Disguise: Facilitating the IMAX-ification of live events

As Disguise solutions top live events wish lists, Product Marketing Manager Doris Retfalvi highlights how accessible innovations enhance tech access and event experiences.

Doris Retfalvi, Product Marketing Manager at Disguise, sits down with TPi’s Jacob Waite – virtually – to share how the release of recent Disguise innovations like the VX 2+ media server is opening more doors for younger engineers and productions with a smaller budget to work with and delves into the evolving trend towards a more immersive experience in live events, likening it to a gradual ‘IMAX-ification’ of live events.

Can you elaborate on the key features that differentiate the VX 2+ from its predecessors or competitors?

“The video content demands of our user community are ever evolving, so as a technology provider we must ensure our solutions can always deliver the necessary processing power and playback speed to meet those demands. And in this effort, our hardware range must go through a continuous natural evolution.”

“The VX 2+ is the evolution of the vx 2 media server, equipped with later-gen CPU (Intel Xeon 3.1Ghz), GPU (Nvidia RTX A4500) and motherboard (PCIe 4.0). It also brings an increase in the number of video layers it can play back in Notch LC, HAP, and uncompressed codecs, compared to the vx 2, so it can seamlessly meet the highest video performance expectations for the next three to five years. It also features increased networking capabilities (dual-port 100GbE) from its predecessor, to push higher-res real-time content at higher bit depth and better colour fidelity than previously possible with just two 4K outputs.”

“Finally, the VX 2+ also unlocks 4K xR compositing, providing the necessary bandwidth and throughput to power inner and outer frustums in an xR or virtual production LED volume with 40% over scan, when used alongside a real-time render node. This capability has not been previously possible on a media server with two 4K outputs, which makes the VX 2+ an ideal choice for mid-sized and independent virtual production or xR studios.”

How does the VX 2+ integrate with Disguise’s existing ecosystem of software, hardware, and services?

“Just like any Disguise media server, the VX 2+ is the driving platform for playing back pre-rendered or real-time video content at scale, all programmed and controlled from Disguise’s Designer software. Designer acts as the creative hub where video content is fed through from integrated third-party systems (2D video / 3D content engines / live video inputs / data-driven graphics sources, etc.), sequenced on our timeline, then mapped out onto any display surface with pixel perfect accuracy. Paired with these we have our Disguise Cloud toolset dedicated to all stages of pre-production, where users can store creative assets, pre-visualise content, simulate projections easily, review and comment on project files. Combined, our hardware, software and cloud tools make up our Disguise technology platform.”

“With our recently announced Creative and Technical Services Division at Meptik, dedicated to providing end-to-end project delivery from ideation through to content design, system integration and operations, we have extended our offering beyond the technology to the very beginning of a project’s life cycle, making Disguise the most advanced, end-to-end solution for media and entertainment.”

Are there any notable case studies or examples where the VX 2+ has been utilised in live shows or events?

“Purchasing times for live events and installations vary, with many taking as long as 6 months to a year, so it’s a bit early still for any case studies now. What we can say is that since the launch of the VX 2+, we have also launched the VX 3 media server (also previewed at ISE 2024), with all the same technical specifications as the VX 2+ (with the addition of a third video output) as our dedicated playback hardware for live events.” 

“During user interviews we found around 75% of live events typically use a maximum of three outputs per server on a live production at any one time, making the VX 3 an ideal and scalable solution, aimed to address that mid to upper tier level of live shows that don’t want to run heavy Notch content but still want a flexible and scalable media server for both pre-rendered and real-time content. We have already introduced the VX 2+ and VX 3 to various rental houses around the world, so we expect these machines to form part of their concert touring racks in no time.”

How does Disguise envision the VX 2+ contributing to the evolution of entertainment and visual experiences in the industry?

“The entertainment and visual experiences industry is ever changing and ever evolving. With concert venues like the Sphere and the ever-expansive video set-ups at live shows around the world, we are witnessing an ‘IMAX-ification’ effect of live events, in the form of larger display canvases, higher content fidelity, greater bit depths. However, these visual experiences can only be made possible through hardware that has the necessary processing power and playback performance to deliver them seamlessly and with minimal latency. That is where Disguise hardware comes into play. What is more, our VX machines can be paired with our patented IP video format conversion cards (IP-VFCs), enabling content delivery over an IP network – a practice that is increasingly adopted by live events in their pursuit of faster, more reliable and more cost effective, future-proof workflows. In short, our contribution to the evolution of the industry is the commitment to always deliver the hardware and software capabilities to allow creatives to dream bigger and deliver the impossible.” 

How will the VX2+ open more doors for younger engineers and/or productions with a smaller budget to work with?

“Thanks to their latest-generation components, our VX 2+ and VX 3 media servers unlock unmatched power per output, while their versatile applications mean they can provide a reliable, scalable, and flexible playback solution for any project need (whether live or xR, pre-rendered or real-time). They both provide an ideal investment to those on a smaller budget looking to get the most use out of one machine, striking the perfect balance between performance and accessibility.” 

What was the response like from end users and the live sector at large, following Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) 2024?

“Every year, ISE is the prime opportunity for us to present our developments for the live events sector to our user community. The new VX machines made their first public appearance there, together with the latest updates to our Designer software and Disguise Cloud tools, to showcase our commitment to support the next generation of live productions around the world. It has been great to see so much excitement from the community towards the increasing variety of solutions we have for them. Their projects may vary in scale or complexity, but we aim to cater to every single one of them with dedicated technology.”