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  • Cost effective Multi-screen syncing?

  • Andy Stokes

    January 17, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m looking for a cost-effective way of syncing together 9 devices (either 9PC’s, 9MPEG players or 9DVD’s) to play content out to 9 LCD screens.

    In the past I have worked with Dataton, though I think that will be overkill since I really only need a way of triggering 9 independent sources to start at once, then loop the custom content I’m creating. It’s for a 3day temporary installation. Each source will be 720×576 Anamorphic.

    I find it hard to believe that in this world of dual-head displays, Midi, Timecode and Networking, there isn’t a simple app to do just such a thing?

    I guess for a real “MacGyver” approach I could use 9 DVD players, though i’m not sure how I could sync. Could I buy a IR receiver/sender to duplicate the signal? Hmm.

    In an ideal world I’d have unlimited Watchout or Wings setups. However, I’m just curious if there are any alternatives for those smaller budget projects.

    Any help or pointers would be greatly appreciated.


  • Nicholas Rivero

    January 17, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    You could do it with Figure 53’s qLab and some computers. You can check it out at

    I highly recommend Renewed Vision’s ProVideo Player but you will need 9 licenses and 9 computers, such as mac minis. It is probably overkill for what you need. You can check them out at and their recent MacWorld best of show…

    You could also use 9 DVD players of the same make, get a remote and hit go at the same time? I’ve seen it done before… Don’t know how accurate your sync needs to be…


  • George Socka

    January 17, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Maybe a dumb question, but how far apart are these displays? If the displays support video, just run a distributiom amp and coax out of a single DVD player that loops. If they are VGA connections, there are VGA to Cat5 adapters and VGA DA’s that will do that nicely over 100’s of feet. Cheaply. Simply.

    George Socka

  • Thomas Leong

    January 18, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    This question has been asked a few times at Show-Control Yahoo Group. Just do a search for ‘syncing multiple DVD players’ there or ‘sync multiple videos’.

    There are some solutions to sync multiple DVD players, but it would seem that all of them require an appropriate DVD player (notably from Pioneer), not your usual $100 consumer stuff. Check out –
    Dave Jone Design plus his Synchronizing Tutorial for some insights.
    and Alcorn McBride

    An alternative for long-lasting playback with no moving parts is to use compact flash players. Trigger is via a controller with RS-232 or GPIO outputs. Many products out there, but you could check out –

    Medeawiz for their DV68 product. Curiously, their site does not list a controller for multiple players, but Pixels, from UK, does list a KPC-2 programmable controller which “enables multiple DV-68 players to be triggered to start playing media together”. (scroll to near bottom of their page).

    If you are up to scripting yourself, you could also check out Brightsign but you should also look up their Users Forum to see if there is a solution to start/sync multiple Brightsigns.

    There are many others, such as –
    Syncmaker Pro – a shareware (Euro 99 per node though); and
    DigitalRecall from Australia which offers a free 2-node 800×600 limitation (+other limitations) download for digital signage purposes. I tested this today, and managed to run a different 720×576 video on each of the nodes, with the Master on another pc. However, I did not try to get them frame-synced.

    Frame-sync would be something to delve into with Digital Signage solutions if you need such a feature. This frame-synced feature across the network is one of the selling points for Watchout and Wings. Additionally these 2 products are also production capable, so their price reflects accordingly.

    I use Wings, and because of the dual outputs of most mid- to top-end graphics cards nowadays, enabling the ‘Multihead mode’ in Wings allows you to output 2 discrete videos from one pc/licence. Also, the Master can be a Playback (Slave/Display) unit. So for 9 screens, in multihead mode, you only require 5 licences/nodes – One Master (Primary monitor to show the Timeline; Secondary will output to 1 of 9 Display Screens whilst the remaining 8 screens come from 4 Slave Licences each outputting to 2 screens using dual-head graphics cards. Of course, your PCs and its hard-disk system must be able to handle two videos simultaneously….but the latest and greatest is not necessary. I did 9 discrete screens as described above with P4 2.8GHZ Intels, each with only 512MB RAM, except for the Master-slave, and ATI 9600XT graphics cards, 2 years ago.

    best of luck,
    Thomas Leong

  • Andy Stokes

    January 19, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Hi all,

    Thanks for all your responses (especially Thomas for all those links!!) I’m doing a bit more research.

    Right now, I’m thinking 3 MacBooks with Triple-head-to-go’s and ProVideo player could be quite a nice, portable, compact and relatively inexpensive setup. For this setup I could segment the full video into 3 movies. May need to check on the ability of the Mac’s to playback such a big movie without hiccups.

    Here’s another idea I just had. How about if there was a way to trigger multiple ipod videos? Again, this is a down and dirty approach and obviously not the highest video quality, but I’m sure with some knowledge of Cocoa, a USB dongle with multiple ipods and a bit of scripting this could be possible? Hmmm.. Any ideas?


  • Thomas Leong

    January 19, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Ahh…Mac-based. You did not mention that in the beginning.

    Have a look at the $10 Keyshowx which is supposed to remote control multiple Powerpoint or Keynote presentations on multiple Macs (trial download available). So perhaps if you have a video from within Keynote on each Mac, then remote trigger all using KeyShowx from another Mac. For $10, cost effective would be an understatement!

    Again, if you need frame-sync accuracy across the network, that’s another kettle of fish.


  • Nicholas Rivero

    January 20, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Oh btw, there is a feature in qLab called a wall clock trigger. If all of your mac’s computer clocks are atomically set (which can simply be done in system preferences) then the wall clock trigger basically just triggers a cue at a given day and time.
    So, if your just playing a playlist, need no external control, this could work. You can check out an example here…

    I’m not quite sure if you can do it with the basic version. If you don’t know, the baseline version of qlab is free. I believe you need the $20 upgrade to get the wall clock feature. To do video, it’s $150 more and to do MIDI I/O is also $150.


  • Ramona Howard

    January 25, 2008 at 3:50 am


    Hate to jump in late.

    This may be a bit overkill for you app but something to keep in mind.

    RaveHD operates as an uncompressed source and that can sync multiple units and be controlled as one. So yes, one interface will control them all.

    Works in many configurations but essentially each unit is feeding a dedicated stream, regardless if they are going to different displays or to one, say like a 4K projector. It all works the same, in sync every step of the way.

    Although there isn’t much info out there we just did this for the Comcast keynote at CES where we feed 2 1920×1080 images to a multi projector setup to display as one very large image. here is our link.

    Rental info will be posting soon.


  • Bill Davis

    January 25, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Speaking of jumping in late!

    Anyway, if you’re not looking for perfect sync and just want to trigger 9 cheap DVD players to play simultaneously you could easily go with those Powermid cheap IR/RF extenders.

    Markertek sells them – the funny triangular thingies. They actually work pretty well.

    The transmitter takes an IR input, encodes it to an RF signal – sends that to one or more receivers, which reencode it to the original IR signal at or near the controllable device. (DVD player)

    You get a transmitter/receiver pair for under 70 bucks and extra receivers for under $50.

    The RF is omnidirectional and is pretty good room to room, so typical stick-built walls aren’t a big problem

    The whole rig for 9 IR send/receive stations should run you under $500 and would probably fit in a Pelican 1650.

    Plus you’d control all 9 devices from a single DVD remote control, so you’d get all the remote’s capabilities – power up and down, jump chapters, etc.

    Not pretty, not really very “high tech” but pretty cheap and I bet it would work just fine for the kind of portable temporary installation it sounds like you’re planning.


    FCP since NAB 1999
    creator: muti-track movies

  • Rick Sebeck

    April 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm


    What did you settle on using? I need to sync two HD sources that will make up a 3×6 stack of HD monitors. At first I was thinking of using a dual monitor output of a PC. But now I am thinking two blue ray DVD players may be easier to run.

    Just curious as to what you decided on… and why.



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