A Vision System is a system that is designed to project or display still or moving 2D media to be viewed by a large audience. Vision Systems can be used at a variety of live events such as plays, musicals, formal events (school graduations), and Sunday church services. This article is an overview of the major parts that make up a Vision System. Vision Systems are made up of a number of parts which include software, hardware and display technology.
Vision Systems may use a number of different software solutions. These software solutions can be broken up into two different types; Media Management and Presentation Software (MMP) or Media Generation and Presentation (MGP) Software.
For larger systems MMP software is preferable because they are:
- more flexible
- can have tool sets for dealing with multiple displays or stage view displays
- can manage content so that it can be reused at a later point in time
- able to handle large amounts of different content at once
- support a wide variety of different media formats - particularly with video formats
- allow the operator to jump from slide to slide without having to proceed through intermediate slides
- can allow for 2 or more outputs display completely different content
One of the down sides to MMP software is that they rely on content creation software to produce complex screen media like videos or presentations (ie After Effects, Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, Illustrator or Photoshop). Some MMP software will also allow for importing of PowerPoint presentations.
Some MMP software supports creation of simple slides, title slides or song slides. These simple media items can often be easily modified by changing a theme or background image which can allow for this content to be easily reused in a show with a different visual design.
A dedicated operator may also be needed to progress through the content managed by the MMP software. This is because content in MMP software is not always connected linearly from first item to last item.
Examples of MMP software include Open LP and Pro-Presenter.
MGP software is normally used on small Vision Systems. This type of software normally includes tools to create visually appealing slides and simple animations. However, these tools are not as complex as you would find in software like After Effects, Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, Illustrator or Photoshop. The layout of the slides is often linear and can't be broken up into different sections. All content that will be used during the presentation must be on one file.
Once the creator has finished making the presentation the MGP software can then also display the content. Software like PowerPoint or Open Offices' Impress also now have presenter modes which allow you to see slides coming up and jump to slides un-linearly. Although in PowerPoint 2013 this feature has been modified to a point where jumping non-linearly from slide to slide is not easy to do and is hidden under a sub menu in the presenter view.
One of the limitations that MGP software often has is that they don't have a Stage View and are not capable of supporting multiple displays displaying different content. Another is that video support is not very large and it can be troublesome to get videos to work properly. This is particularly true with PowerPoint.
Examples of MGP software includes: PowerPoint, Keynote and Impress.
Projection and Displays
What use is a Vision System if you have nothing for your audience to see the media on? Large displays or projectors are used to present media. In some cases large LED screens may be used but they normally require their own software and are quite expensive in comparison to projectors and large displays.
In larger venues they might use multiple projectors or screens so that content is visible to all the audience. In certain situations multiple screens may be displaying the same content or different content from each other.
Some venues may also decide to have a projector or screen that a presenter or artists can see but the audience can't. This is called the Stage View. The Stage View often shows information to the people on the stage. Some presenters or artists find a Stage View helpful as they don't have to turn away from the audience to see the next slide or the current time.
Some MMP software also has a message system where a tech operating the software can type in a message for the presenter to read on the Stage View.
A tech running a Vision System may decide to have a Talk Back Monitor (TBM). The TBM normally displays the same thing that is on the projectors or screens. A TBM may be used for several reasons:
- if the projectors or screens is in a location that is hard to see or read for the tech the TBM provides an easily seeable screen
- if the projectors' mute is ever used the tech can still see what content the projector will show when the projector is un-muted
Cable display and audio routes/extenders and boosters
There is a network of cable that connects computers to projectors or screens and other gear. We will cover this section later in how to design a Vision System. But if you want to see how a simple Vision System is connected up check out my article Thoughts on Vision Equipment
Computer hardware and/or media servers
At a later date we will look into computer hardware and Media Servers but I will, however, explain what media servers are. Media Servers are a hardware and software solution that allow content to be placed over several projectors or screens. An example, where a Media Server might be useful is if you wanted to play a movie over several projectors. Unfortunately not a lot of MMP software supports this functionality and a more dedicated solution is required. A Media Server might also be used in a situation where you wanted to use multiple projectors to light up a building or landmark with some sort of screen media.
Zach Radloff lives on the Gold Coast and is studying IT and Multimedia at university and is also a qualified Live Production, Theatre and Events Technician.
Zach Radloff's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/zach-radloff.html