It is InfoComm season and the new products and their associated press releases are flooding the AV airwaves. With the plethora of information circulating, it is hard just to keep track of what is new, let alone wrap your head around what it may take to actually integrate it into your next project.
One category of products that seems to be opening up right now are “stretch” UHD displays. I have seen quite a few press releases for these already this year starting around DSE, including new products for mounting them as well.
I have somewhat of a reservation about calling these displays “stretched” as to me, stretching something would maintain your vertical resolution and add pixels in the horizontal orientation. These panels actually maintain the horizontal resolution and then decrease the vertical resolution to create a new aspect ratio screens.
Many manufacturers are really just cutting a standard 16:9 panel in half to create a 32:9 aspect ratio screen. These are really more like “half panels” than “stretch displays”. The dead giveaway here are the resolution specs. 3840 x 1076 (It’s like a 1080p double-wide). The vertical resolution is actually slightly less than half of 2160p, as these manufacturers are cutting existing standard UHD panels in half, which means they lose a few pixels at the cut, hence the 1076 vertical resolution.
These panels are also typically using off the shelf UHD controllers as well, meaning that you feed them content from a 3840 x 2160 source, and create content that leaves the bottom half black. The controller however has no idea it’s panel doesn’t have those extra pixels.
Half panel stretch displays are nice replacements for applications where you would normally be building a 2×1 with small displays and creating customized content or side by side 1080p content. They are also great for portrait style installations as the narrower shape and tall appearance can be more eye-catching than the traditional horizontal layout.
Some other manufacturers are taking stretch displays up another notch. Take LG for instance with it’s 86″ UltraStretch display. The horizontal resolution is still 3840, but the vertical resolution is 600. This is essentially equivalent to 4 small 960 x 600 displays in 16:10 aspect ratios. These screens actually have custom controllers and content creation software that allow for 4 images to be displayed side by side by side by side, something LG calls Picture by Picture (PBP). The content creation software allows one of those 4 PBP images to be video, with 3 others being still images.
Now add in the ability to daisy chain multiple units together, light sensors for auto adjusting brightness, and internal memory, and you can quickly see the value of these types of displays start to multiply over their half panel counterparts
These 85″ x 13″ displays are perfect for creating content in a continuous stripe around a venue or stacking to create content towers on interior columns. Of course the traditional menu board market is a home run for these as well.
So the skinny on stretch displays?
They all help break through the monotony of the traditional 16:9 format and eliminate bezel interruptions that would be prevalent in smaller monitor “arrays”. They are not all created equal however. Some are stock 16:9 panels cut in half, while others offer even more unique aspect ratios and content creation suites. At the end of the day, they all have a place in our digital world. As one of my Project Managers always used to say, “Horses for courses.”