Multiple monitors Players AMD EyeFinity or other

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Multiple monitors will grow in digital signage, we're trying to prepare viable options. Many signage monitors allow arrays up to 5x5, but at a resolution loss as each member of the array simply expands a subset of input pixels. 

We're looking for smallest possible (physical and dollars) Rise Player solution to arrays of HD monitors up 4 Monitors total in both landscape and portrait orientations, so max 2 x 2 HD monitors. We'd like to do this without resolution loss, so we need a 1080x1920 output to each monitor and that's 4K Equivalent overall. 

Example with 47" monitors a 1Wx3H HD vertically Stacked Landscape gives a 1920 x 3240 resolution and makes for a great digital mannequin as does a 1080x3840 1Wx2H Stacked Portrait  
We're using Windows 7 with Rise Chrome Player and having excellent results.

Intel NUC's (some) can handle 3 Monitors max, but currently can't merge them into one full screen desktop or RiseVision display.

Matrox DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go can only do end to end landscape mode, but we've had solid results on what it can do.

Userful seems a good option for even larger arrays or multiple arrays installed under one roof at cost of more powerful and larger main computer, we have not yet worked with Userful.

DataPath and others have 4 output video wall controllers that can do the job, they're solid and do bezel compensation, but not cheap and add wiring and mounting and setup complexity.

That leaves us with graphics cards like nVidia and AMD Radeon.

So far, to test I have set up one of our AMD Radeon equipped desktop machines with a Displayport MST Hub and used AMD's Eyefinity to configure 2 or 3 monitors in portrait and landscape stacked or side to side. It appears to work very well with RiseVision. I have yet to get to 4 monitors in 2x2, but presume it will work fine as well. We're just cropping images to full resolution and playing them from an image folder on Rise Storage.

RiseVision handles the various resolutions we've thrown at it perfectly and Eyefinity allows bezel compensation which results in some strange overall resolutions that doesn't cause a problem with RiseVision Player. Not sure how well it will handle missing monitors, etc. We'll test that once we settle on a hardware platform we believe will work. 

Does anyone have any experience with Radeon or nVidia equipped small physical format players with multiple HDMI outputs or DisplayPort outputs and allow the set up of arrays with RiseVision.

If it exists, we'd rather buy a packaged player suitable solution than build up a mini-ITX box with a Radeon equipped motherboard.

Any and all suggestions and past experience welcomed, and I'll share and answer any questions I can based on our testing here.
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Posted 3 years ago

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RPTDigital Signage,

Thanks for this great post! I'm going to gather my thoughts and get back to you on this. I don't have too much experience setting up multiple monitors, but perhaps some of our users do!
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While I haven't used this exact machine it appears to be what you're looking for (albeit a mini-ITX form factor): http://www.logicsupply.com/dts-mc600/

We worked with Logic Supply a few years ago on computers for live production environments (musical theater and control) and they've been great guys. 

I'm still a big proponent of the display wall controller over multiple display outputs from a machine but I understand you've got an established workflow and preference. It does however have the advantage of only needing a machine with a single Mini DP output using DP 1.2 and/or multi-stream. Oh and a graphics card that'll do 4K UHD. 
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We're all going to eventually be asked to do a multi monitor system, so I thought an exchange of what works and what doesn't might be valuable.

NUCs can easily output 4K to DisplayPort, which is ideal for a 4 x HD array, but Intel Graphics can't pull them into one display screen. So far I have yet to see a ChromeBox that can drive multiple monitors as a single desktop.

I found this one as well, Radeon with Eyefinity for up to 6 monitors via HDMI .
http://www.ibase.com.tw/english/ProductDetail/DigitalSignagePlayer/SI-58

Thanks Robert for that link. I'm starting to agree with Robert on the external display wall controller being the most solid option. DataPath has a model FX4 with a DisplayPort and an HDMI version in development, which is less clunky in tight spaces than their DVI unt. No price or delivery frame announced yet. When a client really needs the capability, pric becomes less of an issue and ability to deliver and be reliable is the main issue.

I have no objection to a good mini-ITX, we've seen many good ones over the years in harsh industrial environments. Some get NOISY, some get hot, but there are good options there.

DisplayPort MultiStream is good but not perfect, especially it seems if a monitor in the middle is down or disconnected on power-up or reboot,

I have had generally good results but a few issues so far with Eyefinity, especially losing the array setting after an automatic windows update, or is one monitor is powered off  or disconnected when booting. We can't and won't deliver solutions that require a retail client to get covered in digital dust to reconfigure arrays, so I need to find a way to make those settings persistent and able to re-establish themselves or look at nVidia Surround to see if it's better.

One of the issues is that multiple monitor solutions have largely been developed for gamers, and in general gamers are computer knowledgeable and glitch tolerant to get what they want.

And I'm seriously looking at Userful running on an i5 or i7 NUC as  a possible and very flexible option that could be expanded locally to implement single or multiple Userful arrays via Gigabit Ethernet.
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For those interested in multiple monitors:

AMD Eyefinity works more or less fine. Not as fault tolerant or self healing as I'd like, but basically it's a workable solution if you've got a player with a AMD Radeon graphics.Since that requirement takes us to a Mini- ITX player, we're trying to avoid this option.

Intel HD 4400 Graphics on a Fourth generation i3 NUC: We have the i3 NUC here and with latest drivers Intel have a mode called Collage that allows both horizontal and vertical arrays. I've got 3 HD monitors connected to a DisplayPort MST Hub (Club 3D 4 Port) on the NUC Displayport (1920x3240 resolution) and it's working with Rise Vision just fine. Too early to tell about reboots, updates and morning startups but it restarts cleanly, The driver update and initial set-up were typical Intel, cost me a bit of sweat and frustration, but once up and running it seems very solid. If you're trying this at home, uninstall the old Intel driver before installing the new one. This NUC says it's limited to 3 monitors, Intel says the latest drivers are good for 4 monitors. I'll try hooking a 4th up to get a 2x2 array and report back.

There's a pricing sweet spot in latest generation signage monitors at around 42", 2 or 3 will make a much bigger display at a lower price than buying the much bigger display. Bezel lines are an issue, but if you need a big display at reasonable cost an array might be the ticket.

 
 
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Thanks for sharing your testing results. It's much appreciated. 
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More info for the technically interested:

Intel HD Graphics Collage is worth the energy and significantly expands multi monitor options for NUC users running WIndows (Win 7 64 Bit in our case). 

I3 Nuc running 2 display array ran through night shutdown and reopen, reboots solidly and there's just no drama so far.

Intel i3 NUC (and possibly all NUC) is indeed limited to 3 displays max, so all linear up to 3 monitors but no 2x2. Not sure if newer NUCs will support 4 as Intel says of Collage or if that will be a desktop option only. 

i3 NUC is is possible to set up one display on HDMI and one on DisplayPort, but I did not get reliable stability especially through reboots without full power down. Two or three monitors on a DisplayPort MST hub works and starts and restarts fine. This is the cheapest hardware cost solution to running up to 3 displays that I can see, a 2 or 3 port MST DisplayPort hub is the only additional hardware.

Flexible: While it can get confusing, it is possible to set up horizontal or vertical arrays with the monitors in either Portrait or Landscape orientation. This can't be done with Matrox Dual and Triple Head2Go products. So we can do a digital mannequin 2 high HD portrait stack (1080 x 3840) or a big wide screen 2 High Landscape Stack (1920x 2160) and a really good big digital mannequin size of 3 High Landscape Stack (1920 x 3240). The trick is turn of Collage Mode and set all monitors to Portrait or Landscape, then when turning Collage mode back on, the mock-up of the monitor stacks might not look correct in set-up if your stacking portrait monitors, but the end result is fine.

Bezel Compensation works very well with a couple of notes. In a 2 High Portrait Stack (1080x3840), we adjusted test image in Intel Graphics Collage control panel and added 52 Pixels for best alignment. We restarted Rise Chrome Player without reboot, and the resolution was immediately reported as 1080x3892. Since our test images were cropped to full screen without bezel compensation, and the Presentation is just an Image Folder Widget we have a 52 pixel wide white band at the bottom of screen. If we were rolling this out in quantity, we'd simple set them all to same bezel compensation and build Presentations around that size.

I spent a few hours setting up various arrays and Rise Vision picks up the change in resolution immediately on Rise Player start-up and reports that correctly online, That could be a great long distance trouble shooting feature because if a monitor is down it will report what it has alive in near real time.

And best of all, Rise Vision just doesn't care what strange monitor resolution you choose to throw at it, so there are no preconceived limits at least up to the 3 monitor Arrays we built.

Happy Holidays. I hope this saves someone some time, and especially opens up some new opportunities and thinking in the Rise Vision Community. If you need to creatively mount multiple monitors, especially in glass storefronts reach out to me. 

If you do benefit from this info, please pay it forward and take the time to thank, feed or hug a local firefighter.
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One last report on Multi Monitor Intel HD Graphics with Collage:

We like to try to mess up a system like could happen in the field, so we ran through a few tests disconnecting monitor power and also DisplayPort cables in various combinations. 

The NUC stayed up and ran through without crashes. All but one test self healed and returned to normal as soon as the powered down monitor came back on line. The single failure came from disconnecting both monitors and then reconnecting them in the wrong order, which didn't crash the NUC but made the display images reversed. Displayport apparently rebuilds the array in the order of connection, so the top monitor became the bottom and vice versa. A powered up restart of the NUC healed it back to original set-up 100%, as did a power down and restart.

In summary, have no fear and start looking for single player multi-monitor applications:

Using a Windows 7 64 Bit  Intel NUC i3 (or higher) with HD 4400 (or higher) graphics using Intel's Collage Display mode via a DisplayPort output with a compatible Displayport MST Hub allows the relatively low cost and reliable connection of a total of up to 3 HD (1920 x 1080) monitors in either Landscape or Portrait orientations, as linear arrays stacked vertically or extended horizontally into a single Windows desktop. Bezel compensation is available and functions well.

Resolutions available are:

1080w x 3840h (2 high Portrait Vertical Stack) 
1080w x 5760h (3 high Portrait Vertical Stack)
2160w x 1920h (2 Wide Portrait Horizontal Stack)
3240w x 1920h (3 Wide Portrait Horizontal Stack)
1920w x 2160h (2 High Landscape Vertical Stack)
1920w x 3240h (3 High Landscape Vertical Stack) 
3840w x 1080h (2 Wide Landscape Horizontal Row)
5760w x 1080h (3 Wide Landscape Horizontal Row)


The Rise Vision Chrome Player under WIndows 7 64 bit sees the display as one cohesive monitor and fills the entire Collage resolution as a single Rise Display. Any changes in effective resolution due to bezel compensation are reflected properly in Rise Vision to allow a full screen image to align well across bezels.

As much as many try to avoid Windows, I don't see Chrome Boxes capable of these type of multi-monitor setup and haven't accomplished similar under Linux using the NUC. 

Enjoy and Happy Holidays

Feel free to contact me is you want more info or discussion. peter@rptmotion.com
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RPTDigital Signage,

I think this might be right up your alley: http://signage.viatech.com/en/solutions/product_videowallmini.jsp

It's a small player that runs Windows and has four (4), 4K-capable HDMI outputs. Seems it would address many of your usage cases without any ancillary hardware. 
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Thanks Robert
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RPTDigital Signage,

I have a setup running an HP Elite Desk with Club3D Mini DisplayPort 4 port going out to 3 monitors. It works fine, but the content displays on the wrong screens out of order. I have reordered the monitor cables to try and fix it, but they stayed in the wrong order. Club 3d's support has no information in the user manuals or on their forum. Have you had this problem?
(Edited)
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Crystal Bridges

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Forgot to mention I am using the Intel Collage drive to span the screens.
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Hi Crystal Bridges,

We had some fun with Intel Collage mode, it's been a while and Club3D was not much help and Collage mode is not completely intuitive and I'm doing this from memory. But it can be done.

It would seem that swapping cables should have worked, but I recall that the MST hub ordered monitors automatically independent of cable order, so maybe there's a DisplayPort hierarchy that allows cables to be swapped without changing physical layouts.


You need to re-arrange them in Collage mode.
I know that there is a way to either drag the screens around or re-order them in Intel Collage mode to get proper layout. The correct menu to do this  will let you identify the monitors by numbering them and then you re-assign the order. Sorry, I don't have a working Collage mode currently  in house or I could be more informative and coherent.
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Thanks. That gives me something to try.
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Check this Intel manual, specifically pages 15-16 to see how to re-order monitors. It may help. Page 13 shows the Display Icon you need to click to get there, that's the part we did not find immediately obvious, but we were doing portrait and working sideways on a mixed up display so nothing was obvious very obvious.

http://www.intel.com/content/dam/support/us/en/documents/graphics/sb/Intel_Collage_Display_Feature_R...
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RPTDigital,
This is all fantastic, I'd specced out a video wall machine for 3x3 wall, Userful came up but at the price point they want it didn't seem worth the buy. Brightsign was an interesting possibility, as it was able to be more "self-healing" as you put it and responsive to multiple displays, but does not allow for Rise to be put on top, as Userful does.

I can dig up the machine specs I'd looked up if you think they'd be of any use, but it was basically a high powered i7 with a bunch of RAM, running on SSD and using dual Eyefinity cards and then a pass-through HDMI so that we could push other video sources to the wall beside the machine's desktop.
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Mark Parsons:
Thanks for your input. Matrox has some interesting new products as well if you're building a big case PC based system and willing to pull and manage the HMDI cables.

We've done six HD monitor linear arrays on a two DisplayPort player with two Matrox Triplehead2Go Digital Se and also with two MST 1:3 hubs that worked well. Because the Matrox only allows landscape arrays, but you can go 2 or 3 monitor wide and because each Matrox controller presents as a single monitor to Windows you can do 2x2 or 2x3 landscape arrays, but a 3x3 array is probably out of reach without a third DisplayPort. And the cable and power management on install or maintenance is a potential nightmare. There's a reason that video arrays are expensive, they're complex and risk and labor intensive.

We've looked at Userful as well, the ability to scatter multiple arrays and also single monitors in a single installation with only network switches and Cat6 cables is magic and a great temptation, The Zero Net Client terminals are easy and cheap, but the pricing of the whole package with software has been a challenge whenever we've looked at it. They're smart and understand that they don't need to beat the competition by a lot, I don't think their costs scale much as monitor count grow. over time the per monitor array cost will drop, I'd bet. Userful will apparently run on an i7 Nuc so a very compact install can be achieved.
 
There are some newer 6 HDMI output Radeon Eyefinity small format integrated players now on the market, so small arrays should get easier. I'm hoping for more Ethernet distribution options like Userful.

The bulk is the market is single monitors or one dimensional arrays, but video walls will become more interesting as capabilities rise and costs of monitors, players and software drop. 

So I'm always happy to have this type of discussion going to help educate ourselves for the future.
  
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RPT,
The final configuration (we were going to hang a 3x3 display wall above a doorway) was to place an array of uni-strut, with 3 vertical stacks of 3 displays (to service and install you would move a stack of 3 displays) then punch through the wall, and run HDMI cabling into a cabinet which would house a switch, and 9 network zero/thin clients. This would allow for maintenance on the machines without having to disable the video wall. Then we would nstall the video processing machine in our data center, and feed video via cat6. Additionally we debating simply mounting the larger case PC in the cabinet, and feeding directly from the EyeFinity cards. The cheapest we could get the setup down to was 12k doing everything in house  20k to provide a more realistic solution. You are right, video walls are not cheap.

Speaking to your point of running displays via cat6 though, we've debated hosting Rise on a VDI (and done some limited testing), you could potentially do the same thing with a thin client, though we never went as far as to test this. We discussed using IGEL thin/zero clients for a different  deployment, and I know they are able to support multiple monitors, I'll speak with my colleague for pricing on this/number of monitors supported, but at this point you're probably just as likely to go with a BrightSign or some other server based approach, unless you're able to integrate this with a network/hardware purchasing architecture that's already in place. If you combined thin clients with the video wall controller, I'm betting you could deliver a pretty effective installation package implementing Rise, and multiple installations. You would lose the capability, IMHO, that really helps Userful stand out by using just the VDI setup, which is their mosaic ability. If you're looking to install a setup with a unique display alignment, Userful really seems to be the way to go to save on content creation in the long run.

Price of displays really seems to be standing in the way of these larger installations though, and while I agree the price on these will continue to trend down, displays will take up a larger component of any video wall installation. With trying to minimize total budget, and maximize overall display wall quality, do you have any experience/thoughts when when purchasing displays for a larger (3x3 and over) video wall setup? Bezel width seemed to be a major challenge to this setup, we were looking at a 42" display with a .7" bezel (6months ago) and the cost of the display was approx. $900. Is this sort of bezel width acceptable or do you think this width 1.5" between displays is too much to be practical with only a 42" display.


Additionally, you suggested using Windows instead of Linux with the Chrome app player, I don't have a Linux distro spun up at the moment, does the Chrome app player not function on Linux? Any particular reason for employing windows with the Chrome app player? I tend to get unnecessary nags/pop-ups (or have to manage this more actively on windows than Linux) when running windows...

Robert that video wall controller is really interesting, have you come across any others that support a larger display matrix than 2x2?


Edit:

Also, when using NUC's to drive 3 displays, how well did the machine handle video processing/how content heavy were your test presentations?
(Edited)
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Mark,

Our 3 screen NUCs were not content heavy, so I can't speak to video processing capabilities. The interesting thing about NUCs is that they're small and available in different flavors up to an i7, so you can get some real horsepower in tiny package. But so far they're limited to a single DisplayPort and while Intel Collage supports up to 2x2, the Nuc only supports 3 monitors.If you're running a lot of videos you probably need a wired Ethernet because WiFi is great and convenient but I think it can cause a lot of issues with video intensive presentations.

Small bezels come at a huge price, we use LG 47" in our demo area with .7" bezels so 1.4" image to image.Here's a 2 high portrait demo, without bezel compensation. Depending on where that dark bar hits the image could completely ruin a presentation.This glass storefront mounting system we build is double sided and has another pair of monitors on the opposite side. We can simply feed front to back or we can incorporate a second NUC as required and treat inside displays differently from outside displays.

As ROI on digital signs becomes more of a science, I expect that we'll find that high end storefront and corporate image related arrays will always be expensive small bezels, in the end nothing screams we're cheap like fat bezels unless it's an industrial control room.



Windows vs Linux: We tested Linux early and it worked fine on single monitors and two, even up to 3 monitors connected with a Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE. That Matrox  unit doesn't officially support Linux, so we configured it on Windows and it sticks when you move it to Linux. That Matrox line can't do Landscape Stacked arrays and 3 Landscape Stacked Vertically was one of our requirements for storefront digital manequins. Intel Collage came around and we could do up to 3 monitors in any linear configuration in Windows. Not all hardware supports Linux with current drivers. 

We never got into Chrome boxes because we insisted on a system that could handle multiple HD monitors at full resolution and early Chrome Boxes were all single monitor. Then Rise dropped future support of Chrome Boxes, and we couldn't find a stable of workable Linux NUC capable multi-monitor solutions, so we've followed Rise to Windows 10 which does need some attention to unclutter and de-nag.. Frankly I have not yet tested all these configurations on Window 10 yet, but they all ran solidly on Windows 7 Professional 64 bit. 

Hope that adds to the multi-monitor knowledge base. Arrays will become more important as digital signage gets more traction and costs come down.Thanks for the discussion