Since a few years full HD widescreens setups have become a standard in the event world. More and more clients require several pip’s combined with powerpoints, dvd’s, HD video’s,….
We have been looking into several solutions lately. In this article we describe the Pandora’ Box from Coolux
This is the kind of widescreen setup we are trying to achieve.
Coolux pandora’s box
In Belgium the Pandora’s box is being distributed by Audiovisual Lighting in Lebbeke. Luc is very nice guy and he gave us quite an impressive demo of the Pandora’s box. The Pandora’s box is a so called “media server”, a software solution running on Windows XP, that allows you to control a complete show, in real time.
There is a player and a server version of the setup. The player is a lightweight version of the server-edition, that can be installed on any pc. The server version is a total hardware solution combined with the software.
At this moment, the server consists of a Quad Core highend pc with RAID storage, and a dual-dvi output. (1920 * 1080 per screen). Multiple servers can be combined to create massive wide screen projections.
With the pandora’s box you can totally manipulate your show. Edge blending, frame blending, masking, key effects, real time 3D render, are only the tip of the iceberg of functions that are included.
Pandora’s box can be controlled from the manager software on a laptop (timeline based) or from a Chamsys controller, although we did find the chamsys a lot more difficult.
The Pandora’s Box has proven itself many times in a lot of live events like concerts, live TV-broadcasts, etc… which makes us feel rather confident in the performances of this high-tech beauty.
How will we deal with live inputs, you ask? We need to able to control external Powerpoint-presentations and camera sources. The ages that every second was planned in advance are long past. We need total flexibility on location.
Like every software-based media server, external sources are integrated by capture cards. This causes a tiny bit of delay, but Coolux seems to have done a good job minimizing it. The Pandora’s Box has an optional 2 * HD SDI capture card, that is able to show a full-HD live input with only two frames delay. This is a result, worth comparing to the old Diventix and Barco Viewscape with SD!
For data capture, the Pandora’s Box has a dual DVI/VGA capture card available. All live inputs appear as graphics layers in the control software. Tthe amount of layers depends on the version. We used a 4 video/ 8 graphics layer version which is plenty to deliver excellent support.
We connected a laptop with a Powerpoint-presentation to the Pandora’s Box on a 1024 by 786 resolution. Unscaled it looked quite good, but when we downscaled and upscaled pixels got lost and small fonts became harder to read.
We are talking about powerpoint, so I guess not everyone will use small fonts. If you have two edge blended projectors connected to a server, both running 1024*786, there’s a good chance you will have to downscale your Powerpoint source, otherwise you won’t see your background image and some pixel loss will happen.
If your projectors support higher resolutions, you can run Powerpoints on 1024 * 768 and show them unscaled. According to Coolux the delays are 5 frames max. So if audio is included in the Powerpoint, you have to be sure to keep the delay in mind on that as well.
It looks like Coolux has done a great job on the Pandora’s Box. For less then EUR 20 000 you can buy a total hardware/software event solution, including dual HD/SDI capture, dual-dvi capture, soft edge, frame blending, etc… This is a lot cheaper then comparable products, like the Barco Encore and Vista Spyder.
Of course there are still a few issues that need to be solved but the software is constantly being updated, and updates are for free when you buy a server solution.