How do I create a video screen array?
April 19, 2006 3:34 PM   Subscribe

A/V nerdfilter: I'm looking to control a 9x9 array of LCD screens driven by a computer for an art installation. What's the best/cheapest way to set this up?

Preferrably, I'd like to be able to pre-program a sequence where all the lcd's are acting as one large screen, and where they each act as individual screens-- and be able to switch back and forth during this preprogrammed sequence. All the LCD's have SVIDEO/RCA inputs.
posted by unlicensedarchitect to Technology (13 answers total)
I don't think you can do this with just one computer.

But if you can get a couple (3 @ 3 screens/box?), and you're handy with Linux, you might try this to unify the array into one screen. It was used, along with something to distribute OpenGL rendering across a network, to make this similar array (scroll to third post from the top for more detail).
posted by Drunken_munky at 4:00 PM on April 19, 2006

oh, sorry, really misread that! Nevermind, then.
posted by Drunken_munky at 4:04 PM on April 19, 2006

Contact these folks. They may be able to help.
posted by limeonaire at 4:09 PM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: Interesting link, however.

I think I might be looking for something more akin to what one could find at a big box retailer like best buy, like an inverse multiplexer (maybe that's the wrong term). But for the life of me, I can't seem to google up one that isn't a pro-grade version costing 4 grand, or one thats designed for CCTV security systems.

I could live with composing one large image, and then keeping the 9x9 grid size in mind when composing content for an individual screen, for example.

I'd also like to keep it at one computer since physical/monetary constraints limit me.
posted by unlicensedarchitect at 4:13 PM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, when I mentioned Best Buy, I meant where they use a large bank of tv's to display the same image or to act as tiles for an overall larger image.
posted by unlicensedarchitect at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2006

(i think) what you want to google for is video wall.

this looks like a software-powered version of what you want. never used it, just googled it, no idea if it really suits your application.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 4:22 PM on April 19, 2006

Duh, video wall. I'm interested in this, too, and was googling "multi channel video installation" without much luck. Probably because "multi channel" would imply different video sources, not one split onto a bunch of monitors.

Anyway, I found this guy who would probably be able to help for a few thousand dollars. I guess that's what grants are for.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 4:37 PM on April 19, 2006

I've done a video wall of 4x4, but not 81 screens. It was done with a bunch of PCI matrox cards and a few old PCs. These days Matrox have external boxes that convert a single wide desktop into multiple (3 or 4) vga outputs.

But for 81 screens... is it possible to do a rear projection instead? Do you really need that resolution?
posted by holloway at 4:58 PM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: They're actually the 7" car headrest lcd screens, and the screens are not planar. They're flushmounted onto a curving surface.

81 screens would be ideal, but realistically I'm probably going to end up with a 5x5.
posted by unlicensedarchitect at 5:07 PM on April 19, 2006

Matrox have multi-head graphics cards available - something like this may be most suited, as you can get several cards into one PC, as they connect via PCI.
In addition to that, you could use one of these - the Matrox "TripleHead2Go", which enables you to connect 3 monitors to a single monitor port.

Most motherboards seem to have 5 PCI slots, so in theory you should be able to fit 5 boards with 2 monitor ports each, each of which is tripled-up, into one machine - giving you 30 screens...

I have no affiliation with Matrox, BTW!
posted by Chunder at 1:41 AM on April 20, 2006

Probably isn't going to be the cheapest method, though! :-)
posted by Chunder at 1:41 AM on April 20, 2006

$98 VIA EPIA 5000: 170 x 170 mm, VGA + S-Video + Composite RCA, 100 Mbit ethernet, LAN boot. Add $20 of RAM plus an ATX Y-cable. This provides an upper bound of $150/screen. These machines should be happy running Linux and an X server.

Perhaps you should post your space and money budgets. Can you swing 12 cubic feet and $12,000?
posted by ryanrs at 2:50 AM on April 20, 2006

Chunder: Matrox are pretty adament that you can only use one TripleHead2Go per PC.

They do have a PCIe x1 dual-head card, but you'd still need a lot of them for 81 screens.
posted by krisjohn at 5:12 AM on April 20, 2006

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