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TOPIC: Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders 18 Nov 2003 11:49 #28483

  • KingJoe
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Any of you have problems with local bylaws related to your marquee? My town will not allow flashers, chasers, mobile signs, etc. Basically I'm left with the option to put up a piece of plywood painted and a letter board.

How the hell am I suppose to attract business with a lame sign like that?????????

Does anyone else have experience with this sort of problem, and is there a way around SOME of these rules???

Mabey I could hire a guy in a chicken suit to stand at the roadside every night?

The King

'The King is only as wise as his Jester'
'The King is only as wise as his Jester'
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Re: Signs and Wonders 18 Nov 2003 16:55 #28484

  • D. Bird
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No backlit? Possibly a highly reflective vinyl or paint with bright spots. What about light bulbs and/or neon so long as it doesn't chase or flash. Perhaps you can get very close to what you want. I hate zoning!
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Re: Signs and Wonders 18 Nov 2003 20:53 #28485

  • BurneyFalls
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I would suggest you get a copy of the sign ordinance and review it very carefully. You may be able to get around the restrictions by the code section's ambiguous language.

Check out all the signs in your municipality to verify compliance or deviance from the ordinance. Maybe there has been a precedence set by another business or businesses.

The code book should list ways to appeal. Talk to the people in the planning department first, then if you don't get anywhere, appeal through the proper channels. Talk to your municipality supervisor/council person. Ask them to explain why the ordinance is written like it is. Is it based on safety and vehicle accidents? Ask them for a list of all the accidents in an area where a blinking and/or flashing sign was a contributing accident factor.

Explain to them that the road department is not in compliance either with their flashing and/or blinking road construction signs. Have them supply you with accident information related to those signs.

If you would have to put up a compliant sign in a place that would require a ladder or some other unsafe method to change the letters, explain to them that a nice LED sign is easy and safe to change. (My old sign required me to crawl through a window onto an overhang that was often covered in ice or snow in the winter. They didn't want the liability of me coming to them later and saying I told you I was eventually going to fall off that friggin' roof.)

Tell them that this is the 21st century, not 1950. I did all that and my sign is up and not within their code restrictions. Two of the planning personnel have told me how nice my LED blinking and flashing sign looks.

(Changing it takes seconds--inside a nice warm theatre!)
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Re: Signs and Wonders 19 Nov 2003 00:44 #28486

  • Ken Layton
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Go over those local sign ordinances very carefully. Here in Olympia, Washington our sign regulations are very strict so we're just like you---a painted piece of plywood with a floodlight shining on it is about all you can do. We are also restricted in the size of the sign being tied to the square footage of the building with a maximum allowed size of 8 feet by 10 feet. Our town is very business unfriendly. The city is about to ban the outdoor LED message signs that some businesses have bought recently ("non-conforming" signs).

It's a different story 30 miles south of me in the cities of Centralia and Chehalis, Washington where your signs can do anything you want and be as big as you want.
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Re: Signs and Wonders 19 Nov 2003 13:44 #28487

I was in a similar situation and needed a variance for a backlit sign.I went to the board with two options, the largest sign i was allowed to have with a big Pepsi logo (which i knew they would hate) and a smaller, tasteful sign. They indicated they were going to turn me down for the variance, so i said fine i'll build the ugly sign. I got the variance.
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Re: Signs and Wonders 21 Nov 2003 09:13 #28488

  • jimor
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If they won't allow a directly illuminated or back lighted sign, possibly you can get by with indirect illumination. One possibility is to install a frame to carry the aluninum channels to hold the standard marquee letters, but put matte finish (or texturized/embossed anodized) aluminum sheet behind it that would reflect the light from lamps (sodiums, other HIDs?) hidden in the lower margin of the sign or canopy, shining up upon the backing aluminum sheet behind the letters. If the letters are opaque, they would be in silhouette, but if translucent, they would be somewhat illuminated from behind by the light reflected off of the backing six inches or so behind the letters. If the angle of the lights to the building face is right, they might also spill somewhat upon the facade and create "architectural lighting," something often encouraged by city beautification and night landscape initiatives. The lights might also be fluorescent or incandescent hidden in the frame, but of different colors controlled by a sequencer-dimmer that GRADUALLY changes the colors cast upon the backing (the lamps would still be out of view from below) but you would gain a changing look to your marquee if you ran through, say, three color changes a minute, without at the same time being garish. Translucent letters would not work out so well in this case, since green letters with a red back light (or vice versa) produce brownish looking letters, and blue with yellow reflected light makes green letters! Opaque letters may be best in this case.

Definitely try to get some influential people to back you before you approach the city, and a nice slide show or renderings showing a tasteful, low key approach to advertising your shows, might win them over. If they think that the usual little clear plastic squares printed with a letter is tacky, consider using bronze or gold-look plastic letters in 3-dimensional form, and bring a sample with you to any meeting with the city. Such will cost more initially, but it may be better than painted signs or nothing. Older theatres in your area may have entire fonts of such that they would sell to you on the cheap, if you tolerate a few letters missing.
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Signs and Wonders 21 Nov 2003 13:06 #28489

  • Ken Layton
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Some theaters have built glassed-in towers or other glassed-in areas on the front of the theater and put giant signs **inside** the glassed-in area which is visible from the street. Signs can then be as big as you want or do what you want because they are technically inside your building where they aren't regulated or zoned.
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Re: Signs and Wonders 25 Nov 2003 12:59 #28490

King Joe,

My name is Christopher Wittmann, and I'm with Adaptive Micro Systems. We are manufacturers of interior and exterior LED displays for many applications, including theatres. We were also the suppliers of the outdoor LED display that Mt. Burney owns.

Your post reflects a very common issue. Our Distributors deal with this subject everyday, which in some cases, can prove to be quite frustrating. Back in October, one of our Commercial Team managers issued a white paper titled "Outdoor LED advertising displays do not pose a traffic safety concern". It addresses the benefits of utilizing an Electronic Message Center (EMC) for your business, and serves as a justification tool when working with your City Officials to permit requests for a variance to local sign code. It also provides many examples of past topics involving the requests of on-premise signage, and in most cases, shows how EMC displays have played a positive role in advertising and safety applications.

Another key point for all to remember is that no city can "ban the outdoor LED message signs that some businesses have bought recently". Once an existing EMC has been permitted, the city cannot decide against future EMC applications. They can, however, subject the EMC to regulations based on the physical size of the display. Again, this is something that can be negotiated.

If you, or anyone else would like an electronic copy of these documents, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The form is in an easy-to-read MS Word document.

You may also want to check out a few other websites that pertain to this subject:

United States Sign Council - www.ussc.org

International Sign Association - www.signs.org


Thanks, and have a great Thanksgiving!

Christopher
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Re: Signs and Wonders 25 Nov 2003 22:31 #28491

  • BurneyFalls
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The sign company that installed my sign (NOT Adaptive Micro Systems) were slugs and never completed the permit process; they paid an initial fee and filed preliminary paperwork, but did not obtain the actual permit, even though I had paid them to do so. I was in contact with the planning department the whole time and they knew what was going on. They had given me a verbal OK to proceed. I had to threaten to file a formal complaint with the state contractor's board before the sign company would even call me back, once the sign was up and they had their money. After my fire they have been VERY attentive to my requests. They got the permit yesterday--even though the sign has been up for about ten months--and I scheduled the final inspection for tomorrow morning. So, the point of this is, the permit was issued with the knowledge the sign may not comply with their ordinance.

For the inspection tomorrow, I have HAPPY THANKSGIVING rolling across, followed by an animated turkey eating what could be its last meal as he walks across the display. My movie and showtimes are next, followed by the time and temperature. I'll let you know if the permit is finalized tomorrow.

P.S. Christopher Whittmann was very instrumental in getting me this sign. He and Adaptive Micro Systems have my recommendation.
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Re: Signs and Wonders 26 Nov 2003 14:23 #28492

  • BurneyFalls
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IT PASSED !
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Re: Signs and Wonders 27 Nov 2003 13:31 #28493

  • KingJoe
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Burney, Congrats!

Christopher, for the benefit of everyone here I will publicly ask this:What is the cost benefit to having a LED sign as opposed to having a traditional letter board? What is the dollar savings? How is the message changed? How well does it appear in daylight? Can such a unit be placed away from the building? What is the weather rating on such a unit. I live in Eastern Canada, so we get 8 - 10 feet of snow per year in the winter, rain, freezing rain, hail, high winds, etc. and -40C temps.

I don't need a specific quote, but I think many people here would be interested in hearing your responses. I will also contact you in the future for a personal quote.

The King

'The King is only as wise as his Jester'
'The King is only as wise as his Jester'
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Re: Signs and Wonders 28 Nov 2003 00:46 #28494

  • Ken Layton
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Remember that a tradional sign with letter tracks can be read at all times regardless of whether the power is on or off. With an LED sign it must be turned on 24/7 so people can read your message. Of course during a power failure that LED sign is useless.
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Re: Signs and Wonders 28 Nov 2003 19:07 #28495

  • BurneyFalls
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Unfortunately, during a power failure my projector is also useless!


[This message has been edited by BurneyFalls (edited November 28, 2003).]
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Re: Signs and Wonders 29 Nov 2003 09:47 #28496

  • KingJoe
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C'mon, Burney. Just use a flashlight and hand crank! The audience will never know the difference!


The King

'The King is only as wise as his Jester'
'The King is only as wise as his Jester'
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Re: Signs and Wonders 02 Dec 2003 18:50 #28497

King Joe (and everyone else),

Sorry for the delay in responding. I haven't had the chance to look at the forum since last week.

I'm glad you asked the questions about LED vs. letter board signs. Let me first say that an LED sign should be considered an investment to your business, and everyone knows that it will cost some money up front.

The initial cost of an LED sign vs. a traditional letter board shows the LED sign to be much higher in price. While a 4'H x 8'L letter board may initially only cost $4K-$5K, an LED version of that same size may be in the range of $14K - $19K. Of course, this is all dependent on the character height, number of characters per line, etc. The actual cost benefits and dollar savings of an LED sign, as opposed to a traditional letter board, happens AFTER the LED sign has been purchased.

The best way to look at "cost" is not asking yourself "what will it cost me to own the LED sign", rather, ask yourself "what will it cost me if I DON'T own the LED sign".

Here are some excellent points to think about:

+ LED technology - never change bulbs or broken, crooked or missing letters again. Never be forced to use incorrect letter characters when you run out. LED's consume less than 1/10th to 1/40th the energy of incandescent message centers. Case materials of the LED display resist very cold or very hot temperatures.

+ Easy to use PC software, flexible networking enables control of the LED sign from the convenience of your office EXACTLY when you want. Inclement weather (read "8 - 10 feet of snow per year in the winter, rain, freezing rain, hail, high winds, etc. and -40C temps.") makes it hard to change messages on a letter board. Wind and weather can blow out letters and add to the hassle of changing adds. Manually changed signs also have safety and liability concerns. Controlling the sign from your PC also decreases labor costs.

+ Advertise up-to-the-minute daily specials, or movie information - try doing this with newspaper, radio, TV, or any letter board. Letter board messages quickly go out of date.

+ Capture new sales by advertising to your drive-by audience. Target selling messages to your specific audience - morning, noon, & night. Ask yourself "What is the value of a new customer?"

+ Non-illuminated static letters are hard to read and unsightly. LED provides a vivid, bright message, day or night, with a better angle visibility to impact your drive-by audience with dazzling, professional advertising messages that cannot be ignored.

+ Become a landmark in your community.
Displaying the time & temperature is a great community service (not to mention a great way to justify putting an LED sign up in your city).

If you, or anyone, would like any more information (technical, electricity cost comparisons, price quotes, etc.), please do not hesitate to ask me. I'm here to help.
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