Many want to acquire their first LED screen and do not know where to start. Here is a guide to the different products on the market with their advantages and disadvantages
by Adrian Morel
The decision to buy an LED screen is not an everyday thing. These are expensive and there are for various applications. Based on my experience, the entrepreneur who decides to buy an LED screen should analyze the following stages:
1. Business Study: It begins with the idea of knowing what the business consists of, its profit, profit margin, etc. At this stage, the AV professional, more than information about the screens or the product itself, is looking for a guiding guide on how to recover the investment. AV companies begin to observe that almost all outdoor shows have LED screens and they cannot be left out. This initial stage I call "business study" because it is not even known about the financial possibility or viability of the investment.
2. ROI or return on investment: Here the mental decision was already made to want to enter the screen business and everything related to the return on investment, need for capital, search for partners or associated companies, etc. is coldly analyzed.
3. Decision to invest in outdoor or indoor screens: At first, the AV entrepreneur does not clearly differentiate between the use of outdoor or indoor screens, and for this reason wants to find a shortcut, looking for a product that serves both applications. If there is something we have to make clear, it is that the difference between an outdoor screen and an indoor one is as sharp as the difference between an Athenian centaur and a Cretan minotaur, that is, two totally different things.
Investing in a 6mm pixel pitch screen for use in outdoor events as well is like shooting a pigeon with a missile. The square meter of a 6 mm screen is two, three or four times higher than the square meter of a 16 mm screen and the investment is very high for so little return. That is, using a 16 mm screen for outdoor events is to take advantage of resources and have an adequate return on investment. For example, it is easier to get profitability from a screen that costs US $ 10,000 per square meter than to get profitability from a screen that costs US $ 30,000 per square meter.
Many strive to have a low pixel pitch screen to please the viewers who are in the front rows, but the truth is that these viewers, five meters away, prefer to see the singer with their own eyes and directly, not through a screen, because the screen is used for row 20 onwards.
4. Economic Opportunity Cost: In the economic opportunity cost, the AVI entrepreneur must make his own numbers, confirm that his investment in screens will be superior to any other type of investment, for example, buying more projectors. Not only must you analyze the cost, but you must also contemplate the amortization of the equipment, which for this type of products goes in 5 average years or more. For example, the stadium of the Seattle Seahawks football team has a 9-year-old LED screen and is in optimal condition.
5. Cost of the screen: It could be said that it is a determinant in the decision, because at first glance, the cheapest screen is the most preferred. But making a decision based solely on price would not be smart, as it is simply one more factor in this equation of 5 unknowns. Everything is interrelated: cheap screens offer a good initial investment but often require additional services or investments such as, for example, the repair of them in the short term and many cheap screens must be discarded after 2 years.
To tell the truth, the decision to buy an LED screen is to adopt a certain technology and commit to a supplier for the certain time of the life of the business. After 5 or 7 years of using the screen a lot of water has run under the bridge and it takes a lot from the supplier in terms of after-sales services.
When buying a cheap screen you should take into account if you are including provision of spare parts, training, technical support, customer service in language and convenient hours for the customer, etc.
6. Duration: This point is clear, if you can choose between a screen that costs $100,000 lasting in perfect condition 2 years and a screen that costs $200,000 and lasts 5 years, then the conclusion is easy: the second screen is slightly superior in service or the cost-benefit ratio is more attractive.
7. Technology: This issue is complex because similar screens, with the same type of LED but from different suppliers, have different prices. For example, many compare an unbranded LED display using "cree" LEDs to a top-of-the-line LED display using LEDs also "cree" and observe different prices. For those who have never visited an LED factory, I tell you that they have between 87 and 93 different levels of quality. That is, that an LED creates first selection and with 5000 NITs exactly, has much more value (and is more expensive) than an LED creates of fourth selection with 4893 NITs. Having top-choice LEDs makes the product more expensive, but guarantees uniformity and reliability over time. Top-of-the-line LED display companies only work with reputable and top-choice LEDs.
8. Utilization: Utility plays a fundamental role. If one buys an LED screen for fixed installation and puts it on the 21st floor 500 meters away from the public, then the resolution of it is not as drastic as a screen that is close to the public where you can notice every imperfection.
In the case of rental screens, the construction of an all-terrain chassis is essential. Well, they are usually transported by land and require a more solid and resistant construction. For example, aluminum cabinets are preferred over steel constructions.
9. Service: Customer service in Spanish is taken as a service, but it is not enough alone. Nowadays we must also look for it to include technical service when we need it in three or five years, because many LED screen companies appear on the market every month, but few are those that are projected and last over time. A company of LED screens that remained 10 years in the market, will surely be able to provide service in the next 5 or 10 years.
Investing in an LED display takes time, is expensive, and should be partnered with the right LED display provider. A good idea to have as a reference is to ask for AV companies already established and that have experience in the use of LED screens.
* Adrian Morel is Lighthouse Technologies' managing director for Latin America and can be reached at his California office ([email protected])