Whenever you have attractions with large video screens with viewers in close proximity, video quality, resolution, and frame rate are critical factors in ensuring a great experience. For the cutting-edge rides and shows in today’s attractions, these growing requirements push video projection and playback technologies to the limits. This example is going to illustrate how Alcorn McBride products can be used to provide stunning 8K resolution video with a perfectly fluid 120fps playback rate.
In the past, this level of playback capability was only available from high-end computer-server technologies utilizing RAID arrays of storage drives. Aside from the stunning cost of these solutions, it’s generally bad for the experience when Windows or OS-X messages pop up on the projector because the computer wants to update itself or inform you about a problem. Also, computers often get bogged down with other non-essential tasks that can result in poor playback performance. Instead of getting a nice smooth 120fps video, you risk stuttering and synchronization issues. RAID arrays also complicate matters greatly when drives fail and need to be swapped.
When combined with the right projectors, the AV Binloop Uncompressed offers a scalable solution that can adapt to the needs of your attraction. This is a solid-state solution that was purpose-built for high-quality high frame rate playback. It is not a computer-based player, so you get smooth playback with clean window-free video on the outputs every time. All from hardware that has been designed to last for many years with no maintenance.
Integrating the System
To clearly demonstrate the advantages that Alcorn McBride Show Control and the A/V Binloop Uncompressed bring to high-end projection systems, we will implement an 8K120 theater in this application. This requires a total of 4 perfectly synchronized 4K120 (4096×2160) sources fed to 4 edge-blended 4K projectors.
We’ll also utilize ShowTouch to provide nice touch panel interfaces to monitor things like projector health and provide control of the attraction.
Let’s take a look at the gear we have designed into this system and its role in implementing the theater.
A/V Binloop Uncompressed – Multi-channel Synchronous Video Player
The purpose of each unit is to provide a single channel of 4K120 uncompressed playback. Using a video sync generator and it’s included Genlock feature, four of these units will be synchronized to form the entire 8K120 image.
Content is stored safely on solid-state media drives as uncompressed Targa sequences. This product physically connects to each projector using eight 3G-SDI connections to allow transport of 4K120 video without the need for extension devices. This device also connects to the V16Pro show controller via Ethernet so that video clips can be played at the appropriate time and synchronized with other devices in the system.
V16Pro – Show Controller
The V16Pro is the brain of this system. It is fully programmable using our free WinScript Live software and remotely controls all of the equipment in this application. This includes triggering AV Binloop Uncompressed units so that they playback synchronously. Ethernet or serial connections to the projectors allow the V16Pro to control (power on/off, select input, shutter) and monitor status (lamp life, power state, etc.). For applications that have the need, it can even trigger IO-based effects using its built-in digital inputs and dry-contact relay outputs. The V16Pro is also responsible for interfacing to the ShowTouch touch panel so that the operator can monitor system status and control the theater.
ShowTouch – Touch Panel Interface
These devices work in conjunction with the V16Pro to provide a customizable touch panel interface for users. This interface can be designed to be as simple or as complex as the application requires and can provide the ability to control the system as well as monitor status. You can use custom graphics to suit the client, like corporate logos, graphics, and color themes.
ShowTouch can run on various hardware platforms which include our ShowTouch panels (available in 7”, 10”, and 17”), iPads, iPhones, as well as any Windows or OS-X-based computer.
Not many projectors are capable of this level of playback capability. For this application, we recommend using 4K projectors with the following features:
- 120Hz output
- 8 x 3G-SDI Inputs (4 for 4K60 ‘Odd’ frames, 4 for 4K60 ‘Even’ frames)
- Built-in blending capability
- Built-in warping capability (for non-standard screen geometry)
Although it is not shown in the system diagram, it is implied that a system like this would consist of network switches and routers as needed. At the very least, a switch would be required to network all of this gear so that the V16Pro could connect to and control all of the devices. A wireless bridge or router would be required if you wanted to integrate WIFI devices like a laptop running WinScript Live or an iPad running our ShowTouch app.
Producing 8K120 projection requires edge-blending four 4K120 projectors. Each projector is connected to an AV Binloop Uncompressed and requires a total of 8 reproducer channels to produce the 4K120 image. 4 channels combine to play 4K60 odd frames, and the other 4 channels combine to play 4K60 even frames. This graphic illustrates how the complete 8K120 image is divided:
As you can see, the ultimate goal is to produce 32 channels of Targa sequence files that will be played synchronously.
When it comes to playback control, the Binloop uses a file numbering convention to identify and play files. For example, if we send the control message “Play Clip #1 on All Channels” to the Binloop it will analyze the Targa folders on the storage media to find the clip that is properly named to be clip #1. The clip number is determined by a 5-digit number at the end of the folder name. Here’s an example:
As you can see, the folder name ends with “00001” which the Binloop identifies as being clip #1. Any text located before these numeric digits is completely optional and can be anything you want. For the sake of organization, the example above uses this text to provide a nice description of the clip. For example, “B1C1” indicates that this file was created for Binloop 1 Channel 1. “HumpbackShow” is a description of the clip itself. This text has no functional meaning to the Binloop, but it sure is nice for helping a user to identify the clip at a glance.
When synchronizing clips between multiple channels, the most ideal practice is to keep the clip numbers the same for each presentation. For this application, we are creating a “HumpbackShow” video that will span across 4 Binloops and 8 channels per Binloop. That being the case, it would be best to name them like this:
Another set of video files for a different presentation might look something like this:
When the files are named properly like this, all we have to do is tell the Binloops to “Play Clip 2” or “Play Clip 3” to trigger the different presentations.
We will tackle the workflow by processing the 4K quadrants with MediaFlow one at a time.
When MediaFlow is provided with 4K120 source content it will process and export Targa files to a series of 8 SSD devices that correspond with the 8 playback channels in the Binloop. Channels 1-4 will source the “odd” video frames and channels 5-8 will source the “even” video frames.
The quickest and easiest way to load content to the SSD drives is by interfacing to them directly from a computer using a SATA adapter. A USB 3.0 SATA adapter is included with every AV Binloop Uncompressed for this purpose. In the case of 4K120, you have the option of interfacing all 8 drives to the computer at once. If you do this, MediaFlow will load all 8 drives simultaneously. You also have the option of loading the drives one at a time if you wish.
Once content is loaded to the drives and indexed by MediaFlow, be sure to properly ‘eject’ them from the computer before unplugging them from the adapter. The SSD drives can then be re-inserted into the AV Binloop Uncompressed.
Once you have loaded 8 drives with your 4K120 content, you must repeat the process for the remaining 4K120 quadrants.
A show controller adds a great deal of flexibility to this system design. It can provide users with a touch panel interface so they can monitor and control the system. It’s also used to automate the various components of the system (Binloops, Projectors, lighting system, etc.).
As demonstrated in the system diagram, we will be using a V16Pro to provide control for the entire system. Its primary responsibility will be to ensure that all four Binloops start synchronously to produce a perfect 8K120 image. The V16Pro will also control and monitor the projectors via Ethernet or RS232. ShowTouch panels will work with the V16Pro to provide operators with a touch panel interface. This interface can do things like provide controls for the show, display show status, and display projector health. Both the V16Pro and the ShowTouch devices are configured and programmed using our WinScript Live software.
Show Control Programming
To provide the flexibility required by various applications, the V16Pro show controller is a fully programmable device. Using the WinScript Live software, we must configure the V16Pro so that it is aware of the devices that it will be controlling and the type of interface it will use to control them (i.e. RS232, RS422, MIDI, Ethernet, etc.). The comprehensive library of devices supported by the V16Pro is constantly updated to make this as easy as possible.
In this application, we must configure the V16Pro to communicate with the AV Binloop Uncompressed and the projectors. We must also create programming to trigger the various presentations when buttons are pressed on the touch panel.
Although Alcorn McBride goes through great effort to make this programming significantly easier than many other control systems, there is a learning curve to using WinScript Live and the V16Pro. If you’re looking to learn more about using this interface, Alcorn McBride offers free training in the form of interactive in-person classes and online courses.
For this example, we will be using the same WinScript Live project that contains the ShowTouch panel. This script file is called 8K120 Projection.WS4.
A great first step when writing any script is to configure the list of devices that will be connected to the V16Pro. This involves browsing the comprehensive library of devices in the WinScript library by manufacturer and model number, choosing the device, and then configuring the physical connection to the device (i.e. Ethernet, Serial, etc.). For this application, we need to add our 4 projectors and 4 AV Binloop Uncompressed units. For the sake of using a real-world example, we’re actually going to add a Digital Binloop for audio playback and a LightCue Pro for lighting control as well.
Sequences are the heart of the show control script and contain all of the functional events that are programmed.
Let’s take a moment to walk through the key sequences contained in this example script.
First, there is a sequence called Initialize which does nothing more than fill the front-panel display of the V16Pro with some text. This is common practice since the V16Pro display is a handy way to display status information to operators and maintenance staff.
Then we have our System_On and System_Off sequences. System_On turns on the Projectors, waits for them to power up, and then triggers a looping logo and background music in the theater so that guests don’t walk into a ‘dead’ theater. System_Off turns off the projectors and stops all playback.
Next, we have the ‘Show Control’ sequences that are intended to be used as control points for the show. These sequences perform the actions necessary to Start, Idle (loop video logo and background music), and Stop the show. The intention is that these sequences can be tied to control points like Inputs, Buttons, and touch panel buttons. Some of these sequences contain logic to prevent the show from running in special circumstances; like when the system is turned off.
Next, we have the show timelines; Timeline_HumpbackShow and Timeline_OrcaShow. These timelines trigger synchronous playback of the Audio, Video, and Lighting tracks for each show. They are also responsible for triggering the theater doors and effects at precise times during each show. Timing can easily be tweaked for all of these elements simply by dragging them around the timeline.
The next couple groups of sequences are very simple macros intended to trigger simple actions like opening/closing theater doors and triggering effects. The idea is that these sequences do whatever is necessary to perform that action so that they can be triggered by name from elsewhere in the script. For example, the main show timeline can easily start the Effect_Fan sequences to trigger the 5-second fan effect.
Next, we have a sequence dedicated to monitoring the lamp hours of the projectors. This sequence is configured to query all 4 projectors for their lamp hours every 5 minutes. These queries fill lamp hour variables for each projector, which can then be displayed on the touch panel.
Last we have a few sequences dedicated to updating the front-panel display and touch panel text whenever status information changes.
Touch Panel Design
WinScript Live is a powerful tool for creating customized touch panel interfaces that can be deployed on ShowTouch enabled devices. Its flexibility allows you to cater the look and feel of controls and status readouts to suit the needs of the application. For this theater application, we want to provide something that is designed to be used by a theater attendant. This interface should provide rather simple control to start and stop the show as well as monitor the status of the show. It should also provide the ability to monitor the health of the projector lamps.
This application note can serve as a starting point in implementing your own 8K120 projection application. Keep in mind that this design can easily be scaled up or down depending on the resolution and framerate of your application. You can genlock additional Binloops to achieve higher resolutions.
Now it’s time for you to implement your own projection project with the AV Binloop Uncompressed and V16Pro. Please don’t forget that we are here to help you so feel free to contact us with questions.