In my last article I explained what a media server can do. Here, I'd like to give more detail is to how and why they are so useful.
When putting together a video segment that is composited from several clips, or a sound effect that would be created from several separate audio files, you would normally have to prep these pieces in advance and create a media file that can be played back via your presentation software, a CD, an iPod, or some other device.
If the person in charge of your event decides that some aspect of this composited media needs to change, you need to go back to your editing system and make the changes and generate new media. This can be a time-consuming prospect, especially if the systems used to create the media are at another location.
With a media server, the compositing happens in real time when you need itnot in advance.
Your lighting cues control the volume and pan of each audio clip, and how the individual video clips are composited together to make the complete image. If your director wants a change, such as moving one part of a composted image to one side, or changing the volume of one aspect of the sound effect sequence, you just change your lighting cue to accommodate it. So, you can respond almost instantly to a change request from the director. In a church environment where there's almost never enough prep time, this can be a huge help for things like your Christmas production.
It's also not uncommon to need to trigger a change in a sound effect or in a visual in time with what's happening on stage. If you edit components into one sound effect or visual, then the actors need to keep pace perfectly with the media. If they stumble over lines or are merely off a bit, things will go sideways pretty quickly.
However, if it's all composited together on the fly via the media server, you can trigger the change via a lighting cue as the action unfolds on stage.
An example is worth a thousand explanations, so let's take a look at one.
A few years ago I did a review of the Arkaos media server, and used it extensively as part of a Christian youth theatre play.
The play had various key points where narrators would describe what's going on in society at the time, and we wanted newspaper headlines to "fly in" on the screens as each was mentioned. This could not be composited together in advance it needed to happen in time with the actor's delivery.
We had a motion graphic running on the screens as a background and created the headlines as PNG still image files. As the narration went along, the next newspaper headline file would be loaded into a new layer, and zoomed/rotated into position by the media server. At the end of that narration, each headline would fade away in order.
Near the end of the play, we wanted a more modern version of the headline concept. We created a tablet computer background graphic, and then a series of video clips where a hand would come up and "swipe" over to the next headline.
This let us time everything precisely to what was happening live on stage.
I shot a video from the back of the tech booth that shows the Arkaos media server screen on the left with all of its layers, and the Jands Vista lighting control screen on the right. The stage with its screens is in the middle, so you can see what the media server is outputting by compositing the layers.
And there are some headings along the top that explain what's happening. The lighting cues on the Jands Vista system are what is controlling the Arkaos media server.
I think this clip shows the power of what is possible with a media server. You can watch the video at https://youtu.be/s3fIDzq2cmI?t=45
It's best watched full-screen on a computer, so you can see more detail.