- What would be the hardware solution be to run around 8-10 independent screens or as many as poss with one macbook pro, playing different content? I can use a Mac with say Matrox Triple Head to go for 3 screens, (3 macs =9 rather expensive solution for a poor artist and can only move content between the three of them)
I got some excellent advice from Cornelius at Vidvox but would like to find a solution with only one mac if poss as its not live and will run in an exhibition space?
His response was:
- 8-10 screens. This is one of the more limiting options when using Mac computers. The newer Apple Silicon processors have output hardware limits. I believe an M1 Max Macbook Pro is limited to 4x 4K screens. But you can turn a single 4K screen into 4x 1080p screens. It really depends on your output resolution. Many professional installers run a Datapath to split screens into multiple sources. They are not “cheap,” but will be less expensive (and cumbersome to setup) than a series of bright signs. Another option are raspberry pi computers, but they are limited in other ways. From there, there are also NDI to HDMI devices, which would then put more of the stress on ethernet and networking. Many options, but would be a good question to take to the forums. This also depends heavily on your output screen resolution and how far away the screens are from the computer (or computers). A single VDMX license is good for an install on 3 machines.
Datapath FX-4 or HX-4 are the go to devices in this situation. Very stable and reliable hardware.
I would recommend RPi + https://videolooper.de. You can pick up used RPi on eBay and the software is very easy to install. I use this set up for installations and the RPi will run for months without the need to reboot.
Hi Rudgey, I’m thinking about the same question as you. At the moment I haven’t had the time to test it live, but here are some of the solution I’ve heard about
Datapath: works but expensive (~2000€), especially if you want 8 screens, so 2x datapath
Matrox: I’ve seen that it now offers a 4 HDMI or DisplayPort version Matrox 4H2Go. Cheaper (1200€) than Datapath. Be careful if you want to use two at the same time that the two boxes must be synchronized to avoid image lag. It’s okay for Datapath, but check with Matrox.
Use a splitter for a 4k → 4x HD screen wall. It’s a bit of a DIY job, but depending on what you want to do, it’s definitely the cheapest solution. Beware of refresh rate (30/60 fps); really prefer a 60 fps system for a more flowing image.
A friend of mine uses Apple TVs with an NDI application something like that to connect his various screens. Advantage: you can use RJ45 network technology + hub or Wifi (beware of bit rate). I haven’t tested the solution yet, but my friend tells me it works…
I hope these info help you with your project. Don’t hesitate to give me feedback and I’ll add to it as soon as I have new information (->1-2 months).
Your solution sounds very interesting; I’ll give it a try too; thanks
If going the NDI route and your main machine sending the signal has a 10gb/s port you could send NDI to a 10gb/s switch and then send from there to BirdDog play boxes.
Thanks but no way of syncing easily, but great tip if this is not an issue.
Thanks Nico, I would be interested to hear about any tests you do, I will do likewise
I don’t know much about NDI looks interesting
The problem with going with the NDI option is that the computer has to encode 8-10 NDI streams and that consumes a lot of cpu resources. I understand that for a macbook it is too much.
Regarding the raspberry pi there is a Pi presents option that you can control the trigger through osc.
This might not work for your setup, but it’s a solution I’ve used for somewhat similar situations:
In case the content does not have to be continuously controlled or synced from one singular content machine, one possible cheap solution is: Multiple simple HDMI media players with USB sticks hosting the content pr screen. You can get them (example) for around 30 USD, and then you’d need a SD card or USB stick for the media, price depends on video file / resolution (how fast must the card be to stream your content), for me the cheapest 16GB USB sticks was always enough.
The media players and usb sticks (and HDMI cables) are always reusable for future projects so the cost pr production goes down pr show. They are super small and lightweight.
If you get all players the same make/model and they have autoplay (starts playing memory card content when turned on) put them all on a single breaker and turn them all on at the same time they will pretty much run in seemingly sync from start if you need that, but in my experience it is never as tight as triggering from a single source, so YMMV. For me the point was slightly different content running in slightly different tempos (same material but randomly appearing on different screens) so this setup worked great for me, i just turn them all on within a minute and the same file appears randomly, but you can also prep individual content and have it somewhat in sync.
Just mentioning this as one possible solution out of many!
Regarding the NDI, I’ve heard positive feedback. There are several points to consider: the video stream (30/60 fps), the possible image size (HD/4k) and of course, as @jandraka points out, the performance of the source machine.
It all depends on the final form of your project. E.g. if, like me, you’re looking for a fulldome 360 equivalent installation or other layout with merged screens, Datapath technology (or equivalent) will be needed to ensure that all your outputs are well synchronized. If your screens are independent, I believe a 4k → 4x HD splitter technology may do the trick. So your PC will have to output (only) 2x 4K, and I have a feeling that this will be more acceptable for your PC’s resources than outputting 8x NDI HD.
It’s tricky, but I have the feeling that you have to make sure that the whole broadcast chain is properly fitted (image format, refresh rate, etc.) for the final output. A single element in the chain can limit the whole
Otherwise, if you don’t need to have live video or merge your screens, @GMM’s solution seems the smartest.
@all, What do you all think, is this reasoning correct? Who has already tested this kind of configuration?
Agreed on the Datapath units - they rock.
question - Does anyone use a thunderbolt pci chassis and a Decklink quad?
Am very interested if they work good w VDMX
Not the same specification, but if it helps, I use a Thunderbolt Sonnettech Echo Express SE I with a Black Magic Decklink Duo 2 and it works on both input and output (4x HDMI) or also 2x Input, 2x output, etc.
According to Sonnettech’s specs (page 3), it should be compatible with a Decklink Quad 2, but where I’d have doubts is on the amount of information (8x separate video streams) that has to pass through the Thunderbolt cable…
To be tested; please let me know if it works for you, as I’m interested too.