FAQs: Video Wall

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Video Wall

Q: What is Video Wall?

The Video Wall feature in Userful is to send synchronized high-resolution graphical content to an array of displays simultaneously. Typically this is achieved via the "Userful Control Center" or "Control Center". Video walls are commonly used in advertising, films, museums, broadcasting. With Userful, a single host PC or server is able to output one or more entire video walls over a network.

Q: How do I configure my video wall?

Visit the Configuring Video Wall page for detailed instructions.

Q: Is Userful’s integrated Color Calibration compatible with displays?

Color Calibration is achieved by adjusting color values directly at the zero-client chipset level (rather than adjusting settings within the display itself). This design ensures compatibility across a broad range of displays as well as having the further advantage of being able to calibrate color on video walls comprised of a heterogeneous mix of different displays. To learn more about color calibration, visit Configure Video Wall.

Q: How do I create content for an artistic video wall?

Userful software appliance is designed to make video wall content creation simple and straightforward. No special steps are required to create content for your artistic video wall. The canvas is the bounding rectangle that encloses all the pixels of all the displays within the video wall. For HTML5 content, the Userful host will launch a browser window of exactly the same height and width as the video wall. You can either create content optimized for this aspect ratio, design the layout of your artistic video wall to match a desired aspect ratio, or use responsive design techniques when building your HTML content so that it adapts cleanly to a variety of aspect ratios. If you are playing video content (e.g., using the Signage Player container), it will play your video centered horizontally and vertically, depending on the scaling option selected (Scale to Fit, Zoom full-screen, or Stretch full-screen).

Q: I don’t have any 4K content. Why is it still important to invest in a video wall solution that is capable of playing 4K and higher source content?

Installation of a video wall is a very large investment. Userful’s modular approach uses standard PC hardware for the server and standard zero client devices for each screen, ensuring your video wall investment can last for 5 or even 10 years or more. The zero client device lifespan typically exceeds that of your display, and the PC/server can be easily replaced every few years to keep current with the latest hardware advances for nominal cost. The amount of 4K content is growing exponentially and will increase dramatically in the months and years ahead. While you may not have 4K content today, in a few years, 4K (or higher) will be the expected resolution for newly created content.

Q: When you split 4K content to multiple displays, what filtering and processing are you doing on the scaled image before you send it out?

Both the CPU and GPU are utilized to dynamically perform any scaling, rotation, or cropping required for each of the individual segments of the video wall.

Q: Does Userful's Video Wall feature support content that is shot with multiple 4K cameras or offline content processed to 8K x 4K or even 12K/16K x 4K resolution?

The theoretical maximum resolution of Userful is 16,000x16,000 pixels, however this only works for static "slide show" style images. It is possible to play videos at resolutions larger than 4096x4096, but once you get beyond this the framerate depends on the bitrate of the content and the power of the server, as well as the encoding methods used. Intel® 4th generation's built in GPU decoder supports a maximum canvas of 4096 x 4096, so decoding anything larger than this will utilize CPU power. Obviously, as next generation CPUs and GPUs come out, our architecture will automatically support larger resolutions afforded by the latest hardware, which is a major advantage versus competing technologies that have a fixed output resolution and are not easy to upgrade.

Q: Can I arrange my displays in an overlapping configuration?

Yes, in an artistic video wall you can overlap displays arbitrarily, simply drag the displays on top of each other to create the desired overlap, then fine-tune your alignment using keyboard arrows. In a grid video wall you are allowed uniform vertical or/and horizontal overlapping

Q: How should I optimize content for an ultra-wide video-wall (e.g., 1x7 or 1x10)?

For optimal CPU utilization, it is best to encode content into h.264. Provided the maximum dimensions of the canvas (width or height) are kept below 4096 pixels, our system will leverage the built in hardware decoding of the Haswell GPU that will give you an additional significant performance advantage.

It is possible to exceed 4096 pixels, and if that is the case it is unlikely that a regular Haswell system (without the benefit of GPU decoding) could play back such a large native resolution (1920x7 = 13,440 x 1080p). For projects where there is a custom engineering budget, it is worth discussing the specifics of the needs with us as most projects can be solved with some special hardware and custom engineering time, but our stock product would not be able to handle a 1x7 aspect ratio at native resolution.

Another approach is to play multiple videos on an ultra-wide wall (e.g., two 1x3 videos on a 1x6 wall). Currently, we do not offer the option of frame synchronization between these different videos. If the videos do not require perfect synchronization you can certainly play two videos at once on the two halves of the wall.

Q: Can I create a video wall using 4K displays with the Userful solution?

Yes. Our zero client devices are fully compatible with 4K displays and many of our customers have deployed 4K displays with our zero client devices with great success. Our zero clients output a maximum of 1080p resolution which is then upscaled by the 4K display’s built-in scaler.

Obviously 4K displays cost more, but they do provide better visual results than the equivalent quality 1080p displays. Most customers find the limiting factor on their video wall resolution to be their source content, which for large video walls is typically much smaller than the total possible pixel output of their displays. For example a 2x2 video wall with 4k displays would require an 8k source (which today is feasible only for static images). Perhaps 1% of the video wall controllers in the market are powerful enough to actually drive full frame rate video at 8k or higher resolution.

Q: What are the different audio output options for the video wall solution?

There are 3 options:

  1. Pull sound from the sound output jacks on the Userful host. This typically provides the best quality sound output as you can get 5 or even 7 or more channels of sound from a Userful host, as opposed to just stereo sound at the zero client or display itself. This is recommended if sound will be via an overhead centrally controlled audio system which is located in the same room as the Userful host.
  2. Pull sound from the zero client device via the 3.5mm stereo audio output jack. One device will be designated as the control station for the video wall during creation of the session container and will provide audio output.
  3. Connect the display with an HDMI cable. This has the same quality as option #2 (stereo) but lets you use speakers built directly into the TV or display.

Q: Can the Zones feature display a video in the center of a 2x2 video wall, overlapping the other 4 screens, and have different content played in the unused areas around it?

The zones feature allows a user to have a video wall playing different content within one layout. To achieve the desired effect you could either setup a 3x3 video wall (with the single monitor in the middle playing different video than the outer ring of 8 displays surrounding it) or a 4x4 video wall (where you could have a 2x2 in the middle).

Alternatively, using one of the integrated content management systems you could achieve the desired effect by mapping a single session container to the entire wall (regardless of size) and control the "picture in picture" zone size within the content management system.

Q: If I have an existing display management system (RS232 or Ethernet) how will it interact with Userful?

The display connects to the zero client device via either the HDMI or VGA port of your display. You could still use an Ethernet or RS232 control function using an external control and monitoring system to display monitoring, settings, etc., and in the case of a smart display there is nothing that needs to be installed on the TV or display itself.

Q: How should I select my displays?

Displays can be purchased through Userful, however the solution should be compatible with the vast majority of displays on the market (both commercial and consumer grade). We strongly suggest that you purchase a single display and test, first to ensure full compatibility with the Userful system and that you are happy with the display in regards to mounting and visual appeal. Additional features to look for in a display are auto on/off and locked buttons to prevent the public from interfering with their function.

Q: What kind of warranty comes with the displays?

Userful provides a 30-day warranty on displays purchased through Userful. After the initial 30-days the warranty on displays and mounting solutions are provided entirely by the respective manufacturers.

Q: Will buying 4K displays improve the visual impact and image quality of my video wall?

A high quality 4K display with a high quality upscaler will improve the picture quality a bit over the same content being displayed on an equivalent quality 1080p display. Displays often have built in hardware that uses a process called upscaling to convert incoming sources to fit their output display size (in this case, 4K). Done right, this upscaling combined with the higher pixel count on a 4K display can actually add to the perceived detail of the image, but you will have to look very closely to actually see the difference. Just because a display is 4K doesn't mean it necessarily has a good scaler built in.