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Roger Lansing
Multi display content creation
on Oct 9, 2008 at 2:53:28 pm

This may have been answered here before, but my initial search turned up nothing. Maybe I am using the wrong search terms....anyways, I have been tasked with creating content for a permanent video wall installation that will go into a museum. The content will be shown across 17-24 monitors of various sizes (designers have not yet settled on the design of the space) that will be mounted both horizontally and vertically to create a video wall of approx 20X12 ft. At various times throughout presentation, a "spokesperson" will be seen, shot vertically full-body, to give the impression that they are standing talking to the visitors. The video wall, as usual, will be used to create one large image as well as broken up into various smaller images across the monitors.

My question is, what is the best way to go about creating the content? I use FCP Studio as well as AE and am fairly proficient in both from an editing point of view. I have never created anything quite like this, but am looking forward to the challenge. My assumption is that I will edit the content as usual within my edit suites, creating various clips that will then be arranged in a timeline consisting of multiple video and audio tracks within the software that will run the displays. Is that a correct assumption? If so, what is the best software to run this presentation? I have some experience with Watchout, since a multi-projector theater presentation here in the museum uses that software. But will that be overkill since this will not include projectors nor will it require blending? Is there a solution that will be less costly, but accomplish the multi-monitor presentation? I am excited about doing the work, just want to make sure that I am doing it in the most efficient way possible.

Roger C. Lansing

Multi-Media Production Coordinator
National Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown, NY


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Walter Soyka
Re: Multi display content creation
on Oct 9, 2008 at 8:53:07 pm

Hi Roger,

Watchout is certainly a good option, and the new stage tier feature in version 4 will give you a lot of flexibility in allowing some pieces of media to span monitors while others stay confined within one display.

A lower cost option you might consider is synchronized DVD playback, with one player per display. I'd edit the media in FCS as you've suggested, and then build the video wall in After Effects, creating one master comp to work in. Then you nest, scale, and re-position that master comp into 24 different comps, each one representing a specific monitor output.

Pixel density will be an issue when using monitors of varying resolution and physical size, because the size of a pixel will vary from display to display. There's a feature in Watchout that will allow you to correct for this, but if you go the DVD route, you'll have to compensate that for it while designing in After Effects.

I'm happy to help if you have any other questions.



Walter Soyka

Keen Live, Inc.

Digital Media Design & Technology


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Roger Lansing
Re: Multi display content creation
on Oct 15, 2008 at 5:15:43 pm

Walter,

Thanks for your input. Watchout, I understand, will be the best possible option, and the one that I am pushing for. Unfortunately, I do not control the purse strings on this and Watchout and all of the necessary license keys (potentially 17-24) may be out of reach of the exhibit's budget. Is there other software, or a suite of software, that can do this kind of job? It will need to handle not only the monitor wall presentation, but also the assorted cues that go along with a multi-media presentation. I know that Watchout can do it all, it has been running our theater here non-stop for at least 3 years...it is a tremendous product...you get what you pay for. I know. But before I push hard for going over budget, just wondering if there might be something else out there. Thanks again for your time.

Roger C. Lansing

Multi-Media Production Coordinator
National Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown, NY


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Walter Soyka
Re: Multi display content creation
on Oct 16, 2008 at 3:43:10 pm

Hi Roger,

What other cues do you intend to drive from the presentation?

Wings Platinum from AVStumpfl is a product similar to Watchout, but I don't use it and I'm not sure on pricing. It would still require one computer per display, so it may not result in big savings.

I mentioned synchronized DVD playback earlier -- this is possibly the least expensive way to run the wall.

You could replace as many of the individual Watchout display computers with DVD players (loaded with pre-rendered content and controlled by a synchronizer) as you like. Whatever smaller Watchout cluster remains could chase the DVD players and handle show control, as well as let you quickly update content on those individual displays only (ie, highlight new inductees).

You could also replace all the displays with DVD players, and just use a single machine for show control, be it Dataton, Medialon, or something else entirely.

An industrial DVD player is probably roughly a quarter of the cost of a Watchout license and a display computer.

Walter Soyka

Keen Live, Inc.

Digital Media Design & Technology


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Thomas Leong
Re: Multi display content creation
on Oct 21, 2008 at 3:30:15 am

"Wings Platinum from AVStumpfl is a product similar to Watchout, but I don't use it and I'm not sure on pricing. It would still require one computer per display, so it may not result in big savings."

I use Wings, and with today's Core 2 Duo's, SATA drives, and dual-head graphics cards, Wings has a feature that can effectively half the number of licences and displays required, compared to Watchout. Wings can output 2 discrete screens/displays per licence/PC. If need be, the Wings Production Master can also be used as a Display PC. Not advisable as the control timeline will then no longer be visible for monitoring, etc. Alternative in a dual monitor setup for the Master is to use one monitor for the timeline, and the other as a Display output, thereby squeezing one more screen/monitor for the whole setup.

In a 24-display setup For example, one could use only 12 Wings licences/PCs + 1 more for the Master = 13 licences and PCs in all.

Licence costs between Wings and Watchout are almost similar, with perhaps Wings being slightly lower.

AvStumpfl has hardware products based on CF cards playback which can be controlled by Wings, or, after programming, can contain the timeline transferred from Wings (i.e. playback does not require the Wings Master PC to be present). Perhaps some combination of hardware and software from Avstumpfl will solve your problem. Suggest you contact a Avstumpfl dealer to discuss your varied requirements without obligation to see if they have a solution for you.

Thomas Leong



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Mike Broich
Re: Multi display content creation
on Jan 22, 2009 at 4:14:43 pm

Can a Watchout display computers utilize multi-monitor cards or the Matrox Triplehead2go boxes to reduce the number of licenses needed?
That might work in this application, since individual monitors are going to be used and edge blending won't be needed.


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Thomas Leong
Re: Multi display content creation
on Jan 23, 2009 at 6:11:39 am

AFAIK, Watchout cannot do that - i.e. use multi-head gfx cards and output discrete content from each head. It can, however, use multi-head cards to output a clone of the Primary head so one can direct one head to the beamer/projector/monitor, and the other to a monitoring monitor at the operator's desk.

I'm not sure how WO would work with the Matrox'x TripleHead2GO though as the latter presents to the PC a huge high resolution screen, and then does the splits within itself before outputting. It's like a 1-in, 3-out thingy but without cloning between the 3-outs.

Wings Platinum, however, will output discrete screens via multi-head gfx cards. The feature is originally meant for stereo outputs from one PC to do 3D shows, but can be used to output 2 or more discrete videos to separate monitors, or split a larger image to 2 or more monitors from the one Display PC...other things being equal, i.e. the Display PC has enough beef to process the video simultaneously. It is just a couple of switches to enable within the software to get there, and is a licence saver.

Thomas Leong



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Walter Soyka
Re: Multi display content creation
on Jan 24, 2009 at 12:02:53 am

Thomas is correct -- Watchout is designed for one output per display computer. The Matrox TripleHead might work, but you will lose some big features, like the ability to place each display independently on the stage (all three outputs from the TripleHead would have to go together); you'd lose the ability to independently adjust for differing resolutions or pixel densities of the displays; you'd lose the ability to edge-blend: and you'd lose the ability to place the three displays into different stage tiers.


Walter Soyka, Principal
Keen Live, Inc.
Presentation, Motion Graphics & Widescreen Design
RenderBreak: A Blog on Innovation in Production



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