Understanding Aspect Ratios for Digital Signage Design

We get a lot of questions from people designing content for digital signage about how to work with different digital signage aspect ratios.

The first thing is to define the terms we’re working with. An aspect ratio is an image area’s width divided by its height. The most common aspect ratios are 4:3 for standard definition and 16:9 for high definition or widescreen. You’ll also come across 9:16 which is used for vertical layouts.

You also need to understand resolution. The resolution of a screen is the number of columns and rows of pixels it uses to create the image, and it’s written as width by height. Some common resolutions for large-screen displays are 1280 x 768 and 1366 x 768.

If you have multiple windows showing content on one screen, each one of those windows has its own aspect ratio and resolution. The basic rule is – design to the aspect ratio and resolution that the content will be shown at. If you don’t do this, your software may smash or stretch your still images to fit them into the window, and you may get bars around videos and Flash because the software will keep those at their original size and just fill in the rest of the block with black.

The key is to make sure you look at your specs all the way through the process. Most digital signage software has multiple places where you have to choose an aspect ratio or set up a resolution. You need to make sure that they are set the same across the board.

Sometimes, you’ll even have to set these specs for your hardware like media players, so it’s important to think about the aspect ratios and resolutions you’ll be using before you set up your digital signage system. It’s usually best to run your displays at their native, or default, resolution whenever possible.

Lastly, if you’re running the same content on a group of displays, they may not all have the same resolution, so you’ll have to experiment to see if your media looks good played back across the different screens.

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