Best way to capture and share VJ content?

What’s the best way to capture VJing live?

I put this article together to share some of the best ways I’ve found over the years to capture an HDMI signal from a computer.  Additionally, it also covers ways to share visuals from one computer to another so that two or more VJ’s can work together.

This article is broken up into two sections. Standalone capture boxes and UVC devices that require a computer.  If you’re only interested in sharing VJ content from one computer to the next, skip to UVC devices.

If you’re familiar with HDCP, screen resolutions, and Syphon/Spout; feel free to skip ahead. I won’t go into the details about color encoding /spacing or codec compression, but I’ve included links at the bottom of this article.

HDCP and the pain it can cause  

Most computers, MAC’s notoriously, will sometimes require an HDCP handshake before they send a video signal. This digital copyright protection protocol is implemented to keep you from bootlegging content.   Unfortunately, even if you’re sending out a VJ signal you own, there is no ‘legal’ way to disable HDCP within the software or hardware of your computer;  But, you can bypass it…

A VGA cable is the most “cost-effective” way to dodge HDMI, but a VGA capture device can be harder and more expensive to find. :/

An HDMI splitter is another possible way, but not all are the same – – And later you may find out that some playback devices won’t work at all if they do not detect HDCP. I don’t know too many VJ’s using an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV stick, but it can happen. For this, there’s better ways than splitting or converting the signal.

My first foray into the world of capture devices took me on a collision course with HDCP. Nothing I tried would work, and the only thing that worked was expensive and problematic. In 2012, I landed on a Blackmagic HyperDeck Shuttle SSD recorder. It had a battery, captured HDMI or SDI, and didn’t have a problem with my MacBook pro’s HDCP connection. I hit record, and…  the uncompressed files were MASSIVE, the SSD drives were expensive, and only a few SSD chipsets were compatible. VJing on my laptop was enough to cook an egg, so using built-in software capture was out of the question. I needed all the GPU and CPU power that I could get.

 

“What I was look for?”           

HDMI in & out, HD recording 1080p30 or higher, and low to no latency. I tested dozens of “streaming boxes/capture devices” that would add as much as a 2 second delay. For me VJing is about timing and synesthesia and a 2-second delay is not going to work…

Standalone Capture devices:

vj recorder box capture device VJing Projectileobjects

All the devices from Cloner-Alliance work and spoof HDCP. If you do a quick google search for HDMI USB capture, you will find boxes that look almost identical to cloner alliance’s, and guess what, they are. I’ve even tested cloner alliance’s firmware updates on the Evolve look-alike box that I bought off Ebay. (Update firmware at your own risk, I cannot promise that all internal hardware will be compatible). I will say avoid their Flint LX box at all costs. It has a 720p image processor inside that adds a sharpening filter to cook out a 1080p signal. It is not a real 1080p image and even adds a terrible amount of latency.

Most of these boxes are simple, insert a thumb drive (or TF card = microSD), plug in your HDMI source and connect it to a projector or monitor. Press a single button to start and stop recording. It should take a few seconds to clean up the .mp4 file, but that’s it. You now have an H.264 video ready for sharing, streaming, or playback.* ( H.264 .MP4 is not an optimized codec for live visuals, look into HAP if your VJ software supports it or DXV for Resolume.)

Avermedia Portable gamer will not work with HDCP signals. (Sorry Kevin for not warning you sooner.) THANKS to a comment from That Fuzzy Bastard after posting this article. He uses Thunderbolt to DVI, then puts a Cable Unlimited DVI to HDMI (AUD-2362) box between the computer and the Avermedia. (see in comments).

 

UVC and Thunderbolt Devices:

magewell capture usb blackmagic thunderbolt capture vj mutliple vjing capture device

These devices require a computer to capture or “share” the content from one VJ to the next. Most free up CPU power by handling the image processing on board. Intern, your computer treats it like a USB 3.0 webcam and pulls in the signal with almost no latency. There are PCIe versions of this, but I VJ with laptops. A majority of UVC devices are designed for streaming or compression. Some aim to produce an optimized video streaming or compress video for smaller file sizes. In doing this, it takes more time for the onboard processors and adds video latency (or delay). In my tests, there were only three devices that met my needs for low latency. The best by far was a MAGEWELL USB capture HDMI Plus which can handle a 2k signal. MAGEWELL seems to offer the highest quality for UVC capture devices but at a $$$ more expensive price point. ($359 at the time of this post). The best overall for price and performance that I found is the iEi HDB-301R-R10. ($149.99), despite the iEi specifications saying that is only works with 10.13+, it worked perfectly on OSX 10.12 and Windows 10 without additional drivers. The cheapest is a generic capture card that someone else has already reviewed in greater detail.

I’m still waiting to test cloner alliance Flint LXT, MOKOSE USB3.0 HDMI, and MOKOSE HDMI.

The Elgato game capture HD60 S was a terrible disappointment. It has a small form factor, competitive price, and low latency, but it doesn’t work with anything outside of Elgato’s proprietary software center. Likewise; these didn’t work: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PC5HUA6/ nor this https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XWL7SZD/

🙂 Thunderbolt:

I have a love-hate relationship with Thunderbolt, most of it hate, but the low price point of the BlackMagic Ultrastudio mini recorder was pretty hard to beat $149 (+ price of Thunderbolt cable), and it was able to transport an HD video signal from one computer to the next with low latency. It requires Thunderbolt 1 or 2, which can be limiting for PC users. Designed for Broadcast and TV standard resolutions, not computer resolutions! The max resolution the BMD mini recorder supports is 1920x1080i60 ← You may have seen something like 1080p or 1280x720p60, or 59.94i? The “i” is interlaced, and if there’s a “p,” then it’s progressive.

Think of the “p” as a full picture so that p60 would be 60 pictures per second, p30 = 30. TV’s are changing, but they have long since run at 29.97fps or 59.94 interlaced fps. Here’s a helpful photo.

interlaced vs progressive vj capture devices

If there’s latency or dropped frames, the interlaced lines can become visible over the top of your footage. You can remove them with a post process, but not so easily during a live performance. (one of those things YOU as a VJ would notice, that the rest of the audience might not).\n

To avoid this, you’ll have to send a progressive signal into the Mini Recorder. It supports 720p50, 720p59.94, 720p60, 1080p23.98, 1080p24, 1080p25, 1080p29.97, 1080p30. I use SwitchResX to force mac computer outputs to my desired resolution. Another downside is that the mini recorder does not support 16:10 aspect ratios; This forces me to crop or stretch the resolution when I’m working on a WUXGA projector. Simply put, if you’re on a Mac, the Black Magic mini recorder is really good, but far from perfect. (It supports some Windows machines with Thunderbolt). And as of posting this article. I sold my mini recorder and purchased a magewell. But something new or better will come out soon, or maybe it is already here (NDI?)

Bonus sectionSyphon / Spout, TCP, NDI, etc.:

Syphon (Mac) and Spout (PC) are graphics sharing pipelines that can share video across applications on the same computer, and with TCPSyphon or NDI, you can send that signal over a network (Gigabit recommended). These are fast and usually, do not require additional hardware (unless your on a stupid MacBook pro that needs thirty USB-C dongles for you to VJ). NDI is excellent if you’ve got your setup working. I like the UVC USB 3.0 devices because they are compact and BUS powered, but if you can haul an ethernet connection to your next event, then maybe NDI is your next best friend.

http://spout.zeal.co/download-spout-to-ndi/

For Resolume users:

https://resolume.com/support/en/syphonspout

 

WHAT ABOUT MULTIPLE VJ’S???

I am the proud owner of a Roland V-1HD 4 input HDMI mixer.  It has BPM sync, midi in & out and it’s compact.

 

I hope this article helped. If you found any better devices or found this to be useful, please leave a comment or message. Thanks -Cornelius

 

Additional Resources:

Display Resolutions:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Display_resolution#/media/File:Vector_Video_Standards8.svg

 

Color spacing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chroma_subsampling

http://blogs.adobe.com/VideoRoad/2010/06/color_subsampling_or_what_is_4.html

http://www.clearone.com/blog/what-is-444-color-and-why-should-i-care/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_space

 

Encoding:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YUV

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RGB_color_model

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YCbCr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YPbPr

http://paulbourke.net/dataformats/nv12/

 

Codec:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264/MPEG-4_AVC

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_JPEG

 

projectileobjects

Pittsburgh Skyline Projection Mapping Tutorial

It’s been a while since I have been able to post some of my projection mapping adventures, but this one with Lazercrunk was fun.  You don’t have to be local to appreciate an 8′ tall projection mapped city skyline.  10 buildings, spanning 16′ wide by 8′ high across the stage. Here’s an example of what it looked like by itself.

So for all of you who are interested in Projection Mapping, I’m detailing a little bit of my workflow in this post.  While this design looks more complex than some of the ones I have done over the years, it is actually easier with proper planning and forethought.

Essentially you start with an idea.  In this case, Todd Keebs wanted to do a Pittsburgh Skyline to celebrate Lazercrunks 7 Year Anniversary.  In order to cut the shapes out of foam core and have a design to share with me for content creation he used a vector and took it into his favorite program (Illustrator or Photoshop to give me templates for each building.

Pittsburgh Skyline Vector Search

Make a cut out a Vector cutout for each building and separate them by layers.
Pittsburgh Skyline Photoshop

 

Now we could leave the buildings connected for the next step, but part of this project was to rearrange the buildings on site to get the desired look within the projectors throw dimensions. To do this, simply separate the buildings and fit them into your desired output resolution.  For me that is 1920×1080.  I will be using a projector that is 1280×800, but I am going to let the mapping software do the down scaling.  My building template in after effects now looks like this:

After Effects Projection Mapping Vectors

From here I can control each layer and customize my content as I see fit.  The key here is to use the template for all of the content creation.  Once you have chosen your template do not start moving the buildings otherwise you will have to keep readjusting your setup within the mapping software.

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Now the building out:

Building Cutout

 

Todd any I have been working together for quite some time and we have  learned a lot from one another.  For this next part, I went to making custom content, and Todd started on the cutting.  For most projects we use 4’x8′ sheets of foamcore, it’s lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to cut.  Todd simply took the largest building in the set and set its dimensions to 8′ tall, in doing so with simple CAD software (or even illustrator) you can get the exact cut dimensions for each building just by using the internal rulers and measurements.  Each building was then cut to scale and stacked in a safe place before the show.

Then the setup:

projectileobjects projectileobjects

The projector was turned on to show the full output and the buildings were squeezed into place.

projectileobjects

As you can see this is an example of a simple single projector setup.  To eliminate shadows cast from the single projector source at this point you could add another projector and add a whole new element to your illusion, but for time sake I made the decision to hold off on this addition. (I’ll get into the pros & cons of using multiple projectors some other time).

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Now it’s time to map. (Mac Only)

Using VDMX (my VJ application), I sent a signal to Madmapper via Syphon containing a still frame of my template.  Once this is in the pipeline we simply make a rectangular selection for each building on the left (template / source window) and stretch it to fit onto the buildings on the right (output to projector).

MadMapper Pittsburgh SkylineUsing masks and visual overlays we can make sure that the extra corners from the template don’t bleed over onto the other buildings. The final “mapped” output to the projector now looks something like this:

Madmapper Pittsburgh Skyline 2

 

And here is the result:

projectile objects projectile objects projectile objects

So it is simple enough to pull off a multi-plane design like this with a single projector, I obviously skipped over the time it takes to create content, cut the designs, & and setup, but you shouldn’t be afraid of a setup like this.  After all, we had a blast doing so, watch the final video to see more:

 

Thanks for stopping by:

projectileobjects projectile objects

Geoff, Todd, & Cornelius (ProjectileObjects)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tutorial: The easier way to projection map for advertisement on a building. Drink Pink Hard

Hello to all visualize-ees and visual-ities, this month is going to introduce a new turn for ProjectileObjects.com as I have decided to make more frequent updates, tutorials, posts, and reviews.  To help support me in my constant struggle with social media procrastination I ask that you, like, follow, share, in anyway that you can this website and my Facebook page.  For if not, I may just continue to do the work that I have been doing for the past 6 years and keep my feet in the clouds and my head behind the curtains.

“For it is the VJ who gives the artist the ultimate spotlight.”

-ProjectileObjects (fortune cookie)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProjectileObjects

Let us begin.

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Outdoor projections for advertising.

Quick video sample.

http://youtu.be/adaXojBGSmc

Task #1: Scout your location, during the day and take a picture.

projectileobjects outdoor advertising

projectileobjects outdoor advertising day scouting

Task #2: Scout your location at night and take a picture. 🙂 

projection mapping tut 003

This step is extremely important as you will need to look for sources of light that may ruin your image.

Also it is important to note parking, building specs, potential hazards, height requirements (can’t shoot 10,000 lumens into oncoming traffic), and so on.  Use common sense as your ally.

Click here to view the rest of the post!

Downloading Youtube Videos for VJing Mac & PC.

Update:  Check out the latest  post on this subject here:

 https://projectileobjects.com/2014/10/16/new-downloading-videos-and-audio-from-the-web-for-vjing/

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You may have seen one of my previous posts, Batch Downloading and Converting Youtube Videos.

It was a great method that has stopped working only within the past few months.  The reason being = DASH.

Dash is a streaming protocol that has made it difficult to download entire videos with the old methods out there.  Trust me I tried them all in a 2 day panic before a show and only found 1 downloader that worked properly with the Dash Protocol. (I read about FFMPEG w/ JDownloader working, but only on windows and some macs)

The best so far, CYS Downloader: http://www.cys-audiovideodownloader.com/ works perfectly with the Firefox web browser.  I would lay out how-to’s, but it is a very simple process and all the necessary instructions are on the website.

Hope that helps, leave any comments or questions you may have.

 

 

Part 1: Batch Download and Convert Youtube Videos for VJing

Update:  Check out the latest  post on this subject here:

 https://projectileobjects.com/2014/10/16/new-downloading-videos-and-audio-from-the-web-for-vjing/

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old_UPDATED: As of DECEMBER 2013 This method of downloading will no longer work due to Youtube’s modification of how videos are streamed.  I have created and updated thread HERE with the most up to date method of downloading.  The rest of this post will remain for those who are investigating multiple techniques.  Thanks ProjectileObjects

Ripping Videos from Youtube for VJing  Batch downloading and converting on your MAC
Click here to view the rest of the post!