By Peter Saunders
As one of the largest zoos in North America, the Toronto Zoo relies on a variety of media to communicate with more than 1.3 million visitors each year and improve their guest experience. In late 2014, the facility added a new series of commercial-grade, high-definition (HD) digital displays to this media mix, both to provide important information to visitors about daily events and special exhibits and to boost advertising real estate for its sponsors and partners.
Weatherproof (and spiderproof)
Installed primarily near the zoo’s admission gates, the weatherproofed SunBriteDS Marquee-series digital signs were chosen because they could withstand the naturally severe conditions that are routine at an outdoor facility.
The 1.4-m (55-in.) displays are designed to function at extreme temperatures ranging from -40 to 50 C (-40 to 122 F), with automated internal cooling and temperature regulation systems. Their heat-tolerant liquid crystal displays (LCDs), backlit by light-emitting diodes (LEDs), help ensure content is readable at any time of day or night, all year round, by protecting the crystals against temporary isotropic blackouts.
(By way of explanation, an isotropic blackout occurs when a display panel turns black in direct sunlight. The zoo’s previous outdoor screens suffered significantly from this problem and required awnings and extra accessories to maintain consistent performance.)
“Content on these displays can be seen down to the fine detail no matter what nature throws at them,” says Jonathan Johnson, director of brand marketing for SunBriteDS. “Attached to mounts that are also weatherproofed, they can perform in nearly any climate condition on Earth.”
Starting at 2,000 nits of luminance, the new screens use ambient light sensors to help adjust their brightness in line with changing environmental conditions and feature a special ‘matte’ finish to reduce glare.
“Now our displays are fully readable throughout the day,” says Charles Duncan, the zoo’s manager of computer and telecommunications services, who first became familiar with SunBriteDS products seven years ago and, for this project, combined them with custom media players from Technovision in Pickering, Ont. “Installing the players was a breeze.”