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[You cannot (but also can?) use multiple TH2G's on one Mac] Using many Triple Head2Gos on a Mac, or alternatives


  • Beta Gold

    Hello guys, gals, and nonbinary pals,

    I've been approached about a project where the director's vision includes the use of a great many screens and/or projectors. I'm hoping that it doesn't get to be so many projectors/screens that I have to resort to using multiple computers, but it may come to that. I have an absolute beast of a Mac Pro (Late 2013 model [black trash can, see my signature for specs]) and my hope was that I could just get a bunch of TripleHead2Gos and break out into the screens and projectors as needed.


    My questions about TripleHead2Gos are:

    1. Which TH2G version should I be looking at? 
      1. I've looked on the forum, but can only find posts from years ago and am wondering if there have been any new developments.
      2. Has anyone used a 2013 Mac Pro successfully with a TH2G?
        1. The Mac Compatibility Wizard on the TH2G website only goes up to 2010 for Mac Pros. 
    2. Can anyone confirm that multiple TH2Gs being run from the same Mac will actually work? 
      1. The Matrox website has this ominous thing where it says that multi-unit support is available only on Windows, but doesn't clearly define "multi-unit support", so it may not mean what I think it means.
    3. (Assuming multiple TH2G's work on one Mac), the Mac Pro (Late 2013) has six Thunderbolt ports, but only three Thunderbolt busses. Would this mean I can only run three TH2Gs, not six?
      1. If this problem does exist, would something like a Thunderbolt Station 2 help mitigate it?

    Because my Mac Pro tower has so many ports, and I've not worked on a project with more surfaces that I can run off of my Mac Pro with all its ports plus a single TripleHead2Go, I'm sort of in unfamiliar territory here and any advice on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.


    Further Questions:

    1. Is there an alternative piece of hardware, or combination of hardware, that I should be looking at instead of the TripleHead2Gos?
    2. If I've got say, 20 (<-- not the actual number) projectors/video screens, but screens 1-2 always play the same content as each other, screens 3-4 always play the same content, 5-6 " " " " ", etc, should I be looking at different hardware than if I were wanting to have discreet control of 20 projectors/video screens?
      1. Hopefully it doesn't get this crazy, but you never know.
    3. Has anyone got a suggestion of "try not to exceed 'x' number of projectors/video screens"? 
      1. Again I've never worked with this many and don't quite know the ins/outs do's/don'ts yet.
    4. Is there a point at which it would be more feasible to start involving external video hardware or make a setup utilizing one master computer and many slave computers?

    Any further advice or insights would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks so much in advance and best wishes,

    Woland


    P.S. Yes, I am questioning my own sanity, but where's the fun in not challenging yourself, eh?

    P.P.S. Obligatory 3:00am Joke:

    An Englishman, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, and a German are all standing watching an American street performer do some juggling. The juggler notices the four gentleman have a very poor view, so he stands up on a wooden crate and calls out, "Can you all see me now?" 
    They reply:
    "Yes"
    "Oui"
    "Sí"
    "Ja"



  • I have no (recent) experience trying to run multiple tripleheads, so I can't help you there, but I am currently running a triplehead2go digital on my MacBook pro, even though it is not technically supported.  It has been a bit problematic to setup, but it works.  You would probably be better with either the Digital SE or DP model.  

    If money is no object, the Datapath X4 is a great option which gets 4 outputs per unit.  It's easier to setup and more versatile than the Matrox units as well.

    If you have the same content on multiple monitors, you can look at getting a maxtrix switcher, which will do just as you ask. They usually have 8 or 16 inputs and outputs, which can be configured via software and often routing can be changed on the fly via RS232 commands (or other protocols such as OSC possibly).

    Also keep in mind that Isadora has a software limitation of 6 stages.  This does not mean that you cannot do what you want; you just have to set each triplehead/datapath as an individual output and do the screen splitting manually instead of using the convenient feature in the stage setup.

    EDIT: There are also simple video distribution amplifiers that will split your signal into two or more identical signals (as opposed to the triplehead which splits into discrete outputs).  You could also look into proprietary video wall hardware/software, but I have no experience with that.


  • Beta Gold

    @craigalfredson

    Thanks very much, this is all very helpful, Especially the recommendation on which type of Matrox unit to get. It’s also helpful to know that they work with computers that are not listed on the Matrox website. I was very worried that they wouldn’t but wasn’t sure if Matrox just had an updated their website to include that information. Also thanks for clueing me in to what matrix switchers are called. I knew that such devices existed, but I’ve never needed to use one before so I didn’t know what they were called. Thanks for saving me a bunch of extensive googling!

    If the director decides that they do want to go with an enormous amount of video screens for projectors I think I’m going to make the design choice of not getting too hung up on the details of making them all look perfect. It should save me a bunch of time with prehang, focus, tech and programming. Also, there’s something to be said for having things smattered more organically around the space as opposed to replicated perfectly everywhere which I think would work well for this piece.

    I think I may also break the screens into subgroups based on how often we use them, then make simple Patches to run the media for the least often used subgroups on slave computers, to unclog my master computer a bit and to make sure that the screens and projectors that I’ll be working with most often are directly controlled by the Master Patch for ease of access.

    Thanks again and best wishes,

    Woland



  • @woland said:

    recommendation on which type of Matrox unit to get

     Hi,

    I have 2 x TH2G and a MacPro trashcan, so I can check that for you however, I am pretty sure it is not supported on Mac - but as I will be away it will not be till next week. The TH2G that I use is the Display Port model, this allows different adaptors to be interchanged i.e. DVI, HDMI, DP, so there is some flexibility with its use. A caveat is that it will not work with analogue signals, that means it is useless for running with VGA cables and inputs. One thing that is annoying, as you can possibly tell by searching the Matrox website, is that the support and documentation (also control software functionality) is not very good for Mac OS users. 

    In developing what is possible, I would be starting with the maximum pixel ratio that the MP trashcan can handle and then calculating the number of screens that can be accommodated at the minimum resolution you require. I would then look for ways to get the video feeds out of the computer. Apple's own support files can help you here with both of these considerations.

    The Datapath x4 suggestion is good as it will allow you to split up the primary video feeds coming from your computer. 

    Personally, for more than 4 video outputs I would be daisy-chaining mirrored/reflected displays + adding a slaved machine for every 4 primary video outputs + looking at video wall controllers i.e. Datapath x4. The last two options here are going to be the most expensive to resolve. 

    Back in 2010 I used on old Mac G4 tower with an extra PCI video card to get 3 x primary analogue (VGA) video feeds out of Isadora, I was then able to daisy-chain the three feeds to companion projectors and flip/reflect the image (using back projection function). this allowed a full frame animated symmetrical skull image across six projectors using only 3x video feeds (the G4 cpu was struggling with that and one of the video cards fried before the end of the exhibition).


     

    It is worth considering that when slaving computers that a control & UI interface monitor for each machine may be a critical consideration (particularly when mapping outputs or using remote displays and projectors). So if you are not using laptops, then I suggest 4 primary outputs is more likely to be 4 primary outputs + a control monitor display per computer.

    Another thing that might be useful is to check the display options of the devices you are using. For example, some professional grade monitors and some projectors have a built-in video wall controller so you can feed the same image (daisy-chain is a good option but often only available as VGA) to upto 16 professional displays and use the onboard controller to chop up the image. I managed to get 8 x samsung 48" LCD professional flat panel monitors as they were being decommissioned from the local airport so that I could play around with video wall display techniques. I love the way Teamlab combine flat panel displays and full wall projection in some of their installations.

    best wishes

    bonemap



  • Sounds daunting. Regarding your question 2. When checking this out 2 months ago Matrox tech confirmed multiple TH2G is not supported in OSX. I'd probably go the Dadapath way. And if you plan to run SDI cables to your projectors off TH2G make sure your converters are not anything less than Blackmagic micro converter. Apparently the Matroxes are very choosy. I've just had rather unpleasant experience with cheap converters. Best luck. Curious to see how you resolve.

    Msanii 


  • Beta Gold

    @bonemap

    You are a goldmine of information my friend, thanks so much! This is all going a long way towards helping me plan this all out without tripping over things that others have already found a way around. 

    Lucky you with those TVs. How does one find out about video equipment being decommissioned? Sounds enticing.

    Thanks for all the invaluable advice and, as always, best wishes,

    Woland


  • Beta Gold

    @msanii said:

    Sounds daunting. Regarding your question 2. When checking this out 2 months ago Matrox tech confirmed multiple TH2G is not supported in OSX. I'd probably go the Dadapath way. And if you plan to run SDI cables to your projectors off TH2G make sure your converters are not anything less than Blackmagic micro converter. Apparently the Matroxes are very choosy. I've just had rather unpleasant experience with cheap converters. Best luck. Curious to see how you resolve.
    Msanii 

    Thanks for the heads-up about multiple TripleHead2Go's being a TripleHead2-No-Go on OSX. Way better to find that out before purchasing equipment.

    Also thanks for the tip about using the BlackMagic Micro Converters if I plan on going the SDI route, again that's great info that could have been very unpleasant to find out first-hand.

    I'm usually really bad at documenting my work, but I'm going to do my best to get lots of photos of this one because, depending on the budget, this could be immense. 

    Best wishes,

    Woland


  • Beta Gold

    @bonemap said:

    Another thing that might be useful is to check the display options of the devices you are using. For example, some professional grade monitors and some projectors have a built-in video wall controller so you can feed the same image (daisy-chain is a good option but often only available as VGA) to upto 16 professional displays and use the onboard controller to chop up the image.

     Sadly, I doubt I'm going to get to work with anything that high-end on this one, but we'll see. I've got my first meeting with the director in a few days, and I'm going to find out about precisely how many screens/projectors they're interested in having, and what the video budget is going to look like.

    Best wishes,

    Woland



  • @woland said:

    How does one find out about video equipment being decommissioned?

     I approached the AV technical company that services the local airport to get them to assemble a 40m shielded cat 6 cable for a show. They had a shed out the back of their warehouse with around 50 of the samsung professional monitors that had been replaced at the airport. I took away eight to help them out with their disposal problem. Actually, they said that normally the airport authority would own the replaced monitors, but due to some kind of contract dispute the AV company claimed them. The monitors are not that special and have the ugliest thick bezel around the screen, but I do get to experiment with them and use them as giant computer screens!

    best wishes

    bonemap


  • Beta Gold

    This may have just become slightly terrifying...

    Taken from an email about the schedule:

    Mon. 4th December - TECH SET UP - all day [first day of tech, only full day of tech, there will be no prehang, and it seems that all programming and hardware must be sorted by the end of this day]
    Tues. 5th December - Tech run set up and throughs from 10, and dress rehearsal at 7:30
    Wed. 6th - opening night - Cast from 1pm, show at 7:30pm

    I think I may have to try and convince the director to go with as few screens we can get away with while still creating the atmosphere that they wanted. I don't think I want to have any slave computers, just my Mac Pro and as many outputs I can get away with using that and a single TripleHead2Go or a Datapath x4. 

    Yikes.

    Best wishes,

    Woland



  • looks like you might have to get creative with your tech. and make sure everyone knows that the schedule is going to induce a certain amount of compromise from all parties.

    quite a few projectors have a Monitor Out - usually VGA - you can use this to daisychain them together if you're projecting simultaneous images. if the director/designer just want to fill the stage with moving images, it might be an option.

    i just opened a 25-screen installation - no Isadora involved - 25 different loops in sync the cheap way: all content sits on cheap Chinese media players that get powered up together at the start of each day and autoplay. 

    also - i wouldn't recommend Matrox TH2G, its so fiddly to set up, any issues it has will take precious tech time to solve, involving many reboots. also, Matrox doesn't like Mac. i haven't used a Datapath, but have heard good things.



  • @Woland, just to add regarding the Matrox I recently got a TH2Go SE for a dance/performance laboratory project https://www.facebook.com/media.... We worked for a 2 month period during which time we had to set up and strike down everyday due to security reasons. This was frustrating and time consuming as it almost became a setup/strike down project but it also gave us plenty of time to test and eliminate things under pretty tough power supply conditions. 

    The TH2Go can be a time killer (in both Windows and Mac environment) especially if you haven't the opportunity to familiarise yourself with it in advance or if you have a complicated set up with converters, adaptors and cables like SDI. Under most conditions I preferred to forgo the Matrox altogether and connect the projectors directly to the MacBook ports. However limiting ourselves to a simple set up - a compatible Mac (the latest MacBook pro in this case running Sierra/High Sierra, even though both are not tested by Matrox), three identical projectors (Optoma W316STs in this case) short runs (not more than 5m) of HDMI cable - the TH2Go MacBook pro combo worked perfectly, 90% of the time. 

    I don't know your setup but we sometimes used a large number of projection surfaces 10 to 15 but keeping them small enough so we didn't have have to have as many projectors as surfaces.  



  • @bonemap said:

    I am pretty sure it is not supported on Mac

     Well, I found some time to try 2 x TH2G on my MBP (2015) using the 2 Thunderbolt ports and a USB hub (TH2G are USB powered):

    there are six outputs through 2 x TH2G, however, the resolution available to each output in Isadora is much lower than HD. It would be possible to get configurations of 5 and 4 outputs as well.


    This looks a little bit better in terms of the overall efficiency of shape: but only 5 outputs


    best wishes

    bonemap


  • Beta Gold

    @bonemap:

    @msanii said:
    Sounds daunting. Regarding your question 2. When checking this out 2 months ago Matrox tech confirmed multiple TH2G is not supported in OSX.


    @woland said:
    Thanks for the heads-up about multiple TripleHead2Go's being a TripleHead2-No-Go on OSX.

    But it worked for you @bonemap? I’m so confused. 

    Best wishes and thanks so much for testing this out,

    Woland


  • Beta Gold

    @msanii said:

    sometimes used a large number of projection surfaces 10 to 15 but keeping them small enough so we didn't have have to have as many projectors as surfaces.  

     Thanks for this incredibly helpful reminder! I’ve done this before but hadn’t thought about doing that for this project. If I can get some nice projectors, I’ll be able to cover a large chunk of each wall and then we could just hang white screens for surfaces, then use izzymap tho create a map for each screen, then maybe use @GertjanB’s video routing method to only have to deal with one instance of each mapped Projector actor. 

    Thanks again and best wishes,

    Woland


  • Beta Gold

    @dbini said:



    quite a few projectors have a Monitor Out - usually VGA - you can use this to daisychain them together if you're projecting simultaneous images. if the director/designer just want to fill the stage with moving images, it might be an option.


     For sure this seems like it’d be a great way to go! Thanks! 

    Theoretical situation: what happens if I end up with projectors of all different makes, models, and native resolutions? Do I need to find a way in the Projector settings to lock the resolution, or does changing the resolution for a chain of projectors in Displays under System Preferences on the Mac side affect all of the projectors in the chain, or does daisy-chaining projectors with different native resolutions just cause absolute mayhem?

    Best wishes,

    Woland



  • interesting @bonemap gets multiple TH2Go to function on MBP inspite of Matrox. Must try this some day. As regards mixed resolutions my experience was that TH2Go did not work when connected to projectors of different resolution. I can confirm, until proved otherwise...   


  • Beta Gold

    @msanii

    What about mixing resolutions in a daisy chain without the Matrox? Do you, or anyone else have success or horror stories/speculations about that?

    Best wishes,

    Woland



  • @woland said:

    about mixing resolutions

    I think you will find most projectors have internal scaling functionality. It is likely to be automatic with only simple options for letterboxing, pan & scan and/or over scanning.

    Best wishes

    Bonemap


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