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Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video

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Pat Ford
Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 19, 2012 at 5:45:37 pm

I am involved with a group attempting to present a multi-screen video presentation. It will pertain to a historic era...roughly speaking, the 50s to the 70s. The plan is to have several (roughly eight or so) vintage televisions showing content related to the era. The viewers will have the opportunity to interact with the presentation.

My first idea was to use Adtec media players configured to respond to external trigger events. Also these media players allow coordination of the screens through a master/slave configuration of the players. However, it seems that the budget will not allow the purchase of the media players.

Is there another way of doing this? It was suggested that the content be fed from computers with multiple video cards. Evidently there is someone on the team with Max/Jitter expertise. Can you imagine a configuration that will work to coordinate video AND respond to external triggers? Thanks in advance.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 2:45:47 am

As a long-time Dataton WATCHOUT user, I'd suggest you look into that. It's built for multi-screen applications like yours. It supports both external triggers and multiple displays.

Also worth mentioning -- if you're using vintage televisions, you can stack whole SD frames into a single HD output. You may be able to find a video wall controller that will then let you extract the SD windows from the HD frames.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Pat Ford
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 6:14:06 am

Thanks Walter,
But isn't Watchout horrifically expensive? Cost is an important consideration....
If it were not I could supply several Adtec media players for a reasonable price...I have 20 from a business that blew away...They want to own the gear for the project...



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Walter Soyka
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 5:46:32 pm

[Pat Ford] "But isn't Watchout horrifically expensive? Cost is an important consideration...."

Interactive multi-screen is a pretty small niche, so the quality tools tend to a bit more expensive.

Now that WATCHOUT 5 supports multiple outputs per display computer, it is not nearly as costly as it used to be.

If you can stuff 8 outputs into a single Mac, you might consider QLab from Figure 53.

You can certainly roll your own solution, either through Thomas's proposals or with your own Max/Jitter developer, but I think that you'll quickly soak up the cost of a couple WATCHOUT licenses with development time -- not to mention testing!


[Pat Ford] "They want to own the gear for the project."

Does that make sense for this project? Depending on the duration of the project, a rental may be a lot cheaper or provide better cash flow.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Thomas Leong
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 6:10:44 am

There are multiple applications that can sync multiple videos, but the interactive part of your requirement is the main problem. Since you have someone in the team who is good with Max/Jitter, have a look at -

http://www.zachpoff.com

for his -
1. multiscreener software (free)
2. Video Trigger Video (also free)

or HC Gilje's VPT (Video Projection Tool - also free) and its Extensions at -
http://hcgilje.wordpress.com/vpt/extending-vpt/

There should be a solution to your problems with one of them.
Good luck!

Thomas Leong



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Pat Ford
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 6:17:43 am

Thanks, Thomas...They do have someone that can do Max/Jitter. I looked at the website and...frankly...it did not make a lot of sense to me. I am a video guy not a programmer. I am fine with programmer until I get to the "hello world" part. (!) I will relay your suggestions at the next meeting...thanks again.



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Thomas Leong
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 7:41:23 am

Been thinking...what sort of interactivity do you require from your setup?

With multiple videos playing, if from one source device (eg. a pc/mac) which has multiple outputs, then triggering the device to play another video is very likely to affect the other videos which are already playing but which are not triggered to change. Granted, Watchout and Wings Platinum can do this with their Aux Timelines and Mix Groups features respectively, but $price is high.

Simple solution is, per your original idea, to have multiple individual media players each feeding their own monitor/output, and triggering each to change as and when. With this in mind, perhaps look at "mini digital media players" (google is your friend) which have infra-red remote control capabitilties (about US$20+ each), and have someone de-code/over-ride those infra-red signals for each player and build you a sturdy kid-proof push-button control panel for the audience to select what they want to see on which monitor.

I know an electronics engineer (boffin) who may be willing to do this - de-code, design and build - or suggest alternatives. He specializes in one-off solutions for all sorts of audio-visual related work. He is based in London and knows how to build and program PIC and Basic to get relays to work as intended for museums, etc. Contact me offline if you want to contact him.

Thomas



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Pat Ford
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:33:58 pm

First, thanks very much indeed for the advice. It is appreciated.

I am in an awkward position because I feel I don't have the ability to give you complete details of what we are doing. However, let me flesh it out a bit more:
1. The project is for an event which will occur very early next year.The project will be reinstalled at another venue once or twice a year in the future.
2. The video displays (likely vintage TVs) will display media of a certain era.
3. The visitor will interact with the entire display by moving an object. Ideally this interactivity would be reflected on some of the display screens. Thus, it would be similar in operation to a video game.

Am I understanding correctly that a strategy using Max/Jitter might present problems because of the interactivity? I thought Max/Jitter was all about interactivity.
Watchout is actually much less than was my understanding...Either I was wrong or the price has decreased. I thought it was around $12k.
As I said, I have limited knowledge in this area...and no knowledge or ability with programming. I have about twenty Adtec Signedje media players; I could sell them to the people putting on the project. However, I sense that they are not comfortable with buying the used media players because of price.
This is an exciting project for me and I want it to move it ahead in the most efficient possible manner. And thanks once more.



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Walter Soyka
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 20, 2012 at 10:04:19 pm

[Pat Ford] "I am in an awkward position because I feel I don't have the ability to give you complete details of what we are doing."

I totally understand.


[Pat Ford] "Am I understanding correctly that a strategy using Max/Jitter might present problems because of the interactivity? I thought Max/Jitter was all about interactivity."

I'm not saying that -- I'm just saying that the cost of the time you'll spend developing and testing an in-house solution may exceed the cost of buying an off-the-shelf product you can use.


[Pat Ford] "Watchout is actually much less than was my understanding...Either I was wrong or the price has decreased. I thought it was around $12k. "

WATCHOUT has grown up a lot in the last couple releases. It does all kinds of cool stuff now that it didn't used to do, including multiple display support, a 3D environment, and MIDI/serial/DMX-driven interactivity.

Dataton sells WATCHOUT dongles for $2249 USD each. That's a per-computer software license. You'll have to buy a computer to run it on, too. You'll need two display computers with quad-output graphics cards and two licenses to drive them. During programming, you'll want a third PC and dongle acting as a production PC (controller/programmer), but once you've got the show finalized, you can run in cluster mode without a dedicated production PC (meaning you can rent the third dongle).

That does admittedly carry a reasonably steep price tag, but you'll still need to buy display computers with a Max/Jitter solution, too, so the price difference is not as great as it may seem.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Thomas Leong
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 21, 2012 at 5:30:48 am

I suggest you download Watchout and check out if it will do what you require. Without a USB licence plugged in, the program works in its entirety except for networking with Display PCs (and therefore output to fullscreen). MIDI and Serial inputs/outputs work as well in demo mode. If you are using only one physical PC/laptop to do your tests, install Microsoft's Loopback Adapter to get an application to talk to Watchout via TCP/IP within that one PC. You may need other utilities to get serial or MIDI to work, eg. HW Virtual Serial Port, MIDIYoke.

Just remember that if you want to run in cluster mode, some commands are not available/different versus running with a Production PC (Control) present. Differences are all in the Watchout Manual.

For the interactivity you described, I'm not sure what the input device will output in order to be seen on screen. If it is a motion sensor, the device must still output some sort of a signal that Watchout can react to - MIDI, serial or DMX. Once Watchout 'sees' the signal, it can be programmed to trigger an Auxilliary Timeline that outputs the required reaction to the Stage (Display PCs).

If you want to check out a programmable motion detector that outputs serial, a suggestion is http://www.weiglworks.com/md. I have another from another manufacturer, but mine is hard-coded at factory with the 'play' codes of the application I intended it for, unlike Weiglworks' which is programmable by user.

Another program to check out for interactivity is vvvv.org but the learning curve is far higher than Dataton's Watchout (for me, anyway).

Thomas



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Clifford Steinberg
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 26, 2012 at 9:46:26 pm

Have you looked at BrightSign? They have cost efficient players that can be synced and respond to external triggers.

http://www.brightsign.biz/

Cliff Steinberg
Rent Com, Inc.
http://www.rentcom.com
Chicago


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Walter Soyka
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 26, 2012 at 9:54:17 pm

[Clifford Steinberg] "Have you looked at BrightSign? They have cost efficient players that can be synced and respond to external triggers."

Maybe I misunderstood the interactivity requirement -- if you are simply cueing existing motion media, the BrightSigns could be a good choice. I do have a couple of these and I've been really happy with their reliability (though I haven't pushed them being looping and very simple single-screen cues).

Can they return from a single media cue on one unit at its end into the correct point in a synced multi-unit cue?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Pat Ford
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 26, 2012 at 10:00:58 pm

Thank you gentlemen,

I took a quick look at BrightSign...and I have heard of them before. I am a lazy cuss...can someone tell me the difference between the BrightSign and the Adtec SignEdje? I have several of the Adtecs...they are worth considerably more than the Brightsigns...or at least they cost considerably more originally. (!)



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Thomas Leong
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video
on Nov 27, 2012 at 1:29:48 pm

No experience with the Adtec SignEdje, but I have 2 Brightsign HD210. Tested the following so far with:

- One media file (mpeg) looping all day. Perfect seamless loop, better than vlc on a pc which has a visible pause whereas the Brightsign did not. Same file (a Digtial Juice Jumpback).

- Two media files - a panoramic split for bezel, etc., and controlled by an old router (to auto assign the IP addresses to each Brightsign over CAT-5). Perfect looped sync, all day. Brightsign claims 1-2 frames mis-sync may occur, but I did not see any with the media I fed it - a Maria Carey video with Snoop Dog - with lots of flash cuts, easy to see the sync between both monitors throughout.

However, the Brightsigns (both operated as a standalone single unit, and as dual units controlled by a router) took some time to start playing the media on power up. As a single unit, about 1 minute. As dual units with router, about 2 minutes+, probably to acquire the IP addresses. But it is idiot proof operation - power up and play, even if powered down in the middle of playback, i.e. suddenly.



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Thomas Leong
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video - interactive
on Nov 27, 2012 at 1:38:54 pm

If you want to add interactivity capabilites to the Brightsign, enquire/check this site out -

http://bcdusa.com/content/view/120/183/



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Clifford Steinberg
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video - interactive
on Nov 27, 2012 at 4:30:14 pm

I do not have any experience with the Adtec SignEdjes either.

My experience with BrightSign includes:

-3 units(HD1010's) looping the same video with synchronization.

-3 units with 3 plasmas to create a video wall, synced with ethernet and switcher - synchronization worked extremely well(as it is quite noticeable if a video wall is out of sync).

-1 unit, controlled by Crestron touchpanel to allow user to play a specific video file.

-BrightSign unit controlling projector over RS-232.

Depending on how you want users to interact with your content on the televisions, BrightSign may be a viable option.

[Walter Soyka] "Can they return from a single media cue on one unit at its end into the correct point in a synced multi-unit cue?"
I have not created such a show, and it sounds quite difficult to do using BrightAuthor(BrightSign software)- I don't see a command that finds the time of the synced units and is able to seek the single unit to the rest. Possibly a custom script could do it, but that is beyond me.

Cliff Steinberg
Rent Com, Inc.
http://www.rentcom.com
Chicago


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Pat Ford
Re: Method for Doing Multi-Screen Video - interactive
on Nov 27, 2012 at 6:57:23 pm

I appreciate the information on BrightSign; it is possible that we may take that path. However, in the short run, I would like to have more information on the Adtecs. I do have twenty of them. The documentation for them is not clear...What I need is a "getting started" overview. On another thread, a person emerged who does run Adtecs SignEdje players. He invited me to email him with questions...

However, I can't find out how to email another member...can someone please tell me how that works?

Thanks!



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