When it comes to environmental projection, a multiscreen processor is typically the secret ingredient in getting one computer to output to multiple projectors. Of all the multiscreen processors that are out there, the DataPath X4 is by far my favorite. Hopefully in this post I can walk through some of the biggest challenges that can occur in using a DataPath X4 for Environmental Projection and help you overcome some simple roadblocks that may come your way during the process. (Note: You will need a PC to be able to initially setup/configure your DataPath X4. But once this step is complete, you can hook it up to your Mac, PC, etc. to run your EP setup.)
DataPath for Environmental Projection – Dual-Link.
The biggest issue I see when I work with people trying to use a DataPath X4 is not having the right adapters. Though it may seem like a REALLY complicated box on the surface, once you get under the hood, you’ll see that it’s fairly simple. First, the input card utilizes a dual link DVI interface. Though it’s not required to operate the box, it’s typically needed to do ultra-wide setups. Without getting too technical, the max resolution of a single link DVI at 60hz would be around 2,098 × 1,311 pixels (or 2.75 million pixels). If you were going to do a 3x triple wide HD setup of 3840×720, that’s 4.14 million pixels, and thus a dual link DVI is required. Click here to learn more about DVI cables.
Second, you’ll need to have the right connectors on the output. If you’re trying to get to industry standard SDI (the best format to use if you’re running long distances between the DataPath X4 and your projectors), you’ll need to go through an SDI Converter box. You’ll need to likely get an DVI to HDMI cable and run into one of these converter bricks into SDI. If you want to do VGA or 5-wire, you can actually convert right out of the box. Get one of these adapters, and you’ll be set (image below).
The DataPath X4 is setup to do Digital or Analog outputs, definable by each output, so you’ll be ready to rock and roll right out of the box. The output DVI ports are NOT dual link. So no need to buy dual-link cable to get to your projectors. But avoid running DVI much more than 30 feet, or the signal may not work.
(Side Note: In my experience, BlackMagic boxes don’t work well in this setup, and instead we recommend the Decimator HDX or HD-Cross)
DataPathx4 For Environmental Projection – Pixel-Clock
Now we’re ready to finish the input process. And the next critical element to check when using a DataPath X4 for Environmental Projection is the pixel clock. A Dual link DVI cannot process more than 333hz, which means you need to be asking your computer for a resolution environment that lowers that number. If you don’t know what to do here, and you’ve never worked with a pixel clock, then don’t worry because I’m here to help!
Within the setup interface (seen above) you’ll choose CVT Reduced Blanking and type in your pixels. Under vertical refresh rate, you’ll want 60 or 30 if possible. This will play best with any cameras you have in the room and prevent a “rolling” effect on your cameras. Once you’ve typed these numbers in, the next box (which I’ve highlighted for us) will show your current pixel clock. As long as that number is under 333, you’re good to get this from a dual-link DVI cable into your Mac or PC. If it’s over, then you’ll need to reduce your resolution or your refresh rate.
Once you have a pixel clock that’s under 333, restart your computer and the X4 should see your input. When it does, you’ll get a green light on the input area of the font screen of the setup software.
DataPathX4 for Environmental Projection – Output Settings
Now that the DataPath is getting your ultra wide input for environmental projection, we just need to get it outputting correctly for your projectors. When you go into the output window, you’ll see the same controls for each output. It’s important to know that you can set each output to different settings. This is really helpful if you have a 16×9 on the sides of your room and a 4×3 in the center, etc. It’s also good if you want to rotate specific projectors and not rotate others. The possibilities are endless.
But when using a DataPathX4 for Environmental Projection, the most important thing to do is keep the outputs simple by using as many presets that already exists. The default outputs are 1024×768 for the DataPath X4. If you’re doing 4:3 aspect ratio, then this is a great place to start, as it will help you setup correctly on the VGA or DVI outputs. However if you’re using a Decimator and SDI to get to your HD Projectors (or 16:9 aspect ratio), then use the SMPTE presets and choose 720p @ 60fps.
Select your output and hit ‘OK’. Once you leave your outputs dialog box, you should see green lights for each of your outputs. (Your image may still not show up correctly, but this would be a good indication that we’re pretty much finished if all outputs have a green light. Note: If you’re using a decimator, you may not see a green light, since the decimator doesn’t send back any other data).
One last note on outputs: If you’re using VGA or an Analog output, make sure to select that in your output window for each output. The default output setting is DVI (or digital).
DataPathX4 for Environmental Projection – Setting Up Regions
At this point you should have green lights all around as we’ve set up your inputs and found the best resolutions on your outputs as well. Now it’s time to setup the orientation of the image and get the actual pixels to align. This is done in the “Regions” area of the DataPathX4 Setup Software. It’s probably good to know that the default setting is “quarters” which would create a 2×2 grid, and it’s likely why your image doesn’t look right on your walls if you’ve followed the above steps and turned your projectors on.
Hit the “modify” button and lets get these settings right. For the sake of simplifying this, we’re going to take our HD TripleWide resoluton that we sell as the default settings. The total input from the computer would be a 3840×720, with three 1280×720 outputs (Not like the above of 1920×1080, that was just showing the correct outputs). Here are your settings to make sure that output 1 is next to output 2 which is next to output 3. (Note: in this example we will not be using the fourth output.)
This is the easiest of the steps once you get a hang of it. You’ll find that you can independently move each screen’s content around to create some really flexible environmental projection setups.
Now you’re ready to use a DataPathX4 for Environmental Projection. We hope this helps!
Are you ready to go deeper with Environmental Projection? We have put together a 30 minute e-course on environmental projection from breaking down the myths, methods, and technologies involved. Click here to download.