How to Format an Event Video for a Large LED Screen

Video has become a common feature in many successful and engaging events, and most of these videos are displayed on an LED screen. But, if your formatting is off, your display may fail to fill the screen, or it will look squished, stretched, or worse. No one wants that! To ensure your event video has maximum impact, here are some tips on formatting for a large LED screen.

LED Displays are Complex

Several elements come together to create an LED (light-emitting diode) display and determine how it looks to the viewer:

  • Pixels. An LED screen is not a continuous surface, like a projector screen, but a grid of tiny points of light called pixels. The pixels are arranged in horizontal and vertical rows to form a matrix, with space between each pixel. The distance from one pixel to another (center to center), say 10mm, is called pixel pitch. Pixels themselves can vary in size, from a single LED to multiple LEDs that function as a unit.
  • Pixels light up in various combinations to display content, and they light up to varying degrees of brightness and color, giving the display dimensional depth and sense of movement.
  • Matrix. Grids of LEDs come in different sizes. Matrix is described as two numbers — the number of horizontal pixels, then the number of vertical pixels — for example, 96×32. The shape of the matrix (width compared to height) is called aspect ratio.
  • Resolution. The smaller the pixel pitch (the more pixels within the matrix), the clearer your image resolution will be.

What does all this mean for event video formatting?

Screen Size Matters

Your LED screen has to be the proper size and in the proper position to accommodate your audience. If it’s too small or too far away, it will be tough to view your video. However, if the screen is too large or too close, your video will be pixelated, with an eye-watering diffused or dotted appearance.

So what’s the best distance? The LED sign industry uses the following formulas as rules of thumb. You can, too, but it’s a lot easier to consult with your AV pros about this (and all the details of your event video needs) because there are other event-specific variables that could come into play.

  • For minimum distance, multiply pixel pitch by 1,000 (i.e. a 100mm pitch would be 10 meters, or about 33 feet.)
  • For maximum distance, multiply the square footage of the matrix by 10 (i.e. a 6-foot x 4-foot display would be 24 square feet, so maximum distance would be about 240 feet.)

Viewing angle also affects what your audience will see. If the angle is too narrow, anyone looking at the LED screen from an off-center position may see a distorted image or none at all.

Formatting Your Video

An LED screen displays video differently than a computer and at lower resolution than a TV. For LED viewing, it’s best to use source content that is simple and bold, not highly detailed. This is especially true for text or ads attendees might see in passing, as opposed to a video they would be seated to watch. Also, a dark backdrop/screen will give your video an impact boost because you’ll get stronger contrast between the background and displayed image than you would with a white backdrop.

Ideally, your video should exactly match the LED screen’s aspect ratio. If it does not, it can be adjusted, but know the result may be less than optimal Matrix height is the best guide to use because it’s typically less than the width and more vulnerable to formatting changes. You can modify your video to fit the display by:

  • Resizing (shrinking). Pixels won’t “drop off,” they will get mushed together.In addition to pixilation, a resized image will be out of aspect — looking strangely squashed or stretched, if too extreme.
  • Cropping. In this case, you choose a section of your original image that matches the LED display size and show only that. The image will look fine, but you may run in to difficulties if you need more of your image visible than cropping allows.
  • Blending, resizing and cropping to achieve the best of both worlds.

Who knew it would be this complicated? As always, though, savvy event planners look to their AV team for help. So, if you’re looking to show a video on a large LED screen at your next event, start by giving us a call.