Help building an educational rig.

  • Hi All

    In anticipation of izzy 2.0 (I'm so excited!), I am looking to build an educational rig for use in a university environment. The basic concept is that we have a flight-cased system that can be rolled out to wherever it is needed which would contain all the hardware and accessories needed to either create some exiting performances or simply use as a training and experimental tool. The powers that be have asked me to spec out somewhere between £2000 and £5000 (I know this is a broad margin!), but this would have to include everything we need and be as future proof as possible.
    My question is this - What are you currently using for your performance set up? What accessories should I be looking out for, and are there any pitfalls regarding compatibility that I should know about?
    So far I am looking at the following - 
     - MacPro/PC Tower with multiple graphics cards (I am much more comfortable with osx, particularly with regard to compatibility but switch over to PC is not      out of the question although i'm hesitant  for Qlab reasons...)
     - Flight-cased display\s for programming/show operation. (We have plenty of projectors we can get hold of for actual performance)
     - Black Magic interface (Or other similar ADVC)
     - Video cameras/webcams that can either be plugged directly into the computer or through the interface.
     - Xbox Kinect. I have one already but would definitely want to include one in the kit.
     - A flight case or two, maybe one of the "DJ" ones that fold out into a workbench for ease of setup.
     - New/upgrade izzy licence (Obviously have to wait a couple of weeks for this).
     - Android/iOS tablet for OSC experiments.
     - Nanopad kit (or similar)
     - Other software such as NiMate so we can really have some fun.
    I'm just rather daunted by trying to get this all to work together straight out of the box (Hence my leaning towards a mac pro)
    Any ideas, suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Even if it's just a simple breakdown of what you are currently using. At the moment all of my izzy work is on a Late 2011 Macbook Pro, it's been fine up until now but I am reaching the limit of what I can do with it.
    Thanks All

  • One thing i can highly recommend is Maccam

    Trough this i managed to have a ps3 Eye (webcam with sound) working in Isadora. Supports many types.

  • Personally I would avoid macam. It has a very high CPU usage and is not so stable.

  • Really? , it never dropped on me, but you are the Pro here..Strange, because for me it works like Charm every Day!!  I never had a single Problem!! Running OSX 10.8.5 with 8GB of ram

  • It works ok, but when I look at the CPU cycles it takes it is way to demanding for a low res webcam, for long term installs I see it crash after 36 hours or so, depending on the machine, also the cable limitation is a pain considering what you get (if I use a different process with the madam code I get fine results- a qtkit backend and full control over the camera settings). As for some alternate camera advice, I am really into HDSDI security cameras. They are great for tracking but the image quality (albeit with rolling shutter) is great).

    I have been using these cameras

    and a blackmagic HDSDI capture card. Very robust and reliable and IR friendly with no mods, HD image, very low cpu overhead from the capture and you can have long long cables. I use a 4-10mm lense which gives me a distorted but very wide angle, there are wider and it is easy to have a camera pointing down over a stage and do motion tracking (the cmount was a TV standard for a while so there is also nice glass available if you look around for old TV cmount lenses- if you get a motorised lens you can remote it with RS485).

    Depending on whether you plan to use multiscreen or not I would also really suggest a blackmagic ATEM. This way you have a mixer in your chain and if you want super low latency live feeds you can use it, it also (depending on the model) has a small matrix inside so you can send different cameras to your capture card and it also lets you composite images live as it has support for colour luma and premultiplied keys transitions still stores etc.

    Go for the mac pro if you have the cash but keep some money for something like this

    Otherwise your rack mount idea fails. You will also need a screen for your machine and getting one with decent resolution in a rack is also difficult. There are HDSDI monitors (you can use a cheap convertor from HDMI) and put one in the top of a slant rack but the angle of view is annoying- this was always the last hitch for me, high res rack mount monitors with a good view-angle as the pop up angle top on the racks does not go so far)

    Don't discount the idea of using a retina laptop, you can avoid the difficulty of housing a big machine and you have a screen and keyboard built in. The GFX cards (2gig) are pretty good and 2 thunderbolt ports give you some flexibility.

    Instead of the android tab think about an ipod, the one with 2 cameras. It still gives you OSC but you can also use it as a remote wifi camera if need be.

    On top of this I would add a powerful dual band wifi router so you always have your network with you and you can easily send and receive OSC from students- a nice way to collaborate.

    Also get a decent sound card (with hardware midi out) and if you can some kind of DMX controller- this will let you use lighting systems as well.


  • Thanks Fred

    This is really helpful and some great advice. I haven't completely discounted using a laptop, just aware of expandability and future-proofing. I had a look on the Apple HE store, the MacPro I want is about £6500 so I'm way beyond budget on that one. I do like the look of that camera, and will definitely be getting a black,magic to connect it all up. I suspect I will use a RME Fireface as an external sound card as we have a few of these already and never had any troubles.
    If I went down the laptop route, how effective are these new thunderbolt hubs? Would I be dealing with latency from information going back and forth?
    One of the first things I did when I set up my current rig was to get a wifi router to create a closed network. Having a dozen students all randomly sending OSC from their phones creates some amazing random effects!
    FOR DMX would you recommend Entec? Everyone is always talking about them, so I figure they must be pretty solid.
    Thanks for your help.

  • As far as I know there is no such thing as a thunderbolt hub and never will be. The architecture does not support it. There are thunderbolt breakout boxes that provide a monitor out, usb3 ethernet and other things depending on the model, but they are not hubs, they have a passthrough connection only.

    I use a fireface, they are great, go for the UCX model, it allows OSC control of the hardware mixer as well as having eq and compression on the input (great for cleaning signals before they come into software without using plugins). The USB version also means you don't lose a thunderbolt port for a thunderbolt to firewire adaptor if you don't get a thunderbolt breakout with firewire.
    If you get a retina top of the line macbook you will have 2 thunderbolt ports and one HDMI, you can have 2 capture boxes (these do not have thunderbolt pass through) and still have a monitor out as well as having the laptop screen for a control screen.
    The thunderbolt breakouts have a thunderbolt pass through and allow a capture box (the blackmagic ones do not have pass through) and a monitor output from the same port.
    how many individual inputs and outputs do you want simultaneously? Do you use a triple head to go?
    I use enttec devices, I like them but I know there are cheaper dongles you can buy, somewhere on the forum there is a list I think?
    If you don't use a thunderbolt breakout box kannex has a USB3 ethernet adaptor that is gigabit, if you get a good USB3 hub you can have this and the fireface and a few other peripherals (not a kinect but a DMX out for sure) on the same USB port. Ethernet will be a lot better than wifi and the apple adaptors are not gigabit, only 10/100.
    As Isadora turns to GPU processing make sure you get the model with the best GFX card (the 2 gig is quite powerful).
    Overall the latency of thunderbolt is non existent, it is basically a PCI connection on a string, so dont worry, there is a lot of bandwidth.