Pixel Processing & Control – At the NEC Showcase in New York on October 23rd, NEC partner Hiperwall Inc. (Irvine, CA) showed off its latest display control software. Hiperwall has a software solution for the control and coordination of multiple displays.
Jeff Greenberg, CEO of Hiperwall, gave a seminar on the company’s products and gave examples of the software vs. hardware solution for controlling multiple displays and sources. He used Christie Spyder as an example of a high end, hardware-based solution for control.
According to Greenberg, these hardware solutions are all based on computers with a large number of expansion slots. The computers can use Windows, Linux or some other operating system, the end user may or may not have access to the operating system and the card cage with the expansion slots may have different formats, but in the end, they are just computer hardware. They are also limited in their connectivity – when you run out of expansion slots for input or output cards, you reach the limit of the number of inputs and outputs you can control. For example, the Spyder X20-1608 will handle up to 16 inputs and 8 low resolution outputs (< 2048 x 1200) or 4 higher resolution outputs (up to 2560 x 1600).
Another problem with conventional, hardware-based solutions, according to Greenberg, is that the displays are linked to the processor by display interfaces such as DVI, SDI, HDMI, etc. Typically these display-centric interfaces have limited range and require special (i.e. expensive) extenders if you want to go beyond that range.
In a Hiperwall solution, all interfaces and hardware are based on normal Ethernet. Every node in the network must have a local PC and each of the local PCs must be running a Java applet licensed from Hiperwall. The license includes 1 year of free upgrades but the license is perpetual: if you don’t subscribe to future upgrades, your system continues to operate. The Java applet will run under Windows, Linux or Mac OS, according to Greenberg. This is not a problem with sources – video to be displayed on a video wall often comes from computers. In a surveillance application with input from video cameras, there must be a computer to encode the video for the ethernet transmission. The one type of video source Hiperwall will not handle is HDCP protected video, such as from a DVD or Blu-Ray player.
Each display in the video wall system must also have a local computer, accessible via Ethernet. This is why Greenberg and Hiperwall favor NEC: their OPS-enabled displays can accept a plug-in OPS computer that can run the required Java applet. The Hiperwall exhibit at the NEC showcase used a 4 x 3 array of NEC X554UN LCD displays with OPS slots. NEC also makes a similar 46” display and Greenburg says 46” – 55” are the “sweet spot” for tiling displays.
These NEC displays are suited for 24/7 operation and are targeted at control rooms, broadcast studios, retail installations and digital signage.
In operation, there are a number of hardware components needed in a Hiperware-based system:
- Video sources (FHD now, 4K/UHD soon)
- An Ethernet switch (Gigabit switch, non blocking, Layer 2 recommended with IGMP)
- Main controller
- Secondary controllers (optional)
In use, the Java applet at each source generates two versions of the image to be shown: the full image for display and a thumbnail image for the master control computer. These are routed through the Ethernet switch, with the thumbnails going to the main controller for the operator and the main image going to the display or displays where it is to be shown. The operator at the main controller decides what content he wants to show on which portion of the display space. The Hiperwall controller then routes the video through the Ethernet switch to those displays and tells the individual displays which portions of which images to display where on the display.
These image areas can be overlapped, if necessary. For example, if the display space contains two projectors with overlapping images and internal edge blending, Hiperware can send overlapping images and let the projector edge blending sort out the images. Hiperware supports layers, so different input sources can be on top of or behind other sources.
Not all displays controlled by a Hiperwall system need to be identical, nor do they need to be adjacent to each other. Greenberg used as an example of a Hiperwall installation at the Orange County Fairgrounds, where there were 18 displays in seven locations distributed about the fairgrounds. The displays and sensors need not even be on the same continent. He gave another example of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) command center that he said was “somewhere in Africa”. The video inputs came from cameras on the UAVs, which could be anywhere.
Hiperwall is targeted at all the major markets using multiple sources and multiple displays, both tiled and un-tiled. These markets include:
- Command and Control
- Digital Signage
- Corporate Communications
One concern of mine was synchronization between the different displays when each was showing a portion of the same image. Greenberg said that Hiperwall ensured all portions were synchronized and the frame delay was normally no more than 6 fields. Video sources with sound are also synchronized. The details of how this is done is proprietary and based on Hiperwall IP.
The newest Hiperwall software product is Share Server. This allows content to be shared among multiple Hiperwall systems around the world for collaborative work. – Matthew Brennesholtz
Display Central Comment
The DFKI, attached to the University of Saarbrucken in Germany is also working on this kind of display solution as we have been reporting for some time. Intel launched its concept of “Display as a Service” at CeBIT in March 2013 and the Prof Slussalek showed its technology at the OVAB Digital Signage conference in Munich in September 2013. Like the latest Hiperwall software, the DAAS system uses arbitrary numbers, sizes and configurations of displays.