Widgets Magazine

Stop Creating Content for Digital Signage

By Ron Santana, Director, Digital Media Services, Towson University

Leveraging Existing Communication Avenues for Your Digital Network

At Towson University, we have an incredible team of graphic designers. Every year, along with our talented photographers, they would spend countless hours on creating these impeccable poster-style calendars for every team. They always look amazing!
However, as soon as the poster was printed, it felt like the content was dead. The photos and design files were archived away on a server in the basement of our data center, never to be seen again. It was certainly a shame that so much time was being spent on creating something that was never going to be used again.
But, one day, while I was brainstorming with the project manager, I devised a way for us to repurpose the content. I could use the project file from the poster and separate the layers. Then I could resize the content to match our digital signage display. Once I had the correct size and formatting, I could put on my motion graphic designer hat and animate the layers. By working smarter, I easily had fresh, dynamic signage content for every game.
By the following year, back with my video director hat, we started producing video headshots for all of our athletics teams. These were shot on a green screen, and included simple movements, like looking up to the camera and catching a ball. While it took some time to get through all of the players, the post-production was easy, as I used the same background and font selections from the posters and digital signage graphics. We even went yet another step further and used the same graphic treatment for the outdoor LED road signs.
This also demonstrates something that many schools, including ours, sometimes miss. And that is the idea of branding, or promotion of a product through similar and distinctive design. With a school our size, and I imagine with other large schools, there are, at times, multiple departments working to create content. If this content does not have a consistent look and feel, familiarity and awareness will be diminished and the institution, as a whole may appear disjointed.
Through my experiences, I’ve learned to really live the concept of working smarter and not harder. So now, at every video interview, I take time to ask, not only the questions that I need to satisfy my current project, but also questions that I could potential use one, or even two projects down the road (and, asking alumni for advice to graduates is always a good idea).
On our creative services request sheet that, we now have digital signage format option, along with a road sign option. Our designers now know to save the files with the layers separated so that my video team can easily animate the graphics.
These production techniques, looking in hindsight, really seem like no-brainers. But, they literally took years for us to identify and implement. While we had some growing pains during this process, we now work more efficiently with more robust results. These changes have made the department more productive, and frankly, more creative. The mantra, “working smarter, not harder,” sounds easy, and obvious, but putting it into practice is hard work. As higher-education media professionals working with limited budgets, we must strive to improve our workflow and production techniques. This not only improves the quality of our respective institutions, but also improves the quality of our personal workmanship. At times, you may feel you’re the only one that wants to affect change. But we owe it to ourselves, and we have the responsibility, to make our product better in every way possible.
Author Ron Santana will co-present “Stop Creating Content: Leveraging Existing Communication Avenues for Your Digital Signage Network,” at Digital Signage Expo 2018 on Thursday, March 29 at 9 a.m. at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2018 or to learn more about digital signage go to www.dse2018.com.
About the Author
Ron Santana, Director Digital Media Services for Towson University has been producing media for the higher education landscape for over 20 years.  In his current role with Towson University’s Division of Marketing and Communications, Ron leverages his multifaceted experience to create and manage dynamic media for internal and external audiences. Ron is a proud Towson alumnus with a B.S. in Visual Communications. He also holds a B.A. in Radio and Television Communications from George Washington University and a M.F.A. in Broadcast Design from Savannah College of Art and Design.

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