21-23 Aug 2024
ICC, Sydney

Media Servers for Live Events – Combining science and art to make magic happen

Oct 26, 2016

Before we discovered the wonders of technology it took a liberal use of smoke and mirrors to put the dazzle into a live event. Thankfully today we have access to media servers, software, AV, lighting and digital display environments that can add a pretty hefty punch to an event. But in the same way that simply having a paint brush and a canvas won’t turn anyone into Picasso, there needs to be a creative spark and a theme behind the tech to really make it come alive and wow the audience.

A good media server serves as an ideal foundation to synchronize stills, animations, graphics, videos and sound and also power displays and projectors to create a stunning and engaging experience. These multimedia designs can be used for live performances, presentations, art installations and exhibitions. But not all media servers are created equal so whether you’re designing the multimedia backdrop of U2’s next concert tour, a theatre production or a seminar – you need to find the device that meets your needs.

The latest media servers can handle unlimited video and graphics layers, 4K video playback, 3D projection mapping, auto sync and matrix output. Innovative technology can only be as innovative as the user and media servers can provide quite a digital canvas. Just like a great meal requires lots of ingredients, the same can be said for your live event. Yet it’s a lot more than just lighting and AV controls – it’s what you do with it that makes all the difference.

The possibilities have expanded somewhat and your options now include pristine, uncompressed frame accurate playback, live capture, projection mapping to place media on objects like buildings, vehicles or any other 3D shape and augmented reality/virtual reality.

It’s important when playing uncompressed, high quality content that it has the resolution to handle the size display surface. Playback accuracy is also paramount when using a blended projection system to avoid any kind of temporal difference. Even the slightest delay will be noticeable by the audience. This won’t be an issue with a media server with multiple video and audio outputs that supports high resolution (up to 8K) output at up to 120 frames per second.

You can make the audience the star of the show with live camera feeds, social media content or streamed media from the internet. The operators of the display can switch from playback media to the live capture within the media server at the desired time.

Don’t have a screen? With projection mapping you can turn 3D objects into your display surface. Buildings are the obvious choice here but you can also go for bridges, cars, ships and any other 3D shape.

The annual Vivid event in Sydney is a great example of this type of display which used harbourside buildings like Customs House and even the iconic Sydney Opera House to place moving media and images. A large part of the show was designed, produced and displayed by The Electric Canvas using a combination of high-powered projector systems and media servers.

Thinking outside the square means entering new realities – augmented and virtual realities. Augmented reality is a view of an object through a camera that adds digital components into the image. An image or object can act as the trigger for the augmented reality so you can create a virtual forest in front of the audience’s eyes or have dinosaurs stomping around the stage.

Virtual reality can also be a powerful live event tool with viewers wearing VR headsets for part of the presentation or show and look around their surroundings and feel like they have been completely transported to a different location. A seamless example of this is Samsung’s recent use of their own Gear VR headsets at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Media servers are expensive products and that cost can be a pain point for some exhibitors. But is the cost of hiring or the cost of ownership a better deal? The number of times the unit is used per year will determine the best value play here. Either way, having a media server will provide stunning capabilities to allow technology and imagination to combine and create something truly magical.

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