Userful Network Video Wall™: FAQs

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Copyright © 2016 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2016.02.19)


To return to the Userful Network Video Wall main documentation page, Click Here.


Introduction

Q: What is a Video Wall?

A Video Wall is a way of outputting synchronized high-resolution graphics content to an arrangement of displays simultaneously. Typically this is achieved via a "video wall server" or "video wall controller". Video walls are commonly used in advertising, films, museums, broadcasting. It enables the arrangement of displays to function as a single large display. With Userful Network Video Wall a single host PC/server is able to output to one or more video walls over the network.

Hardware Compatibility

Q: What host PC/servers are compatible with Userful Network Video Wall?

Please visit Hardware Guide for a complete list of certified host PC/servers.

Q: Why does Userful recommend only Intel® 4th generation “Haswell” based host PC/server for the video wall?

Userful Network Video Wall is highly optimized for both the Intel CPU and GPU hardware, this is how we are able to achieve this level of advanced performance. While it is technically possible to run the video wall on older generation CPUs or brands other than Intel, the performance will not be acceptable. At present, only Intel® 4th generation CPUs will support hardware accelerated playback of 4096 x 4096 (4k) content and HTML 6K content. Intel® 2nd and 3rd generations can only decode up to 2k content without the aide of the CPU. Thus, if you play 4k content on 2nd or 3rd generation, it will not work efficiently. That's why we strongly recommend using Intel® 4th generation for the video wall solution.

Q: Can I install Userful Network Video Wall on my Windows PC?

Userful Network Video Wall is designed as a video wall "appliance" that is 100% browser managed. Though the solution is built on Linux, you don't need any Linux expertise to install or manage the solution. Though it cannot be installed on top of Windows, if you want to test out Userful Network Video Wall on a PC currently running Windows, you can install it to a separate partition of your hard drive and dual-boot between Windows and Linux.

Q: Can I install Userful Network Video Wall on my laptop?

Yes, you can install Userful Network Video Wall on your laptop. However please note that mobile CPUs and GPUs do not offer the same level of performance as a desktop processor and it may not run a 4K video wall.

Q: Do I need to hire any expert to setup my video wall?

No, not at all. You don't need any professional installer to setup video wall.

Q: Can I use multiple HDMI and VGA displays as outputs for video wall?

Yes. Our recommended zero-client devices include both HDMI and VGA outputs ensuring you can use a broad range of commercial and consumer displays.

Q: Does Userful Network Video Wall solution require constant Internet connection? Can that Internet connection be over wireless network or cellular modems?

No. Userful Network Video Wall works no problem without Internet provided all the content you require is stored on the local PC. While getting a License key for the system is slightly easier with an Internet connection, but even that can be done without Internet if you need to.

For Internet connection, you can use WiFi or certain types of cellular modems to connect your host PC/server to the internet. Just make sure you have your network name and passwords handy during installation.

Control Center

Q: What is Control Center?

Control Center is a browser-based management portal used to configure video wall and monitor displays. It features:

  • Station Mapping
  • Configuring Video Wall
  • Network Management
  • Display settings
  • Station access control
  • New package installation and updates
  • License management and access to support

How do I configure my video wall?

Visit Configuring Video Wall page for detailed instructions. You can also watch this video for a quick walk-through.

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

Color Calibration is achieved by our software 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 can I change the language of the Control Center GUI?

It is Browser's preferred language which controls the language of the GUI and not the host PC/server's default language. This way multiple administrators can access the system in their preferred language of choice. To edit the Control Center's GUI language, please change browser's settings/preferences and select your preferred language.

Q: How can I create a launch icon (which will appear on the mobile device home screen) to the Control Center so that I can access it from my phone/tablet?

To create the launch icon:

  • Open the Web Browser (e.g. Safari on iOS device or Chrome on Android device) from the Home Screen
  • Open Control Center by typing the host PC/server's IP_Address in the address bar
  • Click the "Share" icon ( i.e. Iphone-share.png for iOS and Android-share.png for Android)
  • Select "Add to Home Screen" option from the pop-up menu
  • Edit the name and click the "Add" option. The device will return to the Home Screen and you will see Control Center's icon

Q: Can I control my video wall via mobile/laptop?

Yes, Once you are on the same network you can easily control it through Control Center. Please visit accessing Control Center section for instructions on how to access Control Center and administer video wall.

Station Mapping

Q: How do I map content to the video wall?

After creating and calibrating your video wall using the graphical interactive video wall tool, your video wall will appear in the station mapping screen. This station mapping screen provides the ability to map multiple displays to "roles" / "session containers" via an intuitive drag and drop interface. Different types of Session Containers available for setting video wall are:

Q: What kind of content can I play on a video wall?

Userful Network Video Wall is one of the most versatile video wall solutions in the market. It supports a broad range of both static and interactive content including:

  • Videos
  • Animation
  • Images
  • Websites and web pages
  • Tickers and crawls using RSS or text feeds
  • Calendars, clocks, and other widgets (you can create these right from EasyStart)
  • WebGL, HTML5, Flash content

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

Userful is designed to make video wall content creation simple and straight forward. No special steps are required to create content for your artistic video wall. Basically the canvas becomes the bounding rectangle that encloses all the pixels of all the displays within the video wall.
For HTML5 content, the Userful server will launch a Browser session exactly of the same height and width. You can either create content optimized for this aspect ratio, or 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 ( i.e. Scale to fit, Zoom full-screen, or Stretch full-screen).

Q: How can I display powerpoint presentation on the video wall?

There are many different ways to display powerpoint presentation on the video wall.
For non-interactive session:

  • export your powerpoint presentation as static jpeg images optimally sized for the video wall, copy over the files to a directory and set them in a directory-based playlist using the Signage Player session container, or
  • export your powerpoint presentation as a video (there are various tools online that enable you to do this, including animations, and sound) and upload to the Userful appliance and access using the Signage Player session container

For interactive session:

  • export your powerpoint presentation as an HTML web-page (using the Web Browser session container), or
  • open your powerpoint presentation using Office 365 online (using the Web Browser session container), or
  • connect an external laptop running powerpoint presentation using HDMI capture session container

Q: What types of integrated signage players can we run on the server (without any external media players or HDMI capture card)?

Currently, we support browser-based content management solution, including:

We are adding additional Content Management Systems all the time. If you have a specific Content Management System you would like to work with please let us know.

HDMI Capture

Q: Can I use multiple capture cards on a host PC/server?

Yes, you can. Check our list of supported Blackmagic DeckLink capture cards and YUAN capture cards.

Q: Can I mirror my laptop on video wall in a conference room?

Yes. However, if you are switching between different laptops throughout the day, this is not a recommended use case, (since the HDMI capture settings may need to be changed as you switch from one laptop to another).

Q: My media player does not have an HDMI out, how can I run it on video wall?

While the vast majority of modern media players support HDMI out, contact us with your needs and we may be able to advise on the best approach. Obviously, it is also possible with some Content Management Systems to integrate the player software directly onto the Userful system, thus eliminating the need for an external player device.

Q: How can I connect (and output from) an external media player to the video wall?

Install a supported capture card and configure the session container with correct settings and connect any non-HDCP source to the capture card.

Q: How can I connect my Xbox/PS4 to the video wall?

Install a supported capture card and configure the session container with the correct settings, then map your video wall to the corresponding session container.

Q: Is there any lag time between capture and playback?

There could be a negligible lag depending on source media type. However, it can be minimized by lowering the refresh rate (e.g. 24 Hz).

Q: How can I update firmware for the Blackmagic Design Capture Card?

To update firmware:

  • Open terminal as root user and type in the following command to check if the firmware needs an update:
  $ BlackmagicFirmwareUpdater status 

The output looks something like:

 0: /dev/blackmagic/io0 [Intensity Pro 4K] 0x85 OK 

Status "OK" represents latest firmware. If the command returns “PLEASE UPDATE”, type the following command and reboot the system:

  $ BlackmagicFirmwareUpdater update 0 

where "0" represents the Capture card number

Network Streamer

Q: Is Userful's Network Streamer a RTSP client or Server?

Currently Userful Network Video Wall acts only as a RTSP client (not as a RTSP server). If you want to output content from your RTSP server (e.g., from a webcam or internet streaming service) to your video wall, Network Streamer container can do that. Simply setup the session container and then drag your video wall to map it to the network streaming session.

Q: Does your solution handle real time camera data streams and resolutions?

We support Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP)streams as well as several other streaming protocols and we have tested 1080p RTSP camera streams. We are happy to work with you if you require a specific streaming format, or resolution.

Q: How can I run IPTV on video wall?

We support Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) and other network streaming protocols. In the near future we will also support Netflix and other IPTV formats. Please contact us with details of your project and the specific IPTV protocol you want to output.

General

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 financial and time 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: Does Userful Network Video Wall supports native Samsung TV's network input instead of a zero-client device?

This is something we're going to look to support in future. Currently, network zero-client is required for each display.

Q: Does Userful Network Video Wall 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 Network Video Wall 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 however once you get beyond this the frame-rate depends on the bitrate 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 take away CPU power. Obviously, as next generation CPUs/GPUs come out our architecture will automatically support larger resolutions afforded by the latest hardware, which is a major advantage vs competing technologies that have a fixed output resolution and cannot be affordably upgraded as new servers become available.

Q: Can I run Virtual Desktop and use video wall solution as the Windows driver to display large virtual desktop across four displays?

Userful's Video Wall solution is Linux distribution. We do have a built in Virtual Machine functionality. Theoretically, you can display Windows 7 or Windows 8 Desktop across video wall using a Virtual Machine, however the performance is poor and this approach is not recommended. Instead, you can use one of the supported capture cards on host PC/server and mirror Windows on video wall. This is the best way to get a high performance Windows-based video wall.

Q: What video compression format (H.264/H.265) does your solution send from a host PC/server to zero-clients?

The encoding is done by our software and is optimized to preserve image quality and network bandwidth while maintaining synchronization. Each zero-client device receives Motion JPEG (MJPEG) stream because using H.264/H.265 would introduce encoding and latency challenges that would not be acceptable for most use-cases; similarly uncompressed video would be far too demanding on the network and the endpoint.

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

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

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

Q: Does your solution support 3D Games?

There are several ways to run 3D Games:

  • Web-based Games that use WebGL can simply be run in a Chrome session container (be sure to enable the GPU-assisted acceleration)
  • Native Linux 3D games (running in a Linux Login session container)
  • Capture content using an external PC as the source

Q: Can I output multiple content sources on a single video-wall screen at the same time?

Yes. However, currently this functionality is only available via the "Linux Login" and "Cloud Desktop" session containers. This basically gives access to a Windows desktop environment and a full Window Manager where you can resize and move multiple windows around the screen. Alternatively, you can also use an external source (such as a Windows PC) and capture split and output the real time video feed via HDMI capture feature.

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

Yes overlapping edges is no problem and is easy to setup. Create a video wall in artistic mode then simply drag the displays on top of each other to create the desired overlap, then fine-tune alignment using keyboard arrows.

Q: Does your solution handle blending to send overlapping images to adjacent projectors?

We can adjust overlap via adjusting for a " negative bezel" thus creating an overlap region, but currently we don't support blending (as in reducing the intensity in the overlapping region to correct for the double or quadruple light).

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.

However, 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 some custom engineering time, but our stock product would not be able to handle a 1x7 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 the zones feature (new in the Ultimate version of v.8) display a video in the center of a 2x2 video wall (overlapping the 4 screens) and have other content played in the unused areas around it?

The zones feature allow 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 affect 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: Can I deploy a video wall using a wireless Ethernet connection?

Userful Network Video Wall can accomodate use case where customers want to deploy a video wall within an existing building that isn't wired for Ethernet.The Host PC/Server would need to be equipped with a wireless card and located close to the video wall itself. The host PC/server would communicate wirelessly with their LAN (and Internet) but directly (via either a USB connection or wired Ethernet connection with a dedicated switch) with each of the zero-clients attached to the video wall displays. The Host PC/Server can be a slim form-factor PCs such as an Intel NUC which will fit elegantly behind the video wall displays. Obviously unless your video walls are close to each other you would need to have a separate host PC/Server for each video wall. This ability for the host PC/server to connect wirelessly to the LAN is particularly helpful in deployment scenarios where some or all of the buildings are older.

Q: How can I give users access to control and change the content and/or active session containers on the video wall without giving them Admin access to the Control Center which would potentially enable the end-user to screw-up the configuration?

If it is just play-list contents that your users want to control, there are two ways to achieve this. You can set a Signage Player playlist to play a directory, and then setup remote access (e.g., via perhaps FTP or Samba file share) and enable the user to copy or remove contents from that directory. Alternatively, most of our customers use one of the supported Third party Content Management Solutions to manage content. You can also set video wall to play a HTML5 web page and use the solution to change and edit the content on that page.

If you want users to be able to switch between session containers a second approach that works is to create a Welcome Screen with all the desired session containers, the user can then choose session (via connected wireless mouse or keyboard) from the available list. They can return to the Welcome Screen at any point to change sessions simply by pressing "Ctrl+Alt+Backspace" on the keyboard.

Q: How do third party plugins work?

Our solution is integrated with a number of content management solutions that are separately licensed or free. In addition, because our solution is built on top of CentOS 7.x (based on RHEL 7.x), skilled Linux administrators have the flexibility to install their own Third party plugins and perform additional customization on the server.

Q: Can I create a video wall using 4K displays

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. Since our zero-client devices are designed to operate over the network, they actually output 1080p resolution to the display which is then upscaled by the 4K display’s built-in scaler. Obviously 4k displays cost more, but given otherwise 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 resolution 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 / sound output for the video wall solution?

There are basically 3 options on the sound front:

  1. Pull sound from the sound output jack(s) on the host PC/server. This typically provides the best quality sound output as you can get 5 or even 7 or more channels of sound from the host PC/server (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 host PC/server.
  2. Pull sound from the zero-client device via 3.5mm stereo audio output jack on the zero-client. One device will be designated as the primary device for the video wall (you can choose which one it is while configuring video wall).
  3. Choose via the Control Center GUI to output sound to the display. This has the same quality as option #2 (stereo) but lets you use speakers built directly into the TV / display.

Troubleshooting

Q: What if I have a problem? How can I troubleshoot my system?

The Control Center can help you solve any problems you may have. Selecting Help and Support > Troubleshoot a Problem from the Control Center navigation tree opens a page with links to relevant documentation that will be most helpful in solving a problem; if a problem cannot be solved using Userful's documentation, the fastest and best way to receive technical assistance from Userful's support team is to Submit a Problem Report directly to Userful Customer Support through the Control Center.

Q: Can I control my video wall via mobile/laptop?

Yes, Once you are on the same network you can easily control it through Control Center. Please visit accessing Control Center section for instructions on how to access Control Center and administer video wall.

Q: One of the displays in video wall is blank, how do I reset that display?

Each video wall is controlled by the input station. Hence any action taken to this input station will have the same effect on the video wall as it would on an independent display (e.g., Resetting this display will reset the entire video wall). There are several ways to restart a display:

  • If there is a keyboard connected to the display type "Ctrl+Alt+Backspace"
  • Open Control Center > Network Stations and click "Reset" button for the input station