Videowall, the video brochure at real dimensions

A brilliant idea

This is perhaps the most beautiful of the stories I have to tell. Unquestionably, it is the story that has had the greatest success.

This is the Videowall project, a tool created for IMA, but which is being adopted by other important companies with which I am collaborating.

It is a very important project, a medium-term investment that, if developed in the right way, can bring increases in sales up to double figures.

Everything started in 2013: a visionary within the company had the intuition to digitize the visualization of the automatic machines sold at the fair.

His idea was to keep the visualization of the product as consistent as possible with reality, obtaining as an added value the possibility, thanks to videos, to show the machine in operation, with a lot of product in actual processing and management of waste production. These are two aspects unthinkable and unattainable at the show for most of the automatic machines that are sold.

It was a brilliant idea, a use of technology as simple (to appearances) as it was effective.

I received a call from a new customer. They had chosen us because we had become famous for being “the nerds of Pandoras box” and, in the preliminary analysis that had been performed, among all the engines available for airing the project, Pandoras box was the only one able to get the one that was the purpose: to broadcast on a 4K screen (it was the year 2013, I want to remind you) of the looped movies that showed the machine running, all allowing the commercial to “navigate” the machine itself through an interface on the iPad, a sort of remote control.

The meetings started, the delivery of the contents, the conversions and, of course, the problems started to arrive.

At the first test session we arrived with our contents loaded on some PCs that we used as Pandoras Box Manager. On our computers the contents turned well, but as soon as we started the project on the original machines of the then Coolux Pandoras Box we realized that the loops did not run smoothly. It was the beginning of a real ordeal, with a precise deadline approaching (the date of the first fair to which we would have participated) and a problem we did not know how to deal with.

Image Video Wall Media Server

Beyond the limits

I spent hours and hours, night after night trying with several PCs and many video cards, it was clear that the hardware provided at the time of the software was not able to deliver the performance we needed.

We managed to solve using the Xeon CPUs called Ivy Bridge and nVidia framework graphics cards; this was the choice that was then also imitated by Coolux at the time of the next update of their machines.

I spent days and days in Bologna, alongside the client and the iPad programmer, building together this system that would turn out to be the most unusual use ever made of a media server.

The first fair was a success, it was summer 2013 and we were in Rimini. The best place ever to celebrate this great result.

Back home, however, another beautiful problem appeared on the horizon. The project was very much liked, the company had decided to adopt it for all divisions. We would therefore have had to upload a potential quantity of content 500% higher than that loaded up to that time. (These predictions turned out to be really optimistic, we ended up charging about 5000% more, but that’s another story).

“Where’s the problem?” You’ll ask, “Did not a lot of money have to be paid for a lot of content to be loaded?” Technically yes, if it were not that the system was totally custom, every animation and transition was saved in the timeline. Let me explain better: a navigation that should have always been the same and aligned between the different areas of the machine was actually saved in a personalized clip clip, creating a monster of the repetition. Those who work on coding know what I’m talking about: the possibility that we were asked to change the times or the way of transition represented a nightmare for us, since it would mean having to go over every single saved content every time.

To avoid being crushed by the massive amount of effort, as would happen to Wile E. Coyote, I had to activate the brain and change the approach. There was no budget available for the activity I’m about to tell you, but I decided to do it anyway because I believed in that project and I felt that it would lead to great results.

Image Video Wall Media Server

Grow and keep growing

Then I passed the summer and the first part of autumn to reprogram the whole system, finally I knew clearly how it should have behaved. Now I could eliminate all the repetitions that burdened that programming that arose while we were busy solving all the hardware problems that had arisen.

So a version of the project was born that is very similar to the one that we still use today for exhibitions. Technically everything is controlled by Christie Widget Designer, in which we have programmed a kind of translator that converts the strings received from the iPad in transitions and contents to be loaded for Pandoras Box.

The result is scalability, the ability to load a technically infinite amount of content in a standardized system that allows viewing.

The project liked so much to the guys of Coolux (or maybe I broke the boxes so much to their support) that I was asked at the event Coolux Connect 2015 to go and present it on the stage of the convention. It was one of my first presentations. In addition, in English. I was a bit ‘awkward, maybe I did a little’ laugh, but my content liked so much to the audience that I had just finished I was assailed by questions. I have to thank my fellow adventures Stefano Piermatteo, who on that occasion gave me technical and moral support to bring home the presentation.

Today, compared to then, things have not changed that much: my team and I are always around the world to provide technical support to IMA. We help them get the technology and solve all the difficulties that arise on high-tech exhibition stands.

Obviously, just because the project works does not mean that we have stopped. We are working on version 4.0 of this incredible sales tool.

I hope the article was useful to you! If so, share it with your colleagues and if you want to make a comment or ask me for a consultation do not hesitate to contact me!

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