Determining the correct ‘Pitch’ of your Monochrome and Color Outdoor LED Signs can be a confusing topic. Every sales person has an opinion. Unfortunately the recommendations of a sales person can sometimes be influenced by what products are available to him and what is in stock. In other words, sometimes the recommendations of a salesman is what is best for him/her not what is best for you and your business.
I am going to give you a quick guide for determining what pitch is best for you so you will not be dependent on a salesman to determine what is best. We will need to start with what pitch is and why it is important.
What is Pitch and Why You Should Care
Simply put, the pitch is the distance from the center of one pixel to the center of an adjacent pixel. This is most commonly expressed as a measurement in Millimeters. For instance, 12mm, 34mm, 63mm, 89mm, just to name a few of the most common pitches. In a sign with a 20mm pitch, the distance from the center of one pixel to the center of the next pixel is 20mm.
Okay, that is easy enough but why should you care? There are two reasons: resolution and price.
The smaller the pitch is, the more pixels you can pack into each square foot (or meter). Here is an example. At a 20mm pitch, for a 8′ x 10′ Color LED Sign, you will have a matrix of 112 pixels high x 144 pixels wide. At a 34mm pitch you will have a matrix of 64 pixels high x 88 pixels wide. At a 45mm pitch you will have 48 pixels high x 64 pixels wide. As you can see, when you are dealing with set size LED Sign, the smaller the pitch the more pixels you get. That adds up to higher resolution.
You might be thinking “Well shoot, I should just get the smallest pitch I can!” You won’t end up with a grainy sign with that philosophy but you might end up spending more than you need to! That means there is more to the equation then we have covered so far. Here is the other big consideration.
The human eye does not and cannot see every detail. When you look at an LED Billboard (the big billboards you view from 800′ – 1000′ away) your eye does not see every pixel and every LED, it fills in the blank spots to makes a complete image for you. You are generally to far away and the sign is to big for you to pick up the fine details. On the other hand if your are standing 100′ feet away from an LED Sign you will be able to pick out more details. If the pixels are not close together (tighter pitch) you will be able to make out the gaps between pixels and the image will look very pixelated. LED Billboards have a much larger pitch (frequently around 89mm) but they are to far away for you to see the gaps.
That is where the price comes into the picture. If you do not need a tight pitch to get a good image, why pay for one? Your application and sight specific factors as well as the type of LED Sign (Monochrome or Color) will determine what the optimal pitch is for your LED Sign.
How Do You Determine The Optimal Pitch?
Determining the optimal pitch is actually a mixture of art and science. Take a look at the chart below:
This chart will give you a starting point.If you take a look at it you see that you need a character height of at least 1″ to be readable at 50″. That is the rule of thumb for determining character height based on viewing distance.
If you continue on across the chart you will see a recommended pitch. These recommendations will work for monochrome signs but when you are dealing with Color LED Signs they serve only as a starting point. For instance, you might want your Color LED Signs to be viewed from 100′ to 300′. As you can see at the closer distance the chart recommends a 20mm pitch but at the longer distance the chart recommends a 28 mm pitch. So what do you do? That is where the art of determining pitch comes in to play. If you are unable to decide for yourself what pitch is best I would recommend you find an LED Sign expert (remember a sign salesman is not necessarily an LED Sign expert) and discuss the pros and the cons of the different pitch choices.
The last two columns on the chart deal with the speed of the traffic who will be viewing the sign. Smaller pitches generally mean smaller signs which mean less viewing time. This is important information in determining the best character height which is partially determined by the pitch.
There is no absolute standard I can give you for determining the best pitch for your LED Signs. The best I can offer is a starting point. When looking to invest in LED Signs, take a look at the chart above. It will give you a really solid starting point for sizing your LED Signs. If you talk to a salesperson who is recommending something that does not make sense based on the chart, make him or her explain why they are recommending what they are recommending. Don’t let them off easy, make sure YOU understand why they made their recommendation. Then you will be able to decide if they are looking out for you or for themself.