, their brightness level, etc. It is important to make sure that any purchases a business make is up to code with their city’s regulations and preferably a permit should be acquired beforehand.

Size of the sign

Allow us to wine and dine youSigns came in all shapes and sizes and none is better than the other, they all serve their purpose. The size of the sign will mostly depend on how far away your customers will be when reading it. The farther they are, the bigger you want your sign to be. Still, bigger is not always better, if your business is a coffee shop in a densely populated area with mostly foot traffic, a really big sign hanging fifty feet in the air won’t attract your ideal customers. They won’t even see it because their eyes will be looking front and down. Questions to help your customers decide which is the ideal size for their sign: 1.- Customer’s budget: Most people would be inclined to believe that the smaller the sign, the less expensive. While this is partially accurate, is not exactly true. For exactly the same type of sign, the smaller it is, the less it will cost. But, as we discussed in our previous point, the technology used to create the sign, the complexity of the design and the materials used to build the sign will also play a huge part in the pricing. 2.- Business location: As we mentioned before, businesses with high car traffic in expansive areas will benefit more from a bigger sign. While businesses with a lot of foot traffic and in very dense areas might do better with an on the floor or at an eye-level height smaller sign. 3.- Business audience: Somewhat related to location, but the more the business relies on foot traffic - people walking by the store- the smaller and closer to the door of the establishment the sign should be. The more they rely on car traffic, the bigger the sign should be since the motorists are going to be farther away when reading the sign. 4.- City ordinances: Also sometimes regulate sign sizes.

Pixel Pitch for LED Signs

Similarly to sign sizes, pixel pitch is dependant on the distance of the audience the sign is trying to capture. Pixel pitch is only applicable to dynamic LED signs and it's equivalent to the distance from the center of an LED cluster (or pixel) to the center of the next LED cluster/pixel in millimeters. A lower pitch equals a smaller distance or a higher resolution. However, the farther away the LED sign reader is, the lower the resolution is that is required for the viewer to perceive a crisp image. Why is that? Because the closer the eye is to the display, they more it notices each one of the pixels, but when moving away from the sign, the density of details increases. Pixel-Pitch-and-Viewing-Distance The lax rule of thumb is that if the audience is 30 feet or closer (eg. Foot traffic or aimed mostly drivers that are 5 to 45 feet away and going very slowly) the sign should be high resolution - 12mm pixel pitch or lower. If the main target is drivers travelling more than 50 feet away at slow to medium speed, your LED panel should be medium resolution (around 16mm pixel pitch). If the display will be used to capture viewers that are travelling at higher speed and over 65 feet away (eg. in a highway) the pixel pitch can be 19mm or higher. The other consideration is the type of content the sign will be displaying. If you customer wants to show images with a large number of details or constantly broadcast videos, they should probably choose a higher resolution LED sign to be able to display all the nuances in their content. Questions to help your customers decide which is the pixel pitch for their LED sign: 1.- Customer’s budget: The higher the resolution, the more expensive the sign will be. Yet again, if the client’s best alternative is a higher resolution sign, he could purchase a smaller LED sign or lease it. Sacrificing quality or resolution when installing a screen for a close range audience or when requiring display of detailed images and videos is probably not the best idea. The closer the viewers are and the more intricate the content is, the easier it is to spot inferior products and resolution. 2.- Business audience: What is the average distance and speed your target audience is travelling at when looking at your sign? 3.- How much detail will the sign’s content have? The more detailed, the higher the resolution needed. 4.- Will the sign be displaying a lot of videos? Videos tend to have a lot of detail and will benefit from a lower pixel pitch.

Monochrome, Grayscale or RGB for LED Signs.

In general, monochrome and grayscale in the LED sign industry are both used to refer to single color LED displays. Full color LED signs (also called RGB LED display) have a red, a blue, and a green LED diode in each pixel and can display all possible color combinations. In contrast, single color LED displays, as the name indicates, have one single LED diode per pixel and all of the LED lights on the board are the same color. Solo monochormeIn the most commonly accepted definition of the term, the LED diodes in a monochrome display only have one level of brightness; meaning they are either on or they are off. Let’s imagine we have a red monochrome LED display; If the lights are on, that pixel will be red and every LED diode that is turned on will have exactly the same shade of the color red. On the other hand, if the lights are off, that pixel will be black – the standard background color for an LED sign. The perfect monochrome display examples are the LED signs typically found on the highway and used by municipal agencies. Those signs usually only display very simple text and are mostly aimed to notify drivers of road conditions, give directions, or public service announcements. Solo grayscaleOutdoor grayscale signs also have a single color LED diode, but each light can shine at different levels of brightness, allowing for as many as 65,000 shades of the same color. If we go back to our red LED sign example, if it were gray-scale, each one of the LED lights could be displaying a different intensity – or shade- of the color red. This makes gray scale the preferred choice for LED signs that display pictures or videos, since it allows for more definition and gradients in the images. In practice, all outdoor gray-scale LED signs could also function as monochrome signs if that is what the business owner prefers. In other words, all of the LED diodes on a gray scale LED board can be set at the same brightness level. Blade1Many RGB LED panels can show close to 300 trillion colors. That allows for the sign to display really intricate images and high quality video. If you consider that the average LCD TV can display close to 17 million colors, you can get an idea of the potential image quality of a full color LED sign. That is why, this should be the prefered choice for Electronic Message Centers and Billboards; basically any sign trying to attract customers and create brand recognition with high quality, engaging and original content that will make a lasting impression in the customer’s mind. Read this post for more tips on creating engaging content. So, why would a business want to buy an outdoor monochrome or a gray scale LED display? Outdoor LED signs are a powerful advertising tool, in fact, the Small Business Administration calls them the most-cost effective form of advertising, but they require a significant upfront investment. An outdoor grayscale LED display could provide many of the advantages of an LED sign at a significantly lower cost. If the goal of the business is to advertise with text or simple images or videos, gray-scale LED signs could be a great, more affordable alternative. They are also great starter sign, with some LED Manufacturers, such as Cirrus LED Systems. At Cirrus, full and single color displays use the same frames for RGB as for grayscale signs. Upgrading a sign is as simple as swapping panels in a matter of minutes. A customer can buy an inexpensive grayscale sign now and a few years down the line, when they see the potential of the LED sign and want to further capitalize on the advantages, they can easily swap the grayscale panels for full RBG LED boards without needing to change anything else. BBQ SkyvisionThere are aesthetic considerations too. Depending on the look the business is seeking to convey it will be advisable to recommend one type of sign over the other. For instance, if the customer has a well known Logo that is Red and Black, or White and black and they are well known for those colors, it might make sense to get a grayscale sign in that color. Questions to help your customers decide between full color, grayscale and monochrome: 1.- Customer’s budget: Monochrome and grayscale are cheaper than full color. If color palette is not an issue and messages or simple images are sufficient, a grayscale could be a good option. However, the customer should purchase from a manufacturer that allows for easy upgrades to full color. 2.- What type of content will the sign be displaying? For pictures, videos and images a full color sign will perform significantly better. Once you and your customer have settled on a particular sign, your hard work begins: Searching for the right providers, pulling permits, creating drawings and designs, building and installing the sign to the customer’s satisfaction. Great manufacturing partners can help you make that process easier. That is why Cirrus LED Systems strives to help you every step of the way with information, excellent customer service, end-customer training, and remote troubleshooting and repairing. For more information on our systems and what we have to offer, contact our sales department by email or call 1.877.636.2331. Download this article

LED Signage Industry: Adapt or die

The Current Design Revolution in The LED Signage industry

A few years ago it became clear that the LED signage industry needed a change. Fundamental shifts in LED technology, plus continual breakthroughs in software and hardware, and new innovations in competitive digital screen technologies, will force the LED sign manufacturer to adapt or die. IBM_704_mainframeHardware is getting lighter, smaller, and faster. Microprocessors and microcontrollers get more effective every day. Moore’s law dictates that the numbers of transistors per square inch on an integrated circuit doubles every eighteen months.Close up of a mobile phone with a touch screen. Focus is on the phone with small DOF.Advances in software are reinventing the way we see the world at an accelerated pace. Just think of all that can be achieved with something a small as a cellphone -or an Apple watch. Manufacturers of electrical devices are forced to develop more energy efficient and green products to stay competitive. Not only because consumers are more environmentally conscious but, because they are also protective of their wallets. Nobody wants to spend extra money on increased energy consumption. Competitive digital display technologies are also becoming brighter, sturdier, and cheaper. If the LED advertising board doesn’t make the changes required to keep up to date with today's world, other technologies (or smarter LED sign manufacturers) will take over. Every part of the LED board needs to be deconstructed and rethought with customer experience and technological advances in mind. Here are some of the things that any savvy LED display manufacturer has to keep in mind when designing their panels if they want to survive the competition.

More Energy Efficient LED Panels

Re-thinking the way electricity is used within an LED display sign is not only about reducing waste -and ergo reducing costs- but also about increasing the reliability of the LED boards. There is a well known scientific principle, the law of conservation of energy, that states that energy can not be created or destroyed, but it can be transformed. Electricity, is an energy source, and as such, anything “wasted” is not destroyed but transformed into something else. In the case of electricity, it transforms into heat by a process called resistive heating. When any electrical device - such as an LED display - produces too much heat, the delicate and small components inside of them risk overheating and failing. Resistive heating is the result of the friction that the resistance of any material causes when an electric current flows through it. Some materials, like wood, offer a lot of resistance while others, like copper, very little, but there is always some resistance that produces heat. According to Electric Power Systems: A Conceptual Introduction: “This resistive heating is the result of “friction,” as created by microscopic phenomena such as retarding forces and collisions involving the charge carriers (usually electrons); in formal terminology, the heat corresponds to the work done by the charge carriers in order to travel to a lower potential.” Joule’s first law (Q= I2*R*T) states that the amount of heat released (Q) is equal to the square of the electric current flowing through a conductor (I), multiplied by the resistance of the conductor (R) and the amount of time this happens (T). So in order to reduce the amount of heat lost, or released, we need to diminish I, R and/or T. Let’s study each one of them: R = To reduce the resistance of the conductor, most electronic devices (including all LED displays in the market) use copper. Copper is known for its low resistance -or high conductivity- properties. I = Electric power can be transmitted at different voltages. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the higher the voltage, the lower the current. Why is that? The amount of electric power is equal to the product of voltage and current (P= E*I ). At higher voltage, lower current is needed to obtain the same amount of power. That is why electricity is transmitted at higher voltage and then converted to lower voltage through transformers present in most electrical devices. LED sign systems in particular have one or more transformers to lower the voltage of the electricity coming out of the outlet. T = This is a simple concept, the longer it takes for the energy to travel, the more heat it loses. In the LED signage industry that would translate as the more the energy needs to travel -or the longer the cable inside the LED board- the more the panel will heat up. In practice, since we can’t reduce R, unless we want to invest in gold cables, we need to work on reducing I and T. Cabinet Display small w shadowTraditionally, LED signs -as the one in the picture on the left- have one, or two big transformers that reduce the voltage. Cables run from that transformer to the different parts of the sign, taking the energy to each of the LED boards and then powering every LED. That means the lower voltage energy has to travel long distances to reach each diode. As we learned before, when low voltage energy travels, it wastes large amounts of electricity and produces heat. The heat needs to be dissipated and to solve that, traditional LED signs have fans inside, that in turn, consume more energy, need more cables, and produce more heat. back of the blade-small with shadowAn intelligently designed LED display should aim to reduce the length of those lower voltage cables. How can that be achieved? By placing one transformer right on the LED board that it powers. The amount of heat generated diminishes tremendously if higher voltage cables take the energy from one LED panel to the next (see image on the right) and each one of the boards contains it’s own transformer that lowers the voltage right where the energy needs to be used (see picture below in the next section). This way, the LED panel not only consumes a lot less power- lowering the energy bill- but also runs a lot cooler than traditional LED signs. Therefore, it doesn’t need inside fans, which lowers the energy consumption and heat generated even more. Moreover, if the LED display doesn’t use it’s power supply at it’s maximum capacity, the energy is used much more efficiently. This makes the LED sign run cooler and be less prone to failure. Why is that? Let’s imagine you need to get to a place far away from you are, you have two options you can either run or walk. If you run as fast as you can - use the transformer at it’s full capacity- your body will not only overheat quickly but will be able to sustain that intensity for a while before it fails and you can’t move any longer. On the other hand, if you pace yourself and walk, you will be able to travel a much farther distance before you start warming up and even much longer before you are forced to stop. Same happens with the transformer, at full capacity the transformer will overheat and give out quickly. Blade-LED-Panel-Back-Conductive heating w shadowWhen deconstructing the LED module, every aspect has to be thought out. Just like Apple does with each one of their products, the LED board not only has to look and feel modern, but has to use every possible principle of good product design. For example, a clever idea used by Cirrus Systems, is in the outer design of the board. The back of the panel looks slick and cool but aesthetics was not the only concern when designing it. The vertical fins that you see in the picture create a convection cooling effect. What does that mean? Hot air rises, most of us know that. It is what allows unpowered aircraft to fly and makes the second floor of any house harder to cool off than the lower floor. Well, Cirrus Systems engineers used that principle when designing those fins. The temperature generated inside board warms up the vertical fins and the heat rises, which forces the cooler air to surge from the bottom. This creates a tunnel of cooling air that passes through the LED panel.

Lighter, Thinner and Enclosed LED Modules

There are a lot of advantages an LED sign has that no other screen can match -eg. Level of brightness-. Nevertheless, electronic devices are getting thinner, lighter, and slicker, and customers demand the same from their LED advertising boards. The old, bulky, outdated looking cabinet won’t cut it any longer. In the end, LED signs are an advertising tool, portraying the business image to the passersby and sign owners want to appear modern and sophisticated. The tendency is towards simpler, enclosed, modular LED signs. Not only for aesthetic reasons; sealed, cleaner LED modules are less prone to failure, complications, and are significantly easier to service. blade-opened In cabinet style LED signs, each one of the panels has a sealed face with exposed electronics on the backside (see picture in the previous section) that are covered by the cabinet they are bolted onto. Inside the cabinet, the fans blow air sucked from outside to keep them cool. This outside air is filled with contaminants and moisture, which are particularly deleterious to electronics. Self-contained, sealed LED panels without fans and bundled cables not only produce less heat but protect the electronics against damaging agents much more effectively. In addition to that, sealed panels allow for a modular design: Where the LED panels can be assembled like a puzzle, simply by snapping one with the other. What are the advantages of a modular LED sign? For one, it is a lot easier to service. Solo-FIRE-3x6-4-panels-removed (1)If there is a problem, all the parts are enclosed in one LED panel that can easily be removed and replaced. Cabinet style LED signs require an expert on location to open the sign, study the nest of wires, and try to detect the problem or send the whole sign back for repairs. Furthermore, modular LED panels can be kept in stock and shipped within 24 hours of ordering the sign. Cabinet style signs require months to be assembled and shipped from overseas.

More Intelligent LED Hardware

The Apple iPhone introduced the advantages of integrated multi-sensor technology to the masses and that changed what we expect and the way we interact with technology forever. Again, the LED manufacturer should strive to keep up with the “Jobses” and utilize technology advances to make their signs smarter and more effective. There are several ways logic can be programmed into sensors embedded into the LED sign to make life easier for the sign owner, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce customer service costs. Here are several types of sensors and some practical applications that we have thought of for them. We are sure that there are several uses that we haven’t even conceived that our readers could come up with and change the LED industry forever. heat small with shadowTemperature sensors: As the name indicate, they measure the temperature of a device. Temperature sensors can help detect if an LED board is getting dangerously close to overheating, send a notification over the cloud and shut the panel off before failure occurs. Current sensors: Measures currents and voltage within a device. Again, a current sensor within an LED module could trigger an alarm and automatically shut off in the case of an overload. Position Sensors: Detects motion in a device. From accelerometers to gyroscope sensors, position sensors allow our GPS to navigates us, our phone to know if it’s positioned vertically or horizontally, and our game console to know when we are hitting that ball. Still, it can also be a game changer in the LED signage industry, allowing each one of the panels to recognize its position within the sign and communicates it to the CPU. The CPU can then identify where and in which panel each pixel should be and map the panels automatically. This can save a lot of time and money in customer service and make the customers feel like LED sign installation is a breeze. It also allows customers with modular signs to change the shape of their signs easily if they so want to. Humidity sensors: Measures changes in moisture and could send a message alerting if water has entered the sign. Light sensors: Detect light and could automatically change the brightness level of the sign based on the amount of light it detects in it’s surroundings. Capacitive sensors: The sensor detects changes in capacitance, to indicate for instance, the location of your finger on a board. We have not come up with an LED signage use for this but we invite you to do so. And while not directly related to the sensor but considering that nowadays adults spend increasing amount of time on their mobile devices, it is important for the LED manufacturer to offer the customer easy interaction with their display, which includes high-end software that can be access not only from a computer but also from phones and tablets. Pressure and strain sensors: Measures changes in pressure. Sensors could be place for signs in regions under exceptional duress - extreme high altitudes or severe high winds- though it most likely won’t be cost effective. Many more inventive applications can be devised for each one of these types of sensors to improve LED displays. first aidControllers should also be smarter, constantly monitoring the health of the display, making adjustments, and sending messages to the users. For example, there should be constant communication between the CPU in the controller and each of the tiles, so the CPU can notice automatically if one of the panels stopped transmitting. That way, if that happens, the owner can receive an alert on his or her phone even if noone is looking at the sign at that moment. Other logics could be programed into the sign to make diagnostics and repairs easier. For instance, logic programed into a light indicator that blinks in different ways or changes colors (or turn itself off) to indicate problems like: The tile is not getting data, the tile is not getting power, the tile is not getting the image/ video feed, etc.

Top of the line LED Cloud Software

I have written extensively about this topic, if it interests you, I invite you to read more about it. Still, one thing that is often overlooked when discussing LED display manufacturers is the software that controls their signs. LED signs normally come with a free, pre-installed LED software without which the display screens can’t run. Yet, the better and more user-friendly that the LED display software is, the easier it is for the business to create and modify eye catching messages. A high-quality software can be the difference between a successful LED advertising display and one that fails to attract new customers. It should give the sign owner the flexibility it needs to make their programmable message board the most effective form of advertising. LED display software should allow to easily produce professional quality images and videos. Furthermore, the interface should be very user-friendly to effortlessly create schedules, offline playlists, and change the message.

LED Manufacturer is your choice: Adapt or die

The ways technological advances can be used to further improve the LED signage are immeasurable. All other electronic devices and digital screens are evolving and so are customer’s expectations. The LED sign manufacturer can’t afford to a lag. New innovations bring cost saving technologies, more effective signs and happier customers.

Download the whitepaper here

Understanding Your LED Signage Quote

Understanding Your LED Signage Quote

LED Signage Manufacturing Standardizations and Regulations

The LED signage manufacturing industry is to a large degree lacking standardizations and regulations. From an industry perspective, standards and regulations provide a platform for consistent and uniform language, particularly in regards to definitions, test methods, product design, specifications, and manufacturing. The outcome of such deficit is that different companies use different terms and specifications when selling their product. This results in even expert sign shop owners sometimes getting confused. As an example, a manufacturer claims to be selling a 4 x 10 foot LED Sign with a 10mm virtual pixel pitch while their competitor promises that their 3 X 9 foot 19mm true pixel pitch LED display is equal, if not superior, to the aforementioned product and a third firm declares that their 19.25mm pixel pitch LED board has the highest resolution of the three. Who is actually delivering the best product? This article is an attempt to clarify the information typically presented. It hopefully will clear up most of the confusion associated with understanding LED Signs quotes.

No Borders For The LED Boards

Most antiquated LED panel manufacturers pre-build their signs “Cabinet Style” at their factories and then ship the whole LED display as one single unit to their customers.otherSigns1 The cabinet itself (see picture to the left) encases the LED modules within a box. When such manufacturers quote their products the dimensions they take into account are the ones of the LED cabinet around the sign, including the border edge, which normally add as much as one Foot of width and one Foot of height. Years of research has proven that LED cabinet style signs waste power and have a higher rate of system failures. These enclosed structures use large power supplies that consume -and waste- great amounts of electricity, in the process of generating considerable heat. Interior fans -known to be prone to failure- need to be placed to cool the system off. Fans suck outside air filled with moisture and dirt, depositing contaminants onto the delicate electrical components. At the same time, each fan requires a significant amount of power to run, increasing the temperature inside the cabinet. Moreover, the cables spread out across the board waste electricity as currents pass through the display, a process known as “resistive heating”. All this means a simple fan outage could cause terrible damage to the LED boards. If the LED display fails, a new LED sign cabinet will have to be assembled in the manufacturer’s factory and shipped back for re-installation. Back of BladeFor these reasons, pioneering LED panel manufactures do not encase their LED boards in a cabinet. Some, such as Cirrus LED Systems, manufacture slim, lightweight LED tiles with a completely sealed, waterproof module built with naturally cooling materials. That way, the panels itself consume very little energy, not only lowering the sign owner’s electric bill, but reducing the overall heat and nullifying the need for fans. The LED tiles can be assembled on-site by interlocking the panels; there is no need for a cabinet. And, in the off-shoot case that an LED tile has a problem, it can easily be switched by a new one without needing to ship the whole digital sign back to the manufacturer. These all seem like advantages at the time of purchasing a sign. Still, when the pioneering LED manufacturer has to quote their digital display, without the added extra width and length of the cabinet, the LED sign is going to appear one foot shorter and one foot slimmer to the uneducated customer. The lack of an industry standard allows some manufacturers to quote several feet of frame as part of their sign, making ten feet of cabinet really a nine foot sign. And in times when the space for signage is constrained, one foot of cabinet is most likely stripping the owner of one foot of LED panels.

LED Pixels: The Truth Behind The Pitch

LED display systems are usually quoted with pitch as the defining specification for resolution. The lower the pitch, the higher the resolution. Or so we have been made believe. Traditionally, pixel pitch measured the distance from the center of an LED cluster (or pixel) to the center of the next LED cluster/pixel in millimeters. However, now, many LED display manufacturers -mainly LED companies from China- have taken advantage of the lack of industry standards to offer a new pixel configuration and quote what they call “Virtual Pixels”; claiming that “Virtual Pixels” double the actual resolution of the screen, i.e a 20mm pixel pitch LED screen would have a 10mm virtual pixel pitch. True pixel matrixIn the traditional true pixel configuration, each pixel consists of one red, one blue, and one green LED diode. However, a virtual pixel LED screen uses two lower output red LED lights per pixel to work as one; in a virtual pixel LED panel, each pixel consists of two red, one blue and one green LED diode ordered in a square matrix. This, in our experience, is more of a fail-safe design decision than a higher pitch resolution commitment on behalf of these LED panel manufacturers; red lights tend to age more quickly and a double red diode allows this fabricators to use lower quality materials and still be able to sell a sign that will function for the duration of their warranty. In a virtual pixel configuration, since red LED lights are more likely to fail, they are set to display at fifty percent of the power, that means that over time, red LED diodes fade at a slower rate than the blue or green LED diodes, which more often than not gives the LED sign a pinkish tinge after it has been on for as little as six months. However, the virtual pixel LED board manufacturers claim that this configuration allows each LED diode to be “shared” by the contiguous four pixels. Virtual pixel with backgroundTherefore, when counting pixels, the first four diodes grouped together are counted as the first pixel. Then the third, fourth, fifth and sixth form the second pixel. After that, the fifth and sixth diodes are combined with seventh and eighth and grouped as a third pixel, and so on. In a traditional true pixel matrix each LED diode gets counted as part of one pixel, in a virtual pixel matrix it gets counted as part of four virtual pixels. And it stands to reason that each LED diode can produce one level of brightness, not four. According to Screen Magazine, “In a “virtual pixel” mode one screen pixel contains information on four pixels of the initial image. The image projected on a screen has doubled resolution in each dimension compared to a “physical” resolution of a video screen. This usually leads people to conclude that screen resolution also doubles. Which is not exactly true. In fact, one screen pixel cannot hold and display all information from the initial four pixels. Part of the information gets lost. The result may be the following: Let’s say that the displayed image (with resolution twice as high as a “physical” screen pixel resolution) displays a horizontal green line (one pixel thick) on a black background. If the line appears on an even row of pixels, the video screen will display a corresponding green line. But if the line shifts to an odd row of pixels, it will simply disappear: the video screen will remain black. In other words, smaller details and sharp color borders shall be displayed with distortions which are not evident in an initial image.” In reality, at very close distance, a virtual pixel sign might look crispier but at farther distances, the lack of black space between pixels does not allow for enough contrast and the image gets blurrier. Considering that most people purchase LED signs to attract attention at a significant distance, it is not close proximity viewability that they have in mind when they are looking for a LED message center or digital billboard. Furthermore, to avoid distortions that were not corrected by the designers during the image adaptation, “virtual pixel” LED boards frequently operate on standard “true pixel” mode with one of the red LED lights turned off. In the end, one has to wonder why all the higher end brands steered away from this configuration and only manufacture true pixel LED boards. Nevertheless, when determining pixel pitch virtual configuration LED sign manufacturers take advantage of the way they count each pixel to measure the pixel pitch by calculating the distance between one LED diode and the next -instead of between the center of two RGB true pixels- that way, a 20mm pixel pitch becomes a 10mm virtual pixel pitch, making this approach more about sales and marketing than providing a quality product.

The pixels on the LED sign round up and down, all through the town

Another thing that normally gets overlooked when reading a quote is the rounding of the decimals in the pixel pitch. Some LED board manufacturers will round the pitch to the nearest whole number, so if their pitch is 15.6 mm, it will be quoted as a 16 mm pixel pitch LED panel. Yet, many LED manufacturing companies, again taking advantage of the lack of industry standards, will always round down. What does that mean? That a 15.6 mm -or a 15.93 mm- will be offered as a 15 mm pixel pitch LED board. Blade Panel FrontAt first look, this might appear inconsequential, but it’s not. On a smaller LED display, the 0.93 mm difference in pitch will not have a huge impact on image quality, or price. However, in larger displays -such as a sizable LED digital billboard, or a larger Electronic Message Center- where a sign shop needs to make sure that the end-customer gets the best results, a 0.93 mm difference in pitch will have a huge impact on the resolution as that 0.93 mm differential expands exponentially. Back to our initial example of a four by ten feet -or forty square feet- LED sign with a 19 mm pixel pitch, if the first LED manufacturer’s quote is for a 19 mm pixel pitch, that equals 257 pixels per square feet ( (1000/19^2)/10.764 or the square of one meter divided by the pixel pitch in millimeters and multiplied by the amount of square feet in one square meter) and 10,294 pixels in the forty square feet LED digital display. By contrast, if the quote is for a 19.93 mm pixel pitch that would equal 234 pixels per square feet and 9,356 pixels for the complete LED sign. That is a difference of 938 pixels; over four square feet of LED panels! So, when comparing quotes from different LED board manufacturers it is important to always check the exact pixel count of their board or their price per pixel.


In summary, the lack of standardization and the “creativity” of some LED panels manufacturer’s marketing departments make comparing quotes for LED signs a complex job that requires understanding of the diverse terms used by the different companies. We hope this article has helped clarify some of the misconceptions and paint a clear picture of what to look for when you are bidding your next project. Other factors, not discussed in this article, but also important to keep in mind when comparing LED products are: The power consumption of the sign; greener signs are more efficient and consume less power which increases their lifespan and reduce maintenance cost, to learn more about this read our “Go green” guide . Another key factor is programming software, the easier it is to create appealing messages for billboards and electronic message centers, the more flexible and effective the LED signs are going to be, read our “LED Signs: The Most Effective and Least Expensive Form of Advertising” article and find out more about our Cirrus LED Cloud Software. Download the pdf version of this article.

LED Signs: The Most Effective and Least Expensive Form of Advertising

LED Signs Are Anything but Primitive

One type of advertising has remained popular throughout the decades despite the continual progression of advanced technologies throughout the years: Light-emitting diode (LED) signs were first introduced in 1962 and continue to be one of the most popular forms of business signage and on-site advertising today. Read this article to find out why LED Electronic Message Centers are the most effective and least expensive form of advertising for your business.

LED Message Signs are Inexpensive and Effective

Marcos Pizza Image LandscapeThe United States Small Business Administration (SBA) found in a study that light-emitting signs are not only the most effective, but the least expensive form of advertising. It was found that businesses who use an electronic sign display, in addition to traditional signage, typically see an increase from 15 percent to 150 percent in terms of sales. When you buy an Outdoor LED Message sign, you pay once, and you own the advertising all the time whenever you want it to work for you. With traditional advertising, not only do you have to design or shoot an expensive commercial (using television as an example), but you have to pay each time you want to air it or display it. Message centers are an investment that keeps paying dividends.

Electronic Message Boards Offer Optimal Flexibility

One big reason that LED signs are both so popular and effective is that the business owner is allowed optimal flexibility. LED Modules can be programmed to show different messages at particular times of the day or days of the week. One can display a message as often or sparingly as they would like, and the message can be modified or changed in the same fashion. Moreover, LED panels can be mounted indoors or outdoors and can display images, text or video according to your needs. N2 LEASE SignsLED Advertising Displays, as they are also called, unlike traditional ads, never become antiquated. With software such as our own LED cloud, one can change a message easily any time of the day via a computer, a phone, or a tablet and take advantage of current events to increase sales. Is it snowing? Advertise winter products. Have extra stock of a product or a flash sale? Let the passersby know. The town’s baseball team just won the game? Let your customers know you are celebrating too. This flexibility allows for continuous experimentation in the messaging at practically no cost. You can easily try different messages in your LED Board and see which one resonates more with your customers. All these would be virtually impossible to do this with more traditional outlets such as TV or radio commercials, if for no other reason than it would be impractically expensive to create dozens of different ads.There is no flexibility or experimentation, if you make a commercial with poor reception, that is a sunk cost. Furthermore, digital signs reach many more people at a much more economical rate than other forms of advertising. For example, the Yellow Pages get an audience of 4,000 individuals a month at an average cost a month of $1,000; radio gets an audience of 11,600 a month for $4,370; and newspapers get an audience of 16,900 for $9,000. LED signs get an average audience of 34,600 for only $300 to $600 a month. So, not only is there at least double the commercial audience, but the cost is ultimately much, much less.

Statistics about other mediums

We have discussed impact EMCs (or Electronic Message Centers) can have on your business. So let's further highlight the decrease in effectiveness of other mediums. Television advertising has lost it’s power, not only viewership is fragmented into an ever increase amount of different channels but more and more people are watching TV online (In 2013, one fourth of all households had Netflix streaming) or using their DVRs to skip ads (In 2012, 52 percent of American households owned a DVR ). Overall, 86 percent of viewers skip commercials when watching television. And the younger generation is largely eschewing television for other activities or forms of media: according to Nielsen Research, Americans between the ages of 12-to-34 watched less television during the last quarter of 2012 than they did in the last quarter of 2011. Other forms of media also have seen a decrease in engagement and are competing against new technologies. Radio and Newspaper circulation have decrease more than 10% from 2010 to 2013 percent. And more people admit to follow the news on their laptop or computer than on the radio or newspaper. Satellite radio, MP3 players, and streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora have also seen remarkable growth in this decade. And with 80% of consumers using the internet to search for local businesses, the Yellow Pages are also becoming obsolete quite fast.

Why People Notice LED Roadside Signs?

Customer engagement rates don’t lie, LED displays are effective. There are only theories as to why, their flexibility and the fact that they are programmable might be a factor. Their effectiveness at grabbing passersby attention might be another. When people walk or drive by a store with a Roadside LED sign, they are actively focused upon their surroundings, so it catches their attention. With TV or radio advertising, one is usually engaged with something else while advertisers assume they are reaching someone. Dunkin Donuts LED Sign 1The average American drives over 13,000 miles a year. You can think of that time as being the time your audience is held captive, especially if there is traffic. It is estimated that 20 percent of stops to retail store are impulse, unplanned stops, which bodes well for those looking to gain new customers through LED Message Boards. Signs are a great and cost effective way to show potential customers where you are and what do you do.


Electronic LED Displays are a very effective and inexpensive way to increase sales, attract new customers, and promote your business. Electronic Message Boards provide a flexibility and audience potential unmatched by most traditional advertising avenues. Moreover, new media is fragmenting advertising audiences and making traditional advertising less effective, while LED displays are becoming more affordable and easier to program. Download the PDF version of this article

Reader Boards vs. Outdoor LED Displays

The evolution of signage has reached a point of drastic change. The old style of sign, known as a reader board or marquee, is giving way to programmable digital sign boards that are more convenient, efficient, and attractive. In today’s fast paced life-style, LED displays are becoming dominant especially as technology decreases overall sign manufacturing cost and increases ease of use. A Brief History of Reader Board Signs or Marquees The reader board or marquee sign originated in America in the early 20th century. During that time, cars were growing in prevalence and importance. The fact that many of the people who passed in front of a store or theater were now in cars meant that business owners and marketers needed a new strategy to advertise what was on sale, who was starring in a show, and other messages. Everyone soon realized that the automobile was there to stay and that they needed to make it easier for these potential customers see their messages. Thus the marquee was born . A theater could put the names of shows and movies out on this type sign where it would jut out over the sidewalk and be close to the street. Marquee_Sign-1They were also attractive with their lights drawing a lot of attention. As time went by, businesses knew they had hit a home run with marquees as they were easy to use and could communicate information effectively. Consequently, these signs lost their tight association with theaters as convenience stores, churches, motels and other businesses all over the world began to use them. Early Beginnings of LED signs Outdoor LED display signs are a relatively new innovation in signage. Their closest ancestor is the neon sign (which appeared several decades after the marquee). Neon signs are certainly bright and eye-catching, but the gases inside are generally not safe to handle directly. A neon sign is also difficult and expensive to change and are significantly less versatile than a marquee because they are fixed in design. Outdoor LED video displays are the next step in sign evolution. Inexpensive light emitting diodes (LEDs) have changed all kinds of display technologies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It is now possible to modify the display of these signs using a computer or smartphone. Moreover, they can do more than just show letters and numbers; they can display images which creative managers and advertisers can exploit to their advantage. LED displays combine the versatility of marquee signs with the glow of neon. Outdoor electronic signs provide great value for their cost when considering all they can accomplish for a business owner. The Pros and Cons of LED signs vs. Reader Board Signs While reader board signs and marquees have been a prominent part of the signage business for decades, they can no longer match the power of outdoor LED displays. The one advantage that marquees had over the neon signs was that they were relatively easy to change. However, LED displays are now even easier to manage than marquees. With a modern display, it is simple to change the screen’s message using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. This is useful in a variety of situations. For example, if you need to change the sign in bad weather, you can stay indoors and simply use a computer.Changing-Marquee-with-Pole If you want to change it remotely, you can now pull out your smartphone and change the message in seconds. To change a marquee, it is necessary to get up on a ladder and change every single letter or number by hand or pole (a process that usually take a movie theater an hour depending on how many new movies have been released). Furthermore, the hardware for LED display’s prices are competitive or, in some instances, less expensive than marquee signs factoring in the price of labor to change the sign over several years. Ease of Use with an LED Sign Creative use of an outdoor programmable LED sign is quite easy with modern displays. Network cloud technology means that you can use almost anything that can connects to the internet to change a sign’s message. The most modern displays come with mobile apps for updating content hourly, or daily using advanced scheduling. Many stores require updating messages on a frequent basis. For example, the price of gas changes every day. An owner of a gas station with a marquee sign needs to manually change the price maybe multiple times a day to keep them accurate. On the other hand, if they had an LED display, it would be the work of a minute to obtain the latest prices and update them at anytime. If necessary, the owner could set a schedule for content that will run during the week at set times. The Future of Signage While the old style of the marquee sign still holds plenty of charm due to its connection to show business and the early decades of the 20th century, the LED display type has more advantages in terms of convenience and versatility. It might be worth using a marquee to capture a certain old-school feel, but an LED display will be a much more convenient option in all situations hands down. This is particularly true for store owners who want to display prices, sales, images, and video on their signs. In terms of electronic sign cost, these signs are well worth the money. The price for LED outdoor signs has now become affordable and inexpensive enough to make them a great value that will continue to bring in business for years to come. Download the PDF copy of this article