Sound, Light… Visuals? Arkaos’s third piece of a live events puzzle is powerful and exciting to use.
Displays are getting bigger, cheaper and more commonplace. So the display tech is no longer the sticking point to attaining eye-catching visuals in an live events or entertainment setting. Amazing visuals need the right software. If your bias is towards creating perfectly pixel-mapped and warped White Night-style eye candy then there are some well regarded options on the market — the best known being the Christie/Coolux Pandoras Box. But if you’re after an application heavy on performance tools to mix and mess with visuals in real time then ArKaos is a VJ’s best friend.
Over many years ArKaos has been developing tools for the live visual producer and at the top of the heap is its MediaMaster Pro offering. It’s a program that helps you create stunning visuals by actively mixing and triggering multiple layers of video along with applying a palette of FX party tricks. Using a standard, off the shelf PC you’ll find yourself being able to throw more than enough layers of video at the wall. You can trigger, crossfade and cue your files all from a qwerty keyboard, or better still, map controls to a MIDI controller or DMX lighting desk.
The UI is instantly familiar with an array of ‘channels’ laid across the screen with an accompanying fader. Within moments even a complete novice can have visuals running on the preview panel. But MediaMaster rewards every minute and hour you spend delving deeper into its impressive functionality.
Opening the File Selector window, provides you with a full array of editing and effects tools. The old-school appearance of this section reminds me that ArKaos has been developing this program over many years. What it lacks in glamour it makes up for in attention to detail.
Once you’ve selected your visual source (oddly there isn’t an Import button, you need to drag ’n’ drop your own file in or use a supplied file) you can begin to set up a show and to edit the appearance of your footage. Parameters such as size, speed, colour balance and much more are all editable. From there you can apply one of a healthy array of effects. There’s a limit of one effect per channel of video which I think is more frustrating in theory than practice (if like me, you just want to see how the effects combine!).
FILES & FADES
A VJ can never have enough control over the fades between clips and thankfully MediaMaster’s options are extensive. Once you’ve alighted on a custom setting you’re particularly pleased with, you can save it as a preset. I found this particularly powerful as I built my show — grabbing previously created presets (without the need to reprogram) for similarly-themed sections. Saying that, if you tweak your preset then you’re asked to create a new one — you’ll find your fader options list grows quickly, often with very similar presets.
Use the File Selector window to change your hotkeys for a specific selected video. You can’t make changes to the MIDI or DMX info, only the keyboard hotkeys. I found this distinction frustrating. The problems arise with the organisation of the visuals. At one point I needed a short clip to finish a song, and, so I wouldn’t accidentally knock it, I wanted to separate it from the main group of visuals. But I couldn’t. I was was compelled to move the visual and presets to a different fader. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but given the range of MIDI controller keyboards on the market (each with its controls and pads mapped differently) I’d like to see this approached more sympathetically.
While I’m having a minor whinge, I should point out that file management is also a little clunky. There is no clear ‘Save’ or ‘Backup’ option. My feeling is that any VJ would want to ensure their backsides are covered with some redundancy, and, sure enough, you can, of course, save a show, and ArKaos saves a Setup file with all the associated material linked. So it is possible to ‘manually’ bring a backup with you to a gig. I’d prefer to see a Duplicate/Backup File option as a standard feature.
PEELING THE ONION
MediaMaster Pro is enormously powerful. Up to 36 visual layers can run at once (PC specs permitting). Also, with the Videomapper extension, it’s possible to project to any surface. This allows your creativity to shine in a more contemporary events environment where eccentric combinations of screens and panels are often used. And even though media server programs such as Pandoras Box are better known for their pixel mapping, the ArKaos Videomapper is simple to use and powerful. And the masking option is another welcome feature. The LEDmapper also works in a similar way, allowing you to map specific LED installations.
MediaMaster Pro is the complete package. It’s powerful enough for professionals, but simple enough for aspiring VJs to learn and operate. The real-time control aspects mean VJs will find MediaMaster particularly attractive but the program will happily double on video duties for concerts or theatre shows.
As I alluded to in the intro: the world is now awash with stunning displays — large format LCD/LED and projection. Nightclubs, live events, churches, pubs, theatres, funeral homes… the visual canvases are there but often the media serving software is not and they remain dark or deathly dull. ArKaos MediaMaster is a mature, stable media platform that rewards a venue’s lighting or video tech with great programmable results but is fully exploited when driven live. It’s in this context that MediaMaster Pro shines; where it has the capacity to surprise and delight, and complements a musical performance in a way that makes you wonder what you did with out it.
New Feature in MediaMaster Pro 5.0
- Up to 36 layers to prepare, play and output more visuals and effects
- Easily synchronise text with the new lyric player especially designed for singers, church performances and corporate presentations
- Enhanced DMX patching over multiple universes and auto-patching feature
- New and improved appearance of the user interface
MediaMaster Pro 5.0 introduces MediaHub, a new powerful tool designed to:
- Swiftly share your content between servers or computers over networks
- Easily synchronise your content library over networks
- Remotely monitor the status of any additional machine running MediaMaster
- Import your new content remotely in the library of any server
- Organise your library of content remotely from any computer
- Safely synchronise your newest content or your backup server just before a show
LED Mapper Integration Features:
- Automatic discovery of Art-Net nodes connected on a network
- Unicast connection to fixtures for optimal network bandwidth usage
- Capability to run simultaneously with MediaMaster
- Updated LEDMapper supporting larger network thanks to unicast