Applied Technology: Cobalt Digital Multiviewer Creates a Virtual Monitor Wall

In the midst of a live production, directors, operators, and others need to see each of the incoming video sources to produce the show. Fortunately, a multi-image display provides an effective display solution.

Cobalt Digital’s 3G/HD/SD-SDI/CVBS Quint-Split Multi-Image Expandable Display Processor replaces a traditional monitor wall with a “virtual monitor wall”. This allows the aggregation of images on one LCD/LED display — usually an off-the-shelf, consumer-grade HD monitor. Cobalt’s multiviewer provides high-quality, low-latency image processing and advanced audio monitoring, including 16-channel on-screen meters per image window or picture-in-picture (PiP). The system can also extract and display ancillary data/metadata on the screen for verification purposes and can detect the SDI Record Flag packet contained in the input video when the camera is in record mode.

The system is available in two form factors: the 9970-QS openGear module and the equivalent BBG-1070-QS 1/3-RU stand-alone version.

Inside the card

The multiviewer automatically detects and displays them in “mosaic” PiP view over HDMI and SDI simultaneously. One card can intake five sources, which can be moved and resized as needed. One-button access flexible templates or easy-to-configure custom layouts.

Each input has a scaler to take asynchronous and mixed-format inputs and convert them to the desired HD or 3G SDI formats for the combined multiviewer output. Advanced graphics such as multiple CGs per PiP can display user text, input video format, timecode, UMDs, and an NTP clock. Additional onscreen elements include configurable audio meters, tally lamps and borders, and customizable reticule generators.

The Cobalt multiviewer allows users to expand it by taking one card’s output and feeding it into the “background” input of another card in order to overlay an additional four images onto one display. Up to 10 cards can be used to build a 41x1 display in a single 2-RU openGear frame, or span frames for even more input capacity.

Display options

For live OB production, the multiviewer lets the director, slow-motion operators, audio engineers, and others see all cameras, replay servers, and other essential sources on multiple displays around the truck. In this case the multiviewer consists of multiple cards and is integrated into a tally and UMD system so that when sources change on the router and switcher, the multiviewer display automatically updates to show which source is being displayed and which sources are in the “program” and “preset” positions.

Cobalt’s multiviewer can be applied in studio settings as well. For example, Panavision is using the system in prime-time multi-camera sitcom production, where the equipment has to fit into racks that roll onto the stage and get positioned in tight spaces, such as under audience bleachers. The 9970-QS gives Panavision an expandable multiviewer with the lowest possible delay when directing images from multiple cameras to a single display so that the director can see shot composition.

The Cobalt 9970-QS and BBG-1070-QS combine multiple asynchronous 3G/HD/SD-SDI/NTSC/PAL video inputs and output them on high-resolution SDI and HDMI video jacks. This enables the use of lighter, more efficient and affordable consumer displays inside OB trucks, flypacks, or studios. 

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