June 2008 Issue
Buyer's Guide

Media Servers

One of the best indications of the growth of a new technology is to compare the latest Buyers Guide with a previous year’s version of the same subject. If it grows horizontally (features) and vertically (listings) then that’s a good indication that the category is thriving. This year’s Buyers Guide on media servers is a wide and tall as ever.



Pandora's Box Media Server from Coolux




A more subtle way of gauging the technology is to keep an eye on which columns go away after they’ve appeared at least once. You see, as a new technology develops, particularly software-based products, new features are added and the number of columns in our Buyers Guide grows. But as all of the competitors catch up, then the answers in the columns start looking the same — there’s less competitive advantage, at least on paper.



Axon Media Server from High End Systems



Take, for example, the column that used to say “graphics mapping to geometric objects.” In the early days of media servers, this was a feature that some offered while others didn’t. Today, virtually all of the media servers offer some form of graphics mapping onto objects.
The same goes for keystone correction. The column that used to say “number of file locations” has gone away because computers have gotten so powerful and memory so cheap that it’s not much of an issue any more. So we have eliminated some columns as the competition catches up and competitive advantages diminish. On the other hand, the number of listings has grown. Today, there are 18 individual product listings from 10 different manufacturers, with prices ranging from $899 to $42,999.




Hippotizer V3 HD from Green Hippo



Of course, as some features become more common, manufacturers are always working to create new ones in order to keep or gain a competitive advantage. Some of today’s buzz words include “time line,” “cross-platform (PC and Mac versions), “high resolution,” “live video input,” “gigabit networking” (or 1000baseT), “dual core” or “quad core,” “edge blending,” “pixel mapping,” “frame synching,” “stand alone,” and “DVI.”




Maxedia Pro from Martin Professional




If you’re in the lighting industry and you don’t know what some of these terms mean, then perhaps you should invest some time reading about them in books, magazines (this one is a good start), spec sheets, and user manuals. If you’re a manufacturer of media servers and you don’t know what some of these terms mean then perhaps you should invest some time catching up to your competitors.




ArKaos VJ DMX screenshot









grandMA Video screenshot




Media servers are here to stay. It wasn’t that long ago that DMX-controlled media servers existed only in the mind of a couple of brilliant people. Now you can’t go to a decent-sized show without witnessing their influence. Gone are the days when a lighting designer was married to the gobo palette installed by the automated lighting manufacturers. Today, the visual environment knows no boundaries and the media truly serves the vision of the designer.





Mbox Extreme v3 from PRG



With the media server Buyer’s Guide growing in width and height, it’s not easy keeping up with the new offerings. But a few minutes spent perusing the next couple of pages will keep you up to date until the next trade show.


To view a PDF of the June 2008 PLSN Buyers Guide, click here .



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