“We have 308 screens on this wall and you are telling me that not one of these gets ESPN?”

– control room operator, probably.

Console Designs and Monitor Configurations are Interrelated

When designing your control room, both the console design and monitor configuration will need to be considered together because they will impact one another.

We are often asked to make recommendations on monitors. It is possible to nail the best monitor configuration on the first attempt, but the likelihood is low. Your best strategy is to get a flexible product that allows you to try multiple monitor arm configurations and easily make changes with minimal disruption to your operators.

Frequently Asked Questions about Monitor Configurations

1. “How many monitors is too many?”

It depends on how the monitors are being used.

If you are trying to determine how many monitors an operator can physically see and actively monitor from a single workstation, a set of four 24” monitors in a quad configuration are basically the most that they can see without moving their head. Six 24″ monitors stacked in 2 rows of 3 is the edge of an operator’s visual limit before they need to physically move their body to see additional monitors.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary viewing areas (cross section) for seated male operator
Primary, secondary, and tertiary viewing areas (plan view) for seated male operator

The image above shows normal line of sight for an operator in a normal and relaxed posture. The green zone is primary viewing area – no eye or head movement required. Yellow is secondary – eye movement with no head movement. Red is Tertiary – visual limits, head movement required.

Viewing Areas Defined

  • The most important information for the operator should be placed in the primary viewing area
  • Less important information in the secondary viewing area
  • Information that is only referenced on occasion in the tertiary viewing area (CCTV security cameras on overview monitors, for example)

Many control rooms require a single operator to passively monitor several workstations. In this case, you may have 20 or more screens stretching around the operator. No amount of customized console magic will allow the operator to see all of that information at once.

The best strategy is for the operator to have a single alarm screen directly in front of them to signal any emergencies that happen across all of the stations that they are monitoring. The visual alarm screen can be combined with an audible alarm and directional speaker system to draw the operator’s attention to a particular workstation more effectively.

2. “Can we have X number of monitors, but still see____”

Insert any of the following into the blank: A video wall, the production floor, the front door, out the window, the security gate, another operator position, etc.”?

The answer to this question will depend on the specific layout of each control room. As long as we understand what the operators need to see, we can create a 2D or 3D line of sight model to determine whether the operators have clear sightlines.

Video Wall Height and Distance from Operator

A very common version of this question is, “If we have stacked monitors, will we still be able to see monitors on the wall?” The answer is that it’s possible, but it depends on the height of the monitors on the video wall as well as the positioning on the operator. As you can see in the 2D sightline views below, the farther the operator is from the wall, the higher the screens need to be mounted for them to see the information that is displayed.

Viewing distance and angle for seated male with stacked 24″ monitors
Viewing distance and angle for standing male with stacked 24″ monitors

Viewing angles get much worse when the worksurface is height adjustable. If the console is almost right against the wall and the ceiling is 10’ high, you may be able to see the monitors.

However, when you mount the monitors high enough that the screens aren’t blocked by a console in a standing position, you make viewing angles worse for when the operators are sitting.

One way that we can use our console design to address this sightline problem is to mount the large screen monitors directly to the console. The large screen monitors can be mounted to move in unison with the other screens on the operator’s console, or to a separately height adjustable mounting wall just behind the console, like our 6000 Series console.

6000 Series Console isometric view
6000 Series Console cross section

3. “Should we go with five 24″ monitors, or three 32” monitors?

Although the specific monitor sizes and quantities change, the deliberation between using fewer larger monitors or more smaller monitors is common.

While it is physically possible to mount monitors of almost any size and weight on a console, the required monitor mounting assembly that is used may differ.

Now let’s consider the actual difference between five 24” monitors and three 32” monitors. The Viewable Image Size (VIS) of a monitor is the physical size of the area where screen images are displayed, calculated by multiplying the screen’s width by its height. For a 24” monitor, the VIS is approximately 246 and a 32” monitor’s VIS is approximately 452. Therefore, five 24’s is 1230 VIS and three 32’s is 1350 VIS. That isn’t a very significant difference.

While going with larger monitors reduces the number of bezels that divide the operator’s screen information, both configurations already give the operator more screen than what an individual operator can focus on without turning their head.

There are two other requirements you should focus on more than screen size:

  1. Ensuring you have an efficient alarm management system for displaying the most important information to the operator in their primary viewing area.
  2. Having an effective means of drawing the operator’s attention to the screens in their secondary or tertiary viewing areas when their attention is needed there.

4. “Should we get curved monitors?”

There is nothing inherently wrong with getting curved monitors, but they come with certain drawbacks.

Console with three curved 32″ monitors with one touchscreen

The most important thing to confirm is that your control system will support the native resolution and aspect ratio of a curved display. If your control system is built for 16:9, 1920 x 1080p at 60 Hz, you are not going to be able to display the information properly on a 32:9, 5120 x 1440 49” Dell Ultrawide. (Someone in your IT Department will be able to tell you what format your control system supports.)

Another challenge with curved monitors is that a row of adjacent monitors will create a circle around the operator. This isn’t necessarily a challenge if the console footprint and room layout support this configuration; however, if you are planning to have straight consoles against a wall and multiple curved monitors across the entire console, you might not be able to make that configuration work.

5. “Can we stack 65″ monitors over 55″ monitors and still have height adjustable consoles?”

The short answer is yes, but this requires the consoles to have a specific shape.

For example, with the configuration shown below, when the worksurfaces are in a fully raised position, the top of the 65” monitor would be over 9’ in the air. If this console was straight, then the monitor stability would be questionable. However, a curved console gives a more stable base to support a tall stack of monitors like this.

65″ monitors stacked over 55″ monitors on height adjustable operator consoles

Do you have a control room project that you want to talk with us about? Are there specific topics that are of interest to you?

I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions about the work that we do.

Evan Turner

Canadian Sales Manager


Tresco has been manufacturing custom consoles for 24/7 use critical operations centers since the early 1990s. We place a strong emphasis on operator-centered design. We want to share our collective experience working on hundreds of unique control room projects to help people make better control room design decisions.

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