The Western Downs Regional Council obviously enjoy thinking outside the box. It’s rare for a Council to purchase a pair of oversized, double-sided LED displays for public service announcements, but you get the feeling that this is a Council that is happy to think for itself.
Both displays are six metres high and are installed in high traffic areas on the Warrego Highway in Dalby and Chinchilla, west of Brisbane. The initial use-case for the displays was as another emergency announcement option. If power or internet or communications were down, these boards would continue to act as means of connecting with the community with important messaging.
The Council managed to secure funding from the Queensland Government under the Works for Queensland program. The project went to tender and Toowoomba-based AV integrator, Visual Focus, won the job, spear-headed by Operations Manager Scott Meares and System Designer Tyler Morriss.
“We chose the Aurora LDC series LED panels for their high quality, durability and reliability with respect to Council’s warranty requirements,” reports Visual Focus’s Scott Meares. “The Council tender sought a solution for emergency signage initially but we recommended they consider both emergency use as well as wider community information display to maximise value for money from the project. This meant recommending display panels with finer pixel pitch.”
The Aurora outdoor LED display is indeed an amazing looking visual canvas for the messaging, which includes tourism promotions as well as event news from local community groups.
David Frazer, the council’s Communications and Marketing Officer picks up the story: “The original idea may have been to use the digital billboards for emergency and safety advice, but we now have a promotional platform that works for us all the other days of the year that we don’t have an emergency.
The boards give free exposure to community groups’ events, and provide a powerful marketing tool for our regional tourism office. If we support the local organisations, they’re more likely to continue those initiatives and the local community benefits.”
Securing delivery of the huge LED panels in a pandemic wasn’t a trivial matter. Westan’s Paul Ciobo, working out of the Brisbane office, ensured the product was on site and on time. Visual Focus project managed the fabrication of the shroud etc, and the installation. Western Downs council stipulated the use of local contractors, and Visual Focus was only too happy to comply.
“Visual Focus was instrumental in producing a really high quality product,” enthused David Frazer. “Not only in the quality of the installation but also the commissioning and training.”
BrightSign media players and scheduling software is used. David is pleased with its ease of use and also its redundancy features.
“Worst case scenario, if everything goes wrong in an emergency, we can connect the digital billboards into a generator and plug a USB stick directly into the BrightSign players,” explains David Frazer.
Otherwise, the updating of the signs happens in the comfort of David’s office via an internet connection.
ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY
A pandemic year isn’t replete with events to promote or caravans of grey nomads, but the local response to the digital billboards has been hugely positive, according to David Frazer: “We’ve been approached by nearly 30 community groups to promote their messages and events. Our Community Engagement team gathers the content and designs it to ensure the quality of the messaging.
“As for the quality of the image, it’s superb. The way I like to describe it, is it’s like the quality of your TV at home, only six metres high! You can be a couple of metres away and you still can’t make out the individual pixels. And it’s more than bright enough. Visual Focus has integrated an automated brightness sensor. I think the levels are down to around 6% after dusk.
Anything higher would melt people’s eyes!”
Large kerbside digital billboards are traditionally the domain of the digital out of home advertising companies.
It’s fascinating to watch a regional council take matters into their own hands. Drive into Dalby or Chinchilla and you might be forgiven for expecting a sleepy little country town with perhaps a Tidy Town sign from 1983 or an even more ancient Jaycees or Rotary badge. Instead you can’t help but be left with the impression that you are in a region that takes innovation seriously and is just as serious about supporting its local community. Well worth the investment.