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Moving PC/SCS to Mac/Qlab for video in theatre


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My amateur theatre is considering moving from Windows PCs and SCS to Macs and Qlab. The main objective is to get better support for video projectors. We have found this to be a frustrating challenge with Windows PCs.

My thinking is to use three Mac Mini M1 8 GB / Storage: 512 GB SSD  with Thunderbolt 3 to HDMI adapters so we can drive one control screen and five projectors. Does this make sense? I do not envisage we will go much beyond HD standard as the costs per projector spiral upwards rapidly when you factor in say 6000 lumens.

Are we crazy (I know the cost is going to be £4500 when we add in a macbook to loan out to designers)? Are we just going to hit different gotchas on Macs? Thanks 

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Posted (edited)

You might find it more cost efficient to use something like a Datapath FX4 to split the M1 mac's single 4K output into 4 1080p outputs.

I'd consider the 16GB RAM models too.

 

Also - triggering external QLab instances from a master instance (as your plan seems to propose) isn't always straightforwards (though is totally possible). The usual setup is a machine with multiple outputs, this is where the new mac minis are limited as they have only the single 4K output. A mac studio would be more suited to multiple video outputs, but comes with a price premium.

Edited by J Pearce
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Posted (edited)

Thanks Jon... I will dig around on those options.

Alister... My team are always on the end of the Director's sharp sticks - which can mean 5 different videos worst case. But Jon's Datapath splitter would mean we could stretch the Mac Studio to clone one output to more projectors if they could find somewhere to hang them. Thanks

Edited by simontl
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3 hours ago, J Pearce said:

You might find it more cost efficient to use something like a Datapath FX4 to split the M1 mac's single 4K output into 4 1080p outputs.

I'd consider the 16GB RAM models too.

 

Also - triggering external QLab instances from a master instance (as your plan seems to propose) isn't always straightforwards (though is totally possible). The usual setup is a machine with multiple outputs, this is where the new mac minis are limited as they have only the single 4K output. A mac studio would be more suited to multiple video outputs, but comes with a price premium.

So the Mac Studio could "Connect up to 5 displays in total"; so  very close to the bleeding edge. So this one would be on the right lines? Apple Mac Studio, Apple M1 Max Chip, 10C CPU, 24C GPU, 32GB UM, 512GB SSD - Silver. Thanks for help.

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I know that the question is about QLab on macs but take a look at the new Blackmagic hyperdeck.

They are £500 each and run off a card or HDD. If you could control each hyperdeck through QLab (or the blackmagic software) then each projector could have it’s own replay device controlled from one master?

not tried it

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2 minutes ago, Dave m said:

If you could control each hyperdeck through QLab (or the blackmagic software) then each projector could have it’s own replay device controlled from one master?

Fine if you only want to play fullscreen video and do any geometry mapping in the projector. Doesn't touch half the power of what QLab can do.

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Thanks for the comments. Figure 53/QLab have confirmed that Jon's recommendation of a Mac Studio would do the job. The Hyperdeck option is intriguing but keystoning or shifting the video is often needed and QLab (and to an extent SCS) can do this. I can now go to my Board with a proposals. Thanks all.

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Don't go down the hyperdeck route, this isn't what they're designed for and will only impose restrictions on what you can do.

The solution would be a mac studio running qlab. Up to 5 outputs, which will do what you're looking for, but I would suggest (as you're staying at 1080p for now) also go down the FX4 route. The mac will be much more reliable when using fewer physical outputs, and you don't need to be as specific when selecting adaptors and outputs. HDMI for a GUI head, then thunderbolt to Displayport to an FX4 SDI, SDI distribution to projectors.

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Thanks all. It looks as if projectors with SDI input are several leagues above ours. We now have fibre HDMI cables to reach our domestic-level projectors. Using SDI adapters would be an alternative but adds more cost and complexity. If we invest in the Mac Studio with simple Thunderbolt to HDMI adapters we can see how that goes - and then add the FX4 or similar at a later date.

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Before spending too much money, I would talk to the video department at Stage Sound Services in Cardiff.  They will be able to talk you through some options, and I would suggest renting some kit from them as a demo, to see if what will work in your situation.  You may discover a solution not listed above that would work out better for you.

 

neil

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I would second Neil's comment - QLab is great to a certain point - but after that point there are far better options out there for dealing with multi-display setups and finding one that fits your workflow is key.

For example, if you ever do 3d mapping onto objects (or it may exist in the back of a directors mind somewhere) - and if you have money to spare, something like Disguise (used to be D3) or Watchout would be far better. If you may want to do LED pixel mapping integrated with your video, again, there are probably better options out there.

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