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Multiscreen editing

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Steenebruggen Mathieu
Multiscreen editing
on Jul 30, 2010 at 3:42:21 pm


I am just seeking for help concerning a first time for me, concerning an editing which will be shown on multiscreen.

My client (a city) wants to have a video wall in its touristic office. The video wall will be composed of 12 (yes...12!) HD screens : 2 rows of 6. The idea is to sometimes use the whole wall to show one image, but also show one image on 1 screen, 1 image on 4 screens, etc. and of course, the images will move from one screen to another (or depending of the case, from the 4 screens to the left to the 4 screen to the right, etc.) Everything will be shot in HD, with a sony HDcam camera.

So, ideally, I would like to keep the HD resolution when the video will be shown on one screen. My first idea (but impossible to realize, due to restriction of pixel size in FCP - 4000 pxl) was to make a huge timeline setting of 1920X6 pixels by 1080X2 pixels, so I could edit everything together, and then split the sequence in 12 HD videos (taking into account the space between the screens)(besides, I know that the rendering time will be so huge than I will maybe see cars flying outside my window before the render finishes) .
I had another idea (but which is also almost impossible to realize) which was to edit each screen individually, but then I see horrible problems coming like how am I going to adjust a video moving from one screen to another, etc.

Well, to make a long story short : Did anyone already had a similar job to do, and how did you manage that?

Thank you all for your answers, greatly appreciated!

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Mark Suszko
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Jul 30, 2010 at 4:55:10 pm

I have read about others doing what you want to try, the Live/Stage forum guys often have some good insights on how to achieve this efficiently.

What I think I retained from my reading was that your general idea of working in one massive comp, to keep everything locked together in synch, is right, and commonly done, (but in lower res to improve performance until the final render steps) then there are some tricks to do in rendering out the parts of each section, and using specialized servers to play it all out together. Sounds like an ambitious but fun project.

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Gary Hazen
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Jul 31, 2010 at 7:29:29 am

Man, that's an ambitious project. Simple math dictates a canvas of 11,520 x 2160 (1920 x 1080 panels configured 6 wide and 2 high. And that doesn't even account for bezel width.

I've done a fair share of multiscreen projects. One approach is to work with a large comp in After Effects and the render out widows from the large comp for each individual screen. I've never taken on anything with the dimensions listed above. I'll do the editing in a NLE before moving to AE, it helps in establishing the flow of the work before moving on to the giant canvas. Sort of like doing a pencil sketch before doing the painting.

Another approach is to lay out your NLE timeline with each track dedicated to a single screen. In your case 12 tracks. The benefit of working this way is the visual cues of seeing the clips and how they relate to one another. The downside is that constantly turning the track monitors on and off to monitor specific displays can get old fast.

Finally, you can rely on SMPTE timecode to make sure all your events land in the right place. This is my preferred method to work on multiscreen projects. Each screen has it's own sequence. Add locators, markers or note the timecode where you want key events to occur. Cut the first sequence and repeat 11 more times. Drop the finished sequences into a single timeline, add an effect to scale and position each screen appropriately. Render the timeline, hit play and you have a rough idea of what the end product will look like. Tweak as needed.

All that said, we're getting way ahead of ourselves. Start at the end and work backwards. What will be used for playback and synchronization for 12 streams of video? What's the viewing distance from screens to the audience? Is HD necessary for playout or will SD suffice?

Once you understand what the deliverables are you can set up a focused production strategy.

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Andrew McKee
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Jul 31, 2010 at 10:13:10 am

What if you just create a smaller canvas with the right aspect ratio (say 1152x216), edit using picture in picture effects on 12 layers, then once the piece is done you could just drag each layer into a new HD canvas, stretch it out and render?


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Walter Soyka
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Aug 2, 2010 at 4:59:18 pm

I always do multiscreen editorial with an offline/online model.

In my opinion, there is no off-the-shelf software that handles this well from end to end, so I do my creative offline in FCP and then online in After Effects. I will consider Premiere Pro CS5 (with the Mercury playback engine) for my next multiscreen edit.

I completely agree with Gary's advice, and I'd like to emphasize the last point he made: you need to understand your deliverable before designing your workflow.

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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Jason Diebler
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Aug 4, 2010 at 2:15:54 pm

Here's an Apple Online Seminar on multidisplay.

Multidisplay Video Presentations on the Mac

See how to use ProVideoPlayer to create dynamic, multi-screen video presentations that rival the most expensive visual productions? with very little training or investment.

"The deepest blues are black" - Foo Fighters
(this doesn't help me when I'm chroma keying!)

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Fred Jodry
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Aug 6, 2010 at 12:30:48 pm

You might find some helpful tricks just above but the easiest way is to shoot film originals then run the negatives or prints through a telecine with the scanning area capturing the appropriate rectangular take in each area of the twelve. Be sure not to forget to use the editor`s grating pattern to help set up the rectangles. Here the video is easy but film sound if needed can sometimes be hard.

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Rick Sebeck
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Aug 7, 2010 at 12:28:16 am

I did a 12 screen HD wall last year. We used a 6x3 orion screen powered by 6 mac minis running Renewed Visions' Pro video player to synch all the feeds.

As for my workflow, I worked in one large comp in ae, then precomped that into 12 HD comps, and rendered each one out. The piece was all graphics with some pretty advanced filters and compositing and 5 minutes long - i think it took about 12 hrs to render out on an 8 core with 12gb of ram.

If you are doing a lot of editing - I suggest editing in fcp, and when the edit is locked, using FCPtoAE and then start animating.

Of course the other option is to treat it like a real video wall, edit all the pieces then use a show control program to "animate" the pieces into one show.

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Tom Sefton
Re: Multiscreen editing
on Sep 3, 2010 at 3:50:04 pm


We have delivered something very similar to this in the past.

We utilized After Effects to create very large canvas sizes, and then by using Dataton Watchout, we stitch them together afterwards. This allows you to utilize maximum quality from your videos whatever the canvas size. Watchout handles all the processing power and can do some really cool things regarding interactivity and multiple language accessibility.

I think the largest video wall we have put our work on was an 18 screen wall at DRUPA in dusseldorf. Watchout was a dream to work with, and After Effects made it very easy. We also had live cameras that were positioned within the VT.

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