October 2012 Issue
Video Digerati

Mad Mapping with Syphon

To use Siphon, place a media file in the media bin inside VDMX…Recently, I began experimenting with ideas for an event that will involve video onto a building, walls, and other 3D objects. Hoping to be able to use the MBox Extreme, I set up a system and proceeded to create a 3D model of a building with windows using 3D object creation software. Once the model was built, I loaded it into MBox and was easily able to add movies and images to the object with no fancy setup required.

However, I quickly realized that I would be limited in some ways by going the route of using a 3D object. More specifically, I wanted to be able to isolate certain areas on the building and affect them independently of other areas. So that would either mean 1) I had to assemble smaller 3D objects together to create the appearance of a building surface, or 2) I was going to have to use a different approach to mapping. I decided to go with option 2, and decided to use Mad Mapper.

In the plug-ins section of the VDMX workspace inspector, add the Syphon Output plug-in…Now, Mad Mapper is a stand-alone application that will accept video from any source as long as it can communicate with the server. And this leads me to Syphon. Mad Mapper is built on the new Syphon framework, and this allows it to share video and/or still images with a media server in real time. Since Syphon is currently only a Mac OS based product, the products that use Syphon also need to be Mac based as well. Luckily, Mad Mapper is. Unfortunately, though, MBox does not currently support Syphon, so I had to use a different media server application called VDMX to play a movie and use Mad Mapper to map it to the building surface in the ways that were required. Since I had never used VDMX before, I had to learn a little about the software as well as Syphon before connecting VDMX to Mad Mapper. It turned out to be a very smooth setup. Syphon made it so simple! So, of course, I had to know more about this cutting edge video communication pipeline.

In the VDMX workspace inspector, select the Syphon output to be the main output to be sent to MadMapper.Syphon’s second version is now in beta-testing, and is an open source developer’s tool. Many Mac-based video applications are already implementing this into their framework including Mad Mapper, VDMX, Modul8 and Resolume. Other applications require a simple plug-in to make the Syphon connection, including Quartz Composer, Unity 3D, and Max 6. To use Syphon, the Mac needs to be running OS 10.6 or higher.

A Simpler Solution

Once MadMapper is launched, the VDMX output will automatically appear in the Syphon Input.  Double-click on Syphon Input to display the incoming image.Syphon works by allowing both media server applications and clients (applications receiving the media) running on the same computer to share video on the graphics card, which helps to keep frame rates higher, even on HD content. Syphon’s advantage over using a video capture card for video in is that it runs directly on the same machine, so the video signal doesn’t have to go out of one machine and into another one, as was the case when I tried using MBox with Mad Mapper initially. The craziness that resulted did work, but it took a bit of head scratching to get everything to play nicely. First, I set up MBox, and then using the SDI out, I went into the SDI input on the BlackMagic video capture card in my MacPro desktop computer (where Mad Mapper was installed). Mad Mapper needed to see its media via Syphon, however. So that meant I needed to install VDMX. Now, in case you are curious, it is possible to run Mbox into VDMX, and then over Syphon into Mad Mapper. Practical? Maybe not, but possible, yes.

Arkaos Media Master and GrandVJ both support Syphon and Mad Mapper without all the extra bits. I like that about Arkaos a lot, and I will be continuing to experiment with Arkaos, especially now that they are implementing a new Video Mapper type interface into the software. But until Mbox, Catalyst, Axon, and or/Hippotizer implements Syphon, direct and clean communication between Arkaos or VDMX and Mad Mapper gives them a leg up on the others when it comes to 3D-mapping functionality.


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