Best Solution To Run 16 Monitors From 4 Client Machines?

Trying to manage 4 different client computers that each have 4 monitors attached for a Lenel Video viewer solution. Best monitors to use (32" screen), and possible switching such as KVM, etc


What part exactly do you need a solution too? The type of monitor to use? Type of workstation? How to configure the Lenel client or how to monitor and manage the workstations themselves?

- Tubbs

I talked to Don on the phone earlier, so I'll clarify a few things:

At this point, the customer is not opting for a true 'videowall' solution, but is expecting 4 workstations each driving 4 monitors displayed together.

The OP is looking for recommendations on monitors to use for a 24/7/365 security operation, and suggestions on a matrix or KVM switch that would allow and operator to navigate between each of the 4 workstations.

Can anyone help based on experience doing something similar?

At this point, the customer is not opting for a true 'videowall' solution, but is expecting 4 workstations each driving 4 monitors displayed together.

Is the requirement for 4 monitors a true requirement or just because of assumed necessity?

Might this be an ideal use for 4k monitors, using multi-view, each with 4 HD streams?

Is the requirement for 4 monitors a true requirement or just because of assumed necessity?

Good question!

Might this be an ideal use for 4k monitors, using multi-view, each with 4 HD streams?

err, um...

Did I say something dumb again? You can tell me... :)

While not exactly an answer to "best monitors", I will say it depends:

  • What is the intended viewing distance and angle?
  • What is the intended monitor resolution? (e.g., 1600 x 1024)
  • What will the lighting conditions be in the viewing area?
  • How many camera feeds/images per monitor? (Is 32" large enough?)
  • Full-time monitoring or just there for situational awareness as needed?
  • How will they be mounted? (most, but not all in that size range offer VESA-style mounting)

Monitor contrast ratio, screen brightness, usable viewing angle, etc. are factors to consider when determining the best monitor. One size doesn't fit all, unfortunately.

That said, we use an inexpensive Visio (39") model in our police operations center. They have proven reliable over the past three years, but sufficient brightness has proven a minor issue with them in our operations environment.

As for KVMs, we use an Avocent Switchview 1000 model, with only the USB connections for keyboard/mouse utilized. (The monitors are connected directly to the workstations.) The Avocents have been in service trouble-free since 2008. We've used iogear in another application and had a few performance and reliability issues.

Brian, thanks for the clarification. I don't have any ideas yet on the KVM side, but hopefully someone else will. As for monitors, we've used Orion and Viewz (mortal enemies of each other if you ever talk to them), and both seem to work well for extended operation. Orion however doesn't seem big on HDMI inputs yet for whatever reason, last I looked.

I use a free Microsoft program called Mouse Without Borders to switch between our separate machines, but I think it only handles three machines at once. It is an awesome easy program, but just verified that the program only handles three machines.

What about the actual PC's to be able to handle the video or is that already taken care of? Reason I ask is we use Lenel here and it seems to be a bit processor intensive. More than we would have expected and even though the machine is above the listed requirements we run into issues.

Hello Ross:

Don mentioned Mouse Without Borders as a potential solution he was looking at, but I am not sure he was aware of the 3 machine limit. Thanks for that feedback! Very helpful detail there.

Scratch that! I just updated to the latest and greatest version and it is four computers now. Nice!

Try Kavoom, a software based KVM, use their trial software and see if it works for you. I used them in same type of application many times.

I recommend Viewz monitors for reliability (made for 24/7 operation)

Remus

Thanks Remus. Kavoom looks interesting.

I try hard not use KVMs in this type of solution. I've been using Synergy ( http://synergy-project.org/ or 'Mouse without boarders' ( http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35460 ) Both of these solutions allow you to "mouse" from monitor to monitor - machine to machine - with having a real KVM.

Workstations - I've been using locally built machines - i7's, 64 bit, 8 GB, two "better" video cards with dual DVI / HDMI / Display port / monitor outputs. Sometimes with dual NIC cards. Always big boxes, oversize power supplies, lots of air movement.

Monitors - How close are they watching? My sweet spot is 27" - 1920 x 1080 - 27" allows the use of conventional monitor trees. Once you get ovet that, custom mounts are needed. I buy all the monitors together. The manufacturers change specs, mounts, bezeling - Depending on the quantity, I might try to add one spare monitor to the mix for "the shelf" - to match the group.

I haven't stepped into 4K monitors - still too expensive and not well supported in the computer world.

I'm a big believer in standard computer equipment. Something you can get parts for from the local computer house the same day. Using the current readily available equipment makes the pricing very competetive.

Don,

If the workstation has decent specs (no less than 64 bit OS, i5 Processor, 8 gigs of ram) you can run up to 6 monitors from it. Don't think you can do this with a 2U 1 Ghz rack mount computer, you need a real PC with an add on, full height video card.

Ask which brand is compatible with the VMS first. Could be you need Nvidia but AMD video cards are half the cost of Nvidia and only 10% slower.

http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/R9280XDC2T3GD5/

1080 P is the native LED resolution for most monitors (could ALSO be a large screen TV!) but it would be best to have one that supported Display Port, HDMI and DVI so you could have some flexibility on input types. Do you think you would need multimonitor with an 80" display?

Display port can be daisy chained together for multi monitor ability. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DisplayPort

http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/AMDEyefinityFAQs.aspx

You can learn alot about PC's with multiple displays from Gamer forums. Or about the equipment you choose. Some of it will have to be experimentation too.

Here's a six-way combo for under 5,000. I've used many of the Syncmaster 23 inch displays. They are kinda ancient, but reliable. They also have a 16 way system, but I don't have the guts to even mention it.

  • 3.6Ghz Intel Core i7 Quadcore HT CPU (4.0Ghz Turbo)
  • 16GB of DDR3 PC19200 (2400Mhz) RAM Memory
  • 2GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon HD 7870 [256-bit] Graphics
  • Premium 730 Watt Heavy Duty Power Supply
  • 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN Network Port for Wired Internet
  • AMD Eyefinity 6 SLS (Single Large Surface) Video Wall Capable System
  • 512GB SSD (Solid State Drive) 500MB/s+ Read & Write Speeds
  • 2 Year Warranty on Computer Tower (Covers Parts and Labor costs)
  • Heavy Duty Six Display Desk Stand with
  • Six Samsung Syncmaster 23.6 inch Slim Bezel LED Displays
  • 1920 x 1080 maximum resolution per screen,
  • Widescreen, 16:9 Aspect Ratio, 5ms response time, Contrast Ratio 1000:1, Brightness 250
  • 3 year Warranty on Displays and Six Monitor Stand

Don, if the monitors are on desks and simply wrapping around the users, then Sharp, Samsung, and NEC all have good solutions. If the monitors are always on, then you will want "professional" quality monitors that are rated for 24x7, otherwise you may have deal pixels etc after a relatively short period of time. Also, using 120hz or higher refresh rates make it easier on eyes.

If you want to build a wall, then you need narrow bezel monitors, which all of the above, plus companies like Planar have. Again, get 24x7 rated monitors.

If you are putting systems on desks, I would probably stay away from 4K for now. It really is best at distances of 10 feet or greater (unless you are a radiologist, geophysicist, etc) with a larger screen size (55-105"). 4K looks great, saves space and lets you display up to 8MP cameras at full, unscaled, resolution, and you can run PiP to put more than one system on the same monitor (we have systems for this that support up to 12 inputs). For desktop smaller screen sizes like 32-42" are probably best.

For a wall, you will need to decide if you want to treat it like one giant monitor with picture in a picture, of if you want a collection of independent monitors. If you want to treat the wall as one canvas, then you should get a display wall processor which provides video scaling, mullion compensation (bezel spacing), and management. If you don't need this, then 4 headed PCs with remote KVM sharing should be fine (use Synergy which is an open source solution).

Keep in mind if you want to remotely view streaming video using an IP remote desktop solution, technologies like RDP, VNC, and the like really do not handle fast refresh well. If all you want to do is remotely control a system, then they are fine. For full motion video you need something like RGB Spectrums VDA.

RGB Spectrum has complete solutions for video system integration that scale from small multiviewers (4 video signals onto one monitor) up with complete shared user control, arbitration, HDCP (encryption of video signals) and the ability to drive display walls of up to 56 monitors from over 100 input signals, controlled by an infinite number of users. These are advanced systems used by NASA, the military, utilities, oil companies, etc.

For remote control of full motion video, we have a lossless video oriented IP KVM solution we call VDA. It moves video at 1080p60, 4 monitors at a time. Requires about 10Mbps per video channel. It is a hardware thin client system and renders video at local quality with very low latency and with synchronized mouse. It is a point to point system, meaning that only one person at a time can control a remote system and there is no arbitration of users (first in gets control) unless it is used with our more advanced MCMS control room management system.

I would be happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction, depending on your needs.