Today I will answer the question I was asked most often since I started the blog:
What is the Pandoras box configuration that’s right for me?
Pandoras Box is a rather complex software suite that I know very well. This system has the coveted reputation of being quite expensive but, as an insider, I can reveal some tricks to save up to 70% on the purchase of the system.
In fact, I often found myself integrating systems designed with this software that were absolutely oversized, compared to the installation requirements.
At the same time, in all the main jobs in which, with my company NiceFall, I integrated the system, I won the race against my competitors thanks to the optimization of the installation. I have written articles about the two most important cases:
Let’s get to the point: Pandoras Box is a system composed mainly of 4 elements:
- Manager: it is a software license dedicated to control and programming. It is not essential, once your show is programmed, but it becomes necessary in those cases where there are many audio / video output computers to synchronize with each other. Some examples are:
- Multi-projections with 5 or more video projectors;
- Large LED screens;
- Installations with a large number of displays to keep in sync.
- Server: it is a software license that is sold exclusively in combination with the hardware produced by Christie. In other words, it is sold exclusively in combination with their computers and is the license that allows you the maximum freedom in terms of output configuration. It allows the programming of the show in a totally three-dimensional environment, an infinite number of audio / video levels and configuration possibilities. In short, it guarantees the maximum possible flexibility. You can easily imagine that these features come at a cost.
- Player: it is a software license dedicated to the playout of video content. Clearly cheaper than the Server, it has a couple of important limitations:
- Limited number of Video and Audio layers: maximum 4 per license;
- Two-dimensional programming environment: the engine is the same, but all 3D features are limited.
- Widget Designer: it is a separate software that allows the creation of interactive systems and, generalizing, facilitates the integration of the Pandoras Box audio / video engine with any other control system present within the installation. I almost always use it as the “heart” of the system and so I make Widget Designer send calls to all other systems (lights, shutters, notification, etc.).
The very useful thing about Widget Designer is that it includes a software (a webserver) that allows you to create a control interface for your completely customizable installation. Any device with a web browser (PC, tablet and smartphone) can therefore interact with the installation.
The basic version of Widget Designer is free, while the PRO and ULT versions are free of charge.
Here are the differences between the versions:
- FREE: playback of any Widget Designer project, possibility of control by only one external device;
- PRO: necessary for advanced programming (attention; only in the programming phase), possibility of control by an unlimited number of devices, but each device displays the same interface as the others.
- ULT: possibility of control by an unlimited number of devices, each device can display a different part of the interface. (necessary only in gigantic museum type installations where everything is controlled by Widget Designer).
To be able to optimize your installation in the best way, you need to have clear ideas immediately about the final result you want to achieve and a good level of awareness of how. Here are some points to think about:
- How many video outputs do I need?
- How many audio outputs do I need?
- How many video streams should I broadcast simultaneously?
- How many audio streams should I broadcast simultaneously?
- Do I need to do advanced 3D mapping or do I just need a simple two-dimensional warper? In 95% of the cases the answer to this somewhat cryptic question is “simple two-dimensional warper”;
- Do I need to generate Artnet output for light control? If yes, how many DMX universes do I need?
Once this information is obtained, the system can be estimated.
If you are selecting a rental system, my suggestion is to always try to have maximum flexibility, so I would be on Pandoras Box Server. If instead you are planning a permanent installation, most likely Pandoras Box Player will be more than enough.
I always recommend the Manager, unless the installation is extremely simple and with a very limited budget. In permanent installations you don’t need extremely powerful computers to run the Manager, the important thing is that they are reliable, so I always suggest industrial hardware.
if it is a show business it is always better to have a redundant backup of the whole system, so if you are using a Manager and 5 Servers better to have 2 Managers and 10 Servers. In the case of permanent installations, my suggestion is to have the Manager backed up (since it is the heart of the system) and a cold storage of the Player.
A cold stock is a computer that remains in the server cabinet on, but without being connected to any output. Should one of the players fail, a simple wiring operation and a small software configuration will be enough to immediately put the backup machine on the track and restart with the show. Without cold backup you risk having to wait weeks to have a machine with the necessary hardware configuration and, depending on the criticality of the installation, this may not be tolerable.
In any case, I would always avoid not having a backup of the Manager. The Manager is in fact the heart of the system. The Pandoras Box Manager application and the Widget Designer usually run on the Manager’s computer. So staying without that machine would mean giving up the operation of the whole installation.
Unfortunately I can’t publish component costs, but I hope this article can help you have a clearer idea of how to set up a Pandoras Box system.
You can find more information about the system on the Christie website or by contacting your local distributor. If you contact me consider that, as a system integrator, I can sell the components at the same price as the distributor and I can give you the advice necessary to correctly configure your system.
If you have any doubts or comments, do not hesitate to contact me, I will be happy to help you with your next installation.