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Looking High and Low

These three EMCs go above and beyond expectations.




IS THERE A BETTER vehicle for shouting your message from the mountaintops than an electronic message center (EMC)? This holds especially true if your message changes frequently or you have important information to relay to the masses often or in a hurry.

Although their capabilities aren’t infinite, with the right software and LED screen, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better way to get your message across. This can be said for messages of any size, too. From street-level bank marketing to 30-ft. highway signs and everything in between, these dynamic screens get the job done, and with aplomb.

Score board


The sign experts at DāNite Sign Co. (Columbus, OH) pounced on the opportunity to work with longtime customer Columbus Clippers, a minor league baseball team, to rework their existing scoreboard by using and installing an EMC from Daktronics.

Not that DāNite were any strangers to this particular scoreboard, having worked with the Clippers for nearly 40 years to create every scoreboard – from the old days with incandescent bulbs to today’s LED displays, Senior Project Manager Michael Cox said.

“The project was interesting to [us] because of the opportunity to help our client and because it fit well with our capabilities,” Cox said.


“DāNite Sign Co. has been fortunate to have a long history with the Columbus Clippers, which allowed us to create a proposal with Daktronics to rework the existing scoreboard.”

DāNite Sign Co. Owner/President Tim McCord explained Clippers’ President and General Manager Ken Schnacke’s vision for the new scoreboard. “[He wanted] a dynamic board that would allow for the ability to have a digital scoreboard, flexibility in sponsorship display options as they change and also be able to function for non-baseball outdoor concerts and other events,” he said.

The Columbus Clippers minor league baseball team’s scoreboard recently got a major upgrade thanks to DNite Sign Co.’s (Columbus, OH) install of a high-resolution Daktronics EMC.

The Columbus Clippers minor league baseball team’s scoreboard recently got a major upgrade thanks to DāNite Sign Co.’s (Columbus, OH) install of a high-resolution Daktronics EMC. 

Since their job was to design and fabricate the alterations to the existing steel structure to accommodate the new EMC displays, DāNite designers used CorelDRAW for conceptual graphics as well as detailed structural drawings (which were done in collaboration with Daktronics), while the client maintained full control over all display graphics using the easy-to-learn software provided with the board, Cox said.

In addition to the Daktronics EMC display, other materials used for the scoreboard on top of the cabinet include Signcomp K2233/38 extrusion kits, Principal LED Qwik Mod 4 LEDs and power supplies, 3M Panagraphics 19-oz. flexible substrate, Graphic Solutions Group StarBond Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) backing and Matthews Paint satin acrylic polyurethane. The DāNite team brought in Altec cranes and bucket trucks to install the 12-ft. tall x 89-ft. wide sign (bringing the entire board to 35-ft. tall x 89-ft. wide).

Although installing an EMC might seem like too big a hurdle to jump for a lot of companies, McCord said that in the end they always prove to be worth it. “In most situations there are two major obstacles [with] electronic message center projects: The permitting authorities do not understand EMCs and are hesitant to allow them. (This has been changing over time [and] many have been installed in a way that positively impacts not only our client but also the community.) [Also] the cost often discourages a client from moving forward, but I will say that I’ve yet to have a client wish they hadn’t made the investment,” he said.


In fact, recently the DāNite Sign Co. sales team has seen more clients wanting to get higher-resolution, full-color message centers. The LEDs within are being manufactured closer and closer to each other, resulting in a less-pixelated picture. Today, as with the Clippers’ scoreboard, the LEDs are packed together, resulting in a beautiful and dynamic display capable of terrific detail and flowing animations, McCord said.

The install of a new EMC from Watchfire Signs on a landmark, 30-ft.-high highway sign took only five hours for Serrato Signs (Worcester, MA) and the Watchfire team.

The install of a new EMC from Watchfire Signs on a landmark, 30-ft.-high highway sign took only five hours for Serrato Signs (Worcester, MA) and the Watchfire team. 

30 FOR 30

Serrato Signs (Worcester, MA) has been servicing energy company ckSmithSuperior’s 30-ft. highway sign for the past 30 years. From an older neon sign replete with time and temperature to the addition of their first 19-mm LED sign in 2007, to its most recent upgrade this past fall, Owner Andy Serrato said they have happily been there for it all.

The facts that the ckSmith sign was the first sign visible on highway I-290 and the first one in the Wooster area gave Serrato all the reason he needed to make sure this landmark sign was able to keep up with its reputation throughout the years. “It’s not every day you get to return to a successful jobsite over a decade later to do it the ‘right way’ all over again,” Serrato said. “Maintaining and upgrading a landmark sign just feels right.”

When ckSmith contacted Serrato about the recent need for a new LED install, his client already knew he wanted something larger, and with more definition, like a sign that just went up and down the road. To meet these needs, Serrato, together with Regional Territory Manager Mike Patenaude and Watchfire representative Ben Barr, went over to ckSmith’s with the Watchfire demo truck.


Serrato said that Barr showed them the displays he had on the truck, including their 8-mm LED sign and, while the client initially went in thinking they wanted the 19-mm, it turned out they were pretty wowed by the higher-resolution display and decided to go with the 8-mm for their sign upgrade. The technology for the sign scheduled to be replaced was the premier product at the time in 2006, and while their graphics still looked good, the sign had gotten dimmer over the last 12 years. “Buyers want be educated more than ever,” Serrato said. “They are investing in high-resolution displays that continue to work beautifully well into the future.”

Since the client took care of all the design aspects, once the display was purchased, Serrato simply made some mounting adjustments. Watchfire delivered the sign, an electrician hooked it up and about five hours later it was ready to go, delivering high-definition messages to the masses.

“There is no better return on investment than an EMC in terms of advertising, especially with highway traffic counts like ckSmith has,” Serrato said. “Compound that return in a multi-college city and traditional population turnover in Worcester, MA, and digital advertising is a perfect storm for success.”

Astro Sign Co. (Glassboro, NJ) worked with a Franklin Bank branch to install an EMC from Optec Displays that could be seen from every angle.

Astro Sign Co. (Glassboro, NJ) worked with a Franklin Bank branch to install an EMC from Optec Displays that could be seen from every angle.


Picture this: You run a bank on the corner of a busy intersection across from a bustling shopping center, a township building and a CVS. You want people from all corners, as well as street traffic, to not only see your sign, but to also be able to read messages that promote your business, inform the community of local events and, overall, make you stand out from the crowd. What kind of sign do you go with? An LED message center, of course.

This was just the problem set forth by Franklin Bank and the solution proposed by Astro Sign Co. (Glassboro, NJ), according to Astro Sales Manager Nicholas Painter. “Since this sign was installed, they have been able to accomplish all of those tasks and more.”

Astro had worked with Franklin Bank in the past, creating other projects for them (billboard advertising, lawn signs and wayfinding), so they jumped at the chance to create the EMC because, as Painter puts it, “The bank is a staple of the town and has a lot of commercial clients. This project offered a great opportunity to have our name associated with it [and], through word of mouth and social media posts, the bank was able to share their positive experience working with our company and refer us to other clients.”

Franklin Bank

Astro was able to use the Franklin Bank logo they already had on file from past projects to create a static header that matched signage from their other locations. They then made sure the new sign duplicated the size of the previous sign, and finished the design by using a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. “We used the existing masonry structure as the base and had to design our sign accordingly to make it work with the variables we had,” Painter said.

For the EMC itself, Astro chose an Optec Displays full-color 10-mm unit, the right choice when taking into account factors such as distance from the roadway, speed limits, the traffic light and distance from the intersection. “We wanted to make sure the customer had a unit that provided enough detail, but didn’t have them spending money on a unit that was not necessary,” he said.

These days more than ever, changing and updating messages have taken on increased importance. Newly restricting or relaxed state or local regulations related to COVID-19 can halt, reduce or expand the bank’s hours for servicing clients inside, or direct all customers to the drive-thru. EMCs are the best and most efficient sign at conveying those messages.

Elizabeth A. Lowry is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. She has been writing about the sign industry for more than 20 years. Contact Elizabeth at



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