Our customer AB Inbev (Leuven plant in Belgium) asked us to use a data-driven presentation for their LED signage wall in the entrance of the brewery. They already had this LED display operational, mainly showing the number of days since the last accident, then a countdown to the World Cup 2018 and a few other images with message and safety instructions.  The LED software supplied by the LED vendor is a bit basic and lacks real easy dynamic capabilities.

That we often see at various installations when you are used to PowerPoint for designing presentations. Basically, that simple software allows the user to add a sequence to a playlist. They can then select a basic image or a more complex Flash video.  Flash or SWF files are often used to display the dynamic information. On a JPG, you can’t calculate the number of days without an accident in their software.

The big disadvantage of this type of technology is that a normal user cannot create or edit Flash files and this is expensive custom development. Nothing is easier than PowerPoint and our DataPoint to create dynamic data driven presentations.  You just add slides, add your image and put some dynamic controls on top of it. This simply can’t get easier than that.  Everyone gets full control. But most people don’t think of PowerPoint as LED software and not everyone expects that you can connect such a giant industrial screen from a computer with only a VGA output. Here is the LED screen with the old LED software (the numbers are masked).

old led software
And the simple player displaying the images and SWF files.
This is typical for LED, this displays in comparison to a computer or television screen where in the screen resolution is very low. Here, for this LED display, the screen resolution available measures 256 by 144 pixels.  The computer connected to the LED wall, has a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels.  So our presentation needs to be set to 1024 by 768, where only the left top area of 256 x 144 pixels is shown on the LED.

Our slide design will be set to 1024 by 768 pixels.  Normally, you will see inches or centimeters as unit, but, you can just enter pixel values here too, and not many people know this.  Then, go to Design, Slide Size and click Custom Slide Size… Enter 1024px and 768px and these values will be automatically translated as 10.667″ by 8″.

Our presentation is set up for the computer screen or its maximum resolution. Now, we have to identify the area on our slide that is going to be visible in that small 256 x 144 area. We already know that 1024 x 768 relates to 1.667 x 8 inches. Using the same proportions on our LED area, gives us an area of 2.667 x 1.5 inches.

Go to the Slide Master and insert a shape covering the full slide like so.  Here, you will see the default color being used, and set the Shape Outline to No outline.

using powerpoint as led software
Let’s draw a second shape in the left upper corner and set it size to 2.667″ width and 1.5″ height.  Open the Shape Fill menu and set it to a given color.  Open the Shape Outline and set this to No Outline.
First, select this smaller shape and then the second shape that is used as full screen / slide.  Click Format, Merge Shapes and choose the option to Combine.  Now, we have cut out the LED area from the full screen. Change the color to e.g. purple and add some visual elements to warn people to not use that other leftover area, to prevent that they will start designing a full screen slide.
Our small area for the LED area is now ready.  You can zoom in in PowerPoint to enlarge that specific left top area.  Close the Master View. Right click on the slide and open the option Grid and Guides and add one horizontal guide and add one vertical guide.  Position the 2 guides so that serve as a visual aid to mark the LED area.
Zoomed in, this looks like so:
Now, you can start adding slides that shows your messages.  Insert images and texts. Don’t forget to change the show type to Browsed at a kiosk (full screen) so that it repeats forever.  And as transition, turn of manual advancing and set a display time for automatic advancing after n seconds for ALL slides.

Optionally, you can use our DataPoint add-on for PowerPoint to display information in real-time or to increment that number of days since the last accident and other counters and countdowns.

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final version of powerpoint as led software

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