Connecting to and communicating with a video wall

May 15th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

 

A video wall consists of an integration of multiple ultra-thin bezel LCD or rear projection digital light processing (DLP) displays tiled together contiguously or overlapped to form one large logic screen. This produces a high quality image on a vast pixel estate resulting in a superior human-machine interface through effective communication with the video wall: from the plant, to the video wall, to the operator.

Kagiso Kgowe

Kagiso Kgowe

Through the years we have seen a great transition of hardware displaying parallel information to operators in 24/7 control rooms. This transition is mainly from hard-wired mosaic mimics with knobs, pushbuttons, analogue meters and dials towards large-scale video wall display units as the source for control room operational usage. With video walls being regarded as the new vibe in the visual solution block industry, one can be expected to have many questions, such as: “How do I connect my PC, DCS, SCADA systems or other integrated systems to a modern video wall?”

The question of great interest should be “what?” rather than ‘’how?” one wants to connect and display on the vast pixel estate of the video wall. To be able to establish the “what” part, one must be clear on the following areas:

  • What does one need to display on this vast pixel estate?
  • Into what kind of technological environ-ment will the video wall be integrated?

Once these questions have been answered, one can now move to the part of communicating with the video wall. This communication can occur through one, or sometimes in rare situations, a combination of the following means of communication, connected to a video wall controller as the “middle man” between the plant and the video wall(s):

  • Streaming (LAN) communication
  • Screen scraping (LAN) communication
  • Physical connection (DVI, RGB, video) communication
  • Locally loaded applications (SCADA) communication

Since the size of the video wall contributes greatly to the communication process, for more complex and large format video walls with multiple inputs, an additional video wall controller is usually required. These controllers ensure perfect pixel management from source to screen communication. This originates from the combination of powerful integrated solutions with drag-and-drop software control, and is suitable for both large and small configuration.

Video wall controllers are designed for continuous 24/7 operation in command and control settings, and for both tactical and strategic use. They are used in most types of control room applications to provide the common picture operation which is critical to rapid and accurate computations. For the development of optimum situational awareness, one needs to be able to see everything which is being communicated to the video wall, such as:

  • Video
  • Data
  • Images
  • Maps
  • SCADA graphics, etc.

Video wall controllers are sized according to the type and amount of inputs combined with the amount of DLP or LCD screens that constitutes the video wall. These controllers can accept virtually any input connection such as:

DVI/VGA from PCs, SCADA systems, DVD players, and DSTV composite video from CCTV cameras or older video machines streaming video inputs from a LAN/IP cameras The outputs of the controller that connects it to the video wall are all DVI. This is because DVI is less prone than VGA to crosstalk and other artefacts that can misalign pictures on the screen.

Fig. 1: Connecting the plant to the operator via a Mitsubishi video wall.

Fig. 1: Connecting the plant to the operator via a Mitsubishi video wall.

As stated by Dr. Hennie Barnard, an expert in control room engineering and ergonomics: “Don’t be fooled into thinking that because video walls look very impressive, they are complex to connect. Apart from providing operators with all the information they need, a bird’s eye overview of the plant is often critical to allowing the operators to make correct decisions when something goes wrong. In addition, video wall displays also provide the plant manager/owner with a ‘wow’ factor to show to his/her visitors. There is really no limit to what one can do with your video wall once one realises the capabilities of a proper video wall that is appropriately connected to your automation or process control system.”

Contact Kagiso Kgowe, EEU Taltronics, Tel 011 393-3120, info@eeutal.co.za

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