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). A close second to the Magewell’s was a generic capture card that someone else has already reviewed in greater detail.

I’m still waiting to test the iEi HDB-301R-R10  , 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

 

Catcalling is Harassment Stickers #catcallingisharassment

20170624_093259

Project update:   Due to the paper stickers lack of weatherproofing (indoor only) I have pivoted into having a more “permanent” sticker made.  Introducing the #CatcallingIsHarassment eggshell stickers.  They adhere to smooth clean surfaces and become difficult to remove after about 5 minutes.  They are now stationed at a few local coffee shops in the Pittsburgh area. Thus far we made 12,500 stickers.

You can download the design in the previous post (below) to make your own.

20170622_111828

—– Previous post.

This isn’t in the realm of projection mapping, but I’m sure some night soon this will be brightly displayed on the side of a building.   For now I’m using this blog as a way to share the idea.

catcallingisharassment catcalling is harassment stickers

#CatcallingIsHarassment stickers

It only took $163.14 to make 3,000 4″x4″ stickers that 86% of them “disappeared” in less than a day.   I have since updated the design to incorporate the hashtag #CatCallingIsHarassment to help others share the idea and uploaded the files for anyone to download, share, or printing.  i.e. signs & stickers.

Catcalling Is Harassment Files

Catcalling is Harassment PDF only

Initially someone printed 500 Vinyl stickers for free, they were amazing quality, but limited, more expensive, easier to remove (in one piece), and more detrimental to the environment. For paper stickers I found this company had good prices and turn around time, I’m going to see what else is out there, but for now: https://www.printplace.com/products/promotional-and-event-stickers

Hopefully you can take it from here, spread the word, et cetera. Let me know if you find a better printer.

#catcallingisharassment #catcalling

EspressoAMano Projection mapping pittsburgh, projectileobjects, coffee shop window projection

Update and EspressoAMano open projection mapping project.

 I’ve been contributing to projection-mapping.org more frequently than my own blog and it has been some time since I last posted an update. For me, it’s a good problem to have, I’ve been busy…

Over the last 2 years I’ve been piling up a collection of unedited videos from a slew of projects that I’ve had the honor to be apart of.  What were once planned to be written detailed accounts for educational purposes, may well end up becoming a flashy promo reel propelled by high energy EDM pop music.  <- Or not.

It’s what I have seen everywhere else and while I understand it, it’s not in my immediate interests to create one, or to make bids on larger corporate events.  While I may consult  on such events from time to time, believe it or not, I’m in this for the fun of it.

A few days ago I finished an update for a local automated projection mapping installation.  The goal, take a cool local coffee shop and light up the upper windows at night. The ulterior motive for this? To see what others can do with the visual space when given the opportunity.

 EspressoAMano Projection mapping pittsburgh, projectileobjects, coffee shop window projection

Share the link, download the template, submit your work and it will be viewed publicly.  That’s it. https://www.evernote.com/l/Ag2xwxA4QRtJE4z8E8lZ7x8jbwDmkIZXrvM

 

Only time will tell what’s going to happen next with this installation, but the opportunity is something that I am excited about.  Check back in a few weeks or so as I will have a detailed update of how I made this installation possible and the simple “built-in” means of projection automation.

 

The location:

Espresso A Mano (https://espressoamano.com/)

3623 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Current Projector Operating hours (subject to change):

Mon-Thur:

9PM-11PM

Fri & Sat:

9PM-2AM

Sunday:

6PM-9PM

 

 

OMG 5 Tunnel Party

OMG 5 Tunnel Party Uploading to Youtube vs Facebook

Its been a while since I’ve a moment to blog and even longer since the first OMG parties, including our infamous U-Haul Dance Party (<-Video / Blog Post <-).  So we did it again, but this time we had a tunnel dance party. <- Why not?.  The video was quickly put together as a recap and shared on Youtube & Facebook. Interestingly enough, Facebook favors its own video content so heavily that within 24 hours of posting the Tunnel Party video we reached more than 5,000 people compared to our youtube page which only reached 5.   5000 is a 99900% increase of 5.  So why even upload to youtube?  Archival, SEO, and Quality. While facebook is the social sharing hub of our time, videos disappear just as fast as they arrive. They share with friends, and friends of friends, but don’t rank highly in search engine results. Lastly, to optimize streaming across all devices, facebook really dumbs down the quality of any video uploaded to it.  That being said, I hope you enjoy our tunnel party video as much as we enjoyed our tunnel party!.  Thank you to everyone who came out.

Raspberry Pi Zero projection mapping

Raspberry pi zero projection mapping

Update:  If the content is pre-mapped (meaning, made in After Effects, Photoshop, MS Paint, etc.) and rendered out at the projector’s native resolution.  The Pi Zero works great as a standalone seamless video looper by simply embedding this code into the rc.local file.  (I stored a video file on a usb flash drive and entitled it “Video.mp4”  You can also put your video file on the MicroSD that Raspbian is installed on.

omxplayer -b -o --no-osd --loop /mnt/usb/Video.mp4

Old —–

Built off of the 1st gen. versions of the raspberry pi, the Pi Zero is a $5 computer that seems fit for simple projection mapping and playback.  Thus far it’s limitations have simple fixes, but a lack of ethernet and additional usb ports is hoop that has to be jumped through. (My current setup is micro usb to 4-port usb 2.0 hub with nano wifi dongle & Logitech k400).

OMG 3, Pittsburgh

The OMG Experiments – UHaul Dance Party

***Video at the bottom if you’d like to skip***

Its been a while since I’ve had the time to blog, my entire year has been non-stop and before I could post my latest works I was already off to do something new. All in all, it has been a trip that I am thankful to be apart of.  More recently I decided to experiment with MadMapper 2.0, A Pixlite 16 LED driver, and 25 meters of WS2811 RGB strips.  Oh yeah, and all inside of a mobile Uhaul party vehicle powered by a 2000 watt silent generator…  Let’s just say this was a spectacular experiment.

For some time now I have been doing some fun pop-up / experimental dance parties with my neighbor and friend Joy ( DJ name “Kill Joy” <- I think).  We just like to try new things and that is how OMG started.  Original, “Only Mashups Goobers” due to the first event being at a location that did not pay BMI or ASCAP, so we had a mashup party and devised a visual setup using 1 projector, cardboard, duck-tape, spray paint, and some hot pants.  This is what the first OMG party looked like:

But even crazier than the actual party was the media campaign that was released on Facebook two weeks before. Quick edited, simply narrated, “hot-topic” videos with blown out audio that looked and sounded spectacular on mobile devices (most of facebooks’ traffic) were a hit amongst those who saw them. Here are some of the OMG videos:

Not bad, and they had tons of shares.  So that was OMG 1, after that was OMG 2, The Sledgehammer dance party….   Let’s just say this party was so crazy it’s almost like it never even happened.

And then, there was OMG 3, The Mobile UHaul LED Disco Dance Party…

 

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.

————————

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).

———————————–

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)