ArKaos MediaMaster – what about creating the best video swiss knife for the show business ?

ArKaos MediaMaster is the latest incarnation of now a long list of video software created by ArKaos. All evolutions have always be triggered by request of users, ideas we wanted to experiment, goals we wanted to reach in term of performances.

When we decide a few years ago to rewrite our core engine we wanted to get the best out of current and future computer architecture. So we designed an engine made to allow playing multiple layers of HD video loops and balancing the usage of CPU having multiple cores and GPU allowing very creative layer blending.

This is what we released with MediaMaster 1.0 and evolved to the 1.2 by adding a very cool frame blending and audio support.

While we were focussing on pushing fluidity and making sure the pixel flow was optimal we did not spend too much time working on the front interface. This does not mean we did not care about that but we were just too busy having our hands dirty with pixel processing.

However during the last year we spent a lot of time talking with users, looking how they were working, watching how they used ArKaos VJ DMX. In January this year we finalized a round of meetings and design sessions were we came with the idea of bringing back the simple mode of ArKaos VJ DMX but in a modernized way.

The basic idea is that a typical light designer needs a video swiss knife. Some days you need to just do a little bit of MIDI triggering, other days you may want to use a few DMX sliders to automate a small theater play and once is a while you are on a big tour with some heavy automation done by a big lighting console. You may even have from time to time a small corporate event where video loops can be triggered from your computer keyboard.

This is what we will release with MediaMaster 2.0. MediaMaster will come in 2 versions, the Express that will be something like a 8 blades swiss knife and the Pro that will be more like a 12 blades swiss knife.

The simple mode implementation we added to MediaMaster will be very efficient to use because it will be based on presets. If you are doing LED mapping over your video output you can by example create a preset for the position of your LED wall and have it recalled very easily for many cells. You can also edit this preset and see the modification be applied instantly to all cells using it.

So the advantage of this new simple mode over what we did on the past is that:
– it make use of the media management of MediaMaster
– it benefit from the performance of the new video engine (frame blending, audio…)
– the preset system make it very quick to use
– it allows to mix DMX, MIDI and computer keyboard triggering
– you can break your performance in up to 64 patches of 64 cells
– all information in concentrated into the Media folder (content, patch information, show setup) and so it’s very easy to move your files between computers

Here is a video showing the main interface of MediaMaster express that was demonstrated at Frankfurt Prolight and Show last month. We trigger video loops with a LSC DMX desk and with a small Korg MIDI controller. Since then we made some minor evolution to the interface but it will give you a good idea of what it will looks like:

We are now close to the final release and we expect to start some public beta testing before the end of this month. We will also make public soon the pricing and upgrade policy but we can already announce that all MediaMaster 1.x users will have a free upgrade to MediaMaster Pro 2.x

A new way of driving LED devices ?

At ArKaos we are writing software to drive LEDs since many years. We have our standard media server software MediaMaster and our VJ software that is used every day to drive LED walls and LED fixtures. We have also our LED mapper that is a cool way to drive LED fixtures based on DMX or ArtNet.

Still it’s too complicated and/or expensive to use. It’s too complicated because simple LED fixtures do rely on DMX or ArtNet to work, and there are too many magic numbers that can go wrong and prevent the magic pixels to blink. On the other side bigger LED walls have expensive hardware interfaces and make it unpractical financially for too many performers and clubs.

There must be a way to create LED device having an ethernet connection and there should be a way for a LED device to say hello automatically to a Media Server and to describe itself to it. It would be so cool if a LED device could contact MediaMaster and configure itself automatically, it would explain it’s capacities saying “I am an LED device having 48 by 12 pixels and I expect pixels in the formats of 5 bits or red green blue”… Of course to make this economically practical the LED devices should not have a too expensive processor, you don’t want to add a PC behind every light 🙂

That’s the prototype we built lately, it uses an inexpensive open-source electronics prototyping platform called Arduino, here is a video explaining this:

If you want to know more details, here is a start:

A technical introduction to Kling-Net

NAMM 2010 or the death of VJ ?

My long time friend did this post on his blog an it’s true that in this time of recession music does not care that much about visuals.

We all know that at some point in times visualization of music will be as important as music but it looks like it’s more tomorrow than today.

namm and death of vj

I really prefer to say we are just holding on before it really finally is the big thing!

Quartz Composer integration in GrandVJ 1.2

Quartz Composer can be used in GrandVJ as .qtz files, we render them natively through the fastest interface. Before GrandVJ 1.2 you needed to save them as QuickTime movies, this had 2 big drawbacks, it was slow and it did not allow to change compositions variables.

With the Quartz Composer integration we have a fast rendering path and compositions can be used both as sources and effects.

When a composition is used as a source you simply import it the same way than any movie, you drag and drop it over the interface or use the file browser. When a composition is used as a source you cannot change any composition variables from the GrandVJ interface.

A composition can also be used as an effect. We scan automatically the system folder “/System/Library/Compositions” and register the ones that can be supported by the application, you find them under the “Quartz-Composer (System)” section in the effects. You can use them as source to develop new effects.

GrandVJ Mac OS X supported compositions
GrandVJ Mac OS X supported compositions

When using a composition as an effect the application scan the published inputs and map them as effect parameter when the format is compatible with the engine. We map parameters that are float values, indexes, colors and booleans. One visual input of the composition receive the assigned cell visual.

We also load user created compositions in the effect section, to do that you must place them in the local directory “Libray/Application Support/ArKaos/GrandVJ/Quartz Composer/Effects”

Here is where are my user test compositions:

GrandVJ user compositions
GrandVJ user compositions

They will appear in the “Quartz-Composer (User)” section of the effect browser:

GrandVJ user composition browser
GrandVJ user composition browser

Regarding the effect parameters if we start from the system composition “/System/Library/Compositions/Image Hose.qtz”, when we open it in the editor we see:

Image Hose system composition
Image Hose system composition

And if we display the inspector and ask to see the published inputs / outputs we can see those parameters:

Image Hose system composition parameters
Image Hose system composition parameters

GrandVJ will show the first 4 parameters that can be mapped automatically and in this case it will be:

Quartz composition parameters in GrandVJ
Quartz composition parameters in GrandVJ

You can see that GrandVJ try to extract the meaningful part of the parameter name, so it remove all _ProtocolInput strings from parameter names. Not doing that would make it impossible to display the full name in the panel. GrandVJ also capitalize the first letter of a parameter, so “size” become “Size”.

And finally if you want to have compositions in the visual sources we ship a few in the “Libray/Application Support/ArKaos/GrandVJ/Quartz Composer/Visuals”, the idea is that you can add more files in this place.

Here is where are my user sources compositions:

user source compositions

user source compositions

If you need you can generate the icon of the visual by have a picture like “confetti.png” in the same folder than “confetti.qtz”

And here is where you find them in GrandVJ:

User compositions panel

User compositions panel

ArKaos MediaMaster used at Australian Idol

A popular usage of ArKaos MediaMaster is on TV stages, there it’s very convenient to use it’s large library of content, up to 60.000, and drive both videos on the walls and the lighting from the same DMX console.

In this case there are 2 MacPro servers but you could also run MediaMaster on a windows server.

Here are some extracts of the show:

This is a remix I made from videos found on sharing web sites. You need QuickTime installed on your machine to view this video.