“What are some guiding principles for content prepared for close-up viewing versus long-distance?”
There is a host of creative production tactics and techniques used in developing content for either viewing experience. I won’t get into that, suffice it to say that there is only one formula you really need: TEST, TEST, then TEST some more.
We already understand the need for proper assets in building content, as well as ensuring the correct screen and player specs are being met and the final files are delivered in the correct resolution and aspect ratio. Basic stuff. What we tend not to do is put ourselves within that viewing proximity. Many times, content is briefed and specs are given, but the people involved neglect to actually visit the site. How are we to determine the best content composition if we don’t have the perspective of where the audience might be when viewing it?
If people are looking up at a digital billboard, fine. We know they will be viewing at a distance great enough that the content should look relatively sharp regardless of pixel pitch. We also know that we can show multiple elements on the screen at once and the audience’s eyes should be able to take it all in. Likewise, if we know the audience will be walking past a large video wall at a distance between 20 feet and 4 feet, we know they might not be able to focus on all of the visual elements simultaneously. They may be too close. The audience might miss one piece of visual information while they are focusing on another being introduced in another area of the screen. We might need to look at revealing our visuals in a cleaner, singular and more paced manner to allow for an opportunity to actually see the element.
Let’s add a few more wrinkles. Which rule takes precedence when the screen can be seen at very far and at very close distances? In that situation, we recommend erring on the side of caution and adopt the near distance strategy. Unless you have solid data that says the number of viewers at a distance far outnumber those up close.
Another thing to consider is in how many different deployments (screen sizes, configurations, locations, and viewing distances) will the same piece of content be featured? Just as you must reformat and sometimes completely develop net new content to tell the same story in different formats, (e.g. trying to use the same creative elements for a 6×3 video wall versus a single 16×9 screen), all deployments must be considered from a viewing distance perspective as well.
It’s a lot of work, but this kind of testing leads to efficiencies in production, a reduction of costs, a limitation on the opportunity for errors, and an overall boost in the efficacy of the content.