Hi everyone, thanks for input and observations, very helpful in developing this. I’ve now been touring/performing with this setup for about a year, in lots of various stages/venues/etc, and I now have a stable, always-working wireless + wired multicam solution, just thought to follow up with what works for me, and what didn’t, this could be helpful for others struggling with this.
Current working setup:
-Macbook Pro Retina 15" 2016, 16GB RAM, Radeon Pro 460 4 GB for video (VDMX)
-Macbook Pro Retina 13" 2019, 16GB Ram, for audio/sequencing/signal routing (Ableton Live/Max4Live)
-Netgear Nighthawk XR500-100EUS AC2600 Dual-Band Pro WLAN Router
-Two Apple ipod Touch, running NDI Cam
-Apple iPhone6, Apple iPhone8+, running NDI Cam
-Logitech C920 and Logitech C922 webcams
-ELP Webcam 720P Fisheye H.264 USB
-Two cheap Microsoft 720p webcams as backup incase network problems
-Internal Facetime camera
-Laptop cooling pad with max amount of fans (a gaming one)
Most important, magic first tip: CLEAN YOUR MAC FOR DUST REGULARLY. I had endless problems with throttling (kernel_task) when using VDMX, even with simple setups that wasn’t taxing the GPU much. Turns out the problem was, as a touring artist, playing everywhere from outdoor festivals to grungy basements, my laptop quickly gathered a lot of dust and particles stuck inside the ventilation system, and wasn’t able to ventilate itself properly. And under stagelights, it gets super hot super quickly up there. I opened it, and holy shit, it was PACKED with dust, I was shocked. Cleaning it out with airspray, and VDMX instantly runs with zero problems, if it throttles now it is because I obviously reach max CPU/GPU, not because reaching max temperature. So if kernel_task is going amok, clean your mac. I’m sure many of us has this “laptop lifestyle” and are completely unaware of this problem!
The router is operating only the 5 gHz band, all devices and machine is connected to this 5 ghz network. Router is never connected to the internet, it is just providing a LAN for the wireless cameras. Devices are never updated, they are only used for this exact setup. The router is placed on stage, in the same height as laptop and all wireless cameras, if possible. The wireless cameras (ipods, iphones) are powered, because they would run out of battery for the one hour show, but placed around or outside stage so outside cabled reach for video signal. They can’t be toooooo far away, the 5 ghz network is not strong over long distances. All cameras broadcast or shoot at SD or lower (800 x 648 or 640 x 360) and are often active (output) simultaneously in the main projection (this works for my visual aesthetic, where multiple sources are shown as smaller images within a larger collage and a lo-fi style with heavy processing). The network will struggle if even just ONE of the devices are broadcasting HD.
NDI has been super stable for me - even more than USB. If a VDMX source is set to an NDI input, this device/input consistently comes back exactly as intented when disconnected or moved or setup at another stage etc. Maybe latency increases now and then, but the signal is always THERE. I can trust it. This is not the same with USB cams which I’ve found can be finicky and always needs to be “touched” somehow to get back to work, and often appear with strange new random names in the system, needing me to go through every single proejct and reconnect the device with its new name.
I’m not always using all 8 cameras, on average 6 cameras are active; three wireless and three wired. When using more than 3 wired cameras, they need to be distributed to separate sides of the Mac (can not have all cams on one bus).
MIDI and sync I’m running cabled between VDMX and Ableton Live. The “physical” network is stable, theoretically networked MIDI should work, but I’ve found the macOS network MIDI operation itself to be unstable, the connections can suddenly drop. That experience is based on several years of trying it, so i’ve given up trying it since macOS 10.13, maybe that has improved in later updates now, but the cabled solution is rock solid, always the exact same latency and weights nothing in transport, so it works for me.
Things I tried and refused:
Apple Airport, Apple Airport Express, not strong enough network.
Google WiFi, not strong enough, unstable and no control over device.
Bluetooth MIDI, very finicky and unstable.
Marshall CV502 USB 3 cameras, visually great but super unstable, particularly when more than one.
Generally I’ve found that high-end, good quality gear for gaming seem to actually be the best for working-class artist visual graphics work. Its made for high performance computers and low latency and its not super expensive.
Hope this helps, this is of course something that works for my specific setup and artistic aestethic / message, it is no universal recipe and i’m sure others will have different experiences and opinions, but maybe some of this info can help others.