How m62 Played 12 Video Presentations Simultaneously
Back in February as part of our marketing strategy this year we decided to attend one of the flagship events for marketing and technology in Europe, The Technology for Marketing & Advertising held at Earls Court in London.
Our stand needed to be seen amongst a crowd and needed to attract attention displaying our PowerPoint content and our view62 and stream62 technology. With the measurements for the stand we were given we decided upon using 12 screens each playing presentations simultaneously. We would use 10 smaller screens and two big plasma screens.
The screens would display view62 videos showcasing some of m62’s services. In order to best demonstrate the view62 technology, we needed the videos played to be in high definition, and to loop for hours on end automatically.
For the event we wanted to display high definition videos displaying our presenter in front of the slides. The content would be made up of 6 different video presentations of three different topics, and two versions of each. They were marketing, sales and training and we had a view62 and stream62 version of each.
View62 is different from services such as Brainshark, YouTube and green screen because the presenter can interact with their slides. They interact as they can see them on screen and don’t have to second guess where they will be like using green screen technology.
To showcase our products and services in the best possible way we used our in house studio from start to finish to create both the presentations and videos. The in-house presentation studio (view62) was used to create effective, impressive and engaging slides and our SightDeck technology was used to record the videos to create the high definition video content.
Within just under 2 hours we had recorded all of the videos ready to be imported onto the devices we would use to play them on the screens. We produced the videos so quickly due to the fact that the SightDeck requires no post-production editing, unlike greenscreen or similar technology – making the process a lot quicker and cheaper.
After we knew what we needed to play and the amount that needed to play our first thoughts were to simply use several laptops – 10 in total and some splitters. However using laptops had several downsides. The main one was cost – laptops can be pricey, especially for a one-use purpose. Also, as they would have to be running a constant video all day, and could have overheated if in a small enclosed space behind the stand.
We were considering these problems when we came across Raspberry Pis. These very small credit card-sized computers would happily run high definition video and along with a variety of other benefits including their low power consumption they were a lot cheaper.
The Raspberry pi’s cost just less than 30 pounds for the ‘B’ model, which included 512 mb of ram and the ability to connect it to the internet. We decided to test a raspberry pi to see if it would display HD video in a loop for several hours. To do this we bought the ‘B’ model with a memory card (which houses the operating system and the data) and a power supply, this starter pack from CPC in total was just under £50 including postage and vat.
Testing a raspberry pi was fairly easy and it just needed to be plugged into a monitor, keyboard and power, then it was ready. The operating systems already came preloaded on the memory card and using this I managed to play an mp3 using a command prompt styled application called ‘Terminal’ after some more tinkering I managed to play a video. However it lagged a lot and would not loop, back to the drawing board I went and discovered a different operating system called ‘Raspbmc’.
Raspbmc was completely different to the Linux based system that was preloaded onto the Raspberry Pi. It was based upon the Xbox media centre and allowed us to play videos, music and even a picture library! To install it I completely erased the original operating system to make room for the Raspbmc system. It was really easy to install -I just downloaded the installer from their website and it did most of the work for me!
Raspbmc was much easier to use as layout and was a lot more user friendly and didn’t need to use complicated programmes. After importing a couple of HD test videos over a network we managed to get them to play. To control the raspberry pi we had to use a usb keyboard, after some testing we managed to get it to do this by using the Raspbmc’s built in ‘repeat’ button, changing this to ‘all’ allowed us to do this.
The raspberry pi’s also allowed us to play sound from the videos through a normal headphone jack. This was a great feature and we connected each pi to a set of headphones. Whilst at the office the volume produced by the pi’s was plenty loud enough, however at the noisy trade fair it wasn’t. We had to buy some headphone amplifiers from maplin to make the volume louder. The amplifiers were small square boxes that ran off battery power or usb charge – this allowed a lot louder volume to be produced and could be heard clearly.
We needed 10 smaller monitors to display the content on in a HD format, they would need to be relatively low power and be light enough for us to mount onto the stand walls. We decided to go for some low powered ViewSonic monitors which were 18.5” and full were full HD, they were great at displaying the content. We also needed two bigger tvs to be the main attraction for each side of the stand – we used two Panasonic 50 inch tv’s.
The Raspberry Pis could now be plugged straight into the monitors; however since the smaller ViewSonic monitors did not have a HDMI port we bought a DVI to HDMI converter cable. With the content in video format it was simple to upload to the Raspberry pi’s and then we could create a playlist within the XMBC software, this playlist could then be played on an endless loop. This endless loop on the Raspberry Pis would be connected to their respective monitors.
The Good Points
The Raspberry pi’s were a really versatile tool to use and not only were they small, low powered, quick to start up and simple but a lot cheaper too. All these reasons meant they were a much better alternative method than using laptops or computers. They allowed us to play HD content constantly all day on the HD screens.
The Bad Points
The bad points were that the videos had to be transferred over a wired network connection. Our normal office network worked great. You had to plug in one network cable to the pi and one to a computer; you then use a file transfer programme to move the files. However if you have a firewall you may find it difficult to transfer over a network. The bad points of this meant that we had to put the videos onto the raspberry pi’s whilst still in the office, which meant that once we were in London at the event we couldn’t load any additional videos onto the raspberry pi’s.
The pi’s so quite was a bad point, as it meant have to fork out extra money for headphone amplifiers. However the cost was still very low compared to purchasing laptops and th overall cost of all the technology was around £100 per unit to play videos.
Another issue we encountered was a hardware problem with one of the Raspberry Pis once it was at the event – it wouldn’t switch on. However thankfully we had brought a spare laptop to use just in case, so we plugged it in as its replacement and played the videos with no problem.
The result was 12 video presentations running simultaneously at our stand. They were effective, engaging and impressive – which is what we set out to create. We’ve received great feedback so far after the event and generated a lot of leads so overall a great success!
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