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Chapter 3

Compare and contrast: Video wall controller vs processor

Once you’ve decided that you need a video wall processor or video wall controller because the internal matrix scalers aren’t enough for your deployment, you need to look at the various core technologies on the market today driving video walls.

1. Traditional Video-card based video wall controller:

This is the oldest of the technologies.

A dedicated computer—basically a specialized PC equipped with extra video cards—is physically attached to the displays, each video output driving one display.

These video wall controllers typically come with software and capture cards to connect multiple inputs, configure presets, control outputs and manage the overall configuration.

Traditional video wall controllers are proprietary hardware solutions with a fixed number of inputs and outputs purpose built for video walls.

Typically video wall controllers scale captured input sources, but some video wall solutions allow you to render content directly on the controllers.

These are often very expensive but offer very high total resolution via the large number of installed graphics card.

Vendors include: Barco, Christie Digital.

2. Media-players playing back pre-split content:

For digital signage use cases, some companies have taken multiple signage player devices and time-synched them together to create a video walls playback system.

Here the content must be pre-split and only the relevant portion of the video uploaded to each of the corresponding individual players—one per display.

The players constantly talk to each other or to a server during over the network during playback to maintain synchronization.

The key disadvantage of this is the inflexibility and cost of having to prepare the content in advance and the constant risk of the players falling out of synchronization.

Vendors include: Brightsign, Anytiles

Artistic Video Wall

3. Matrix Switcher

Matrix switchers are generally defined by their number of inputs and outputs (both usually HDMI) and range from 2 inputs ×2 outputs all the way up to 32 inputs and 32 outputs (32×32).

The core limitation of the matrix switch is that inputs and outputs are fixed. If need to add a 5th display to your 4x4 matrix switcher you’re starting from scratch.

Each input also requires its own input source which increases costs and cabling complexity.

Matrix Switchers can’t display on granular levels lower than a single screen which prevents more advanced layouts like Multi-window and picture-in-picture and also don’t come with advanced control and management tools meaning an additional control solution may need to be added which increases complexity further.

4. Network-based (AV-over-IP) video wall controller:

This technology marries the power and flexibility of a traditional video wall controller, with the cost, scalability and flexibility advantages inherent AV-over IP.

A central PC renders, captures and splits the content then sends it out over a standard Ethernet network to the displays.

This offers all the resolution, multi-source and flexibility advantages of a traditional video wall controller.

All the content management, splitting and delivery is done in real time, and capture cards and network streaming source offer a wide range of inputs (like HDMI and SDI).

But unlike the traditional controller it has built-in distribution and almost unlimited scalability (in terms of number of outputs) and artistic flexibility.

Solutions like Userful also come with all the control and management tools needed from content switching to preset configuration and cloud management making it a single solution ideal for just about all video wall needs.

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4. LED vs LCD