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40oz

4-way picture in picture settings for a tv

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I've been planning to assemble a Home Dooming station in my house when I move out in the near future.

The idea is to get four computers and wipe the hard drives of everything except for the operating system, the Doom IWADs, Odamex, and XPadder (so that they can each be played with Logitech F310 Gamepads). I'll connect each computer to a shared external hard drive loaded with wads, then link the computers together using a modem and ethernet cables for 4-player lan games.

The pieces of the plan are falling together but I still have one more question that remains unanswered.

Ideally, I would like to have all four computers connected to a single wide screen TV with HDMI cables under different video modes, and do a PIP (picture in picture) setting to have all four displays on the TV screen at once in a split screen fashion. I don't know for sure, how to get a TV that can do that. I don't if I will need any hardware that can split the display of each computer into the four quadrants of the TV screen (or what the hardware would be called), or if there are programs I can download so that I can spy on the other computers and display split screen that way. Anyone have any suggestions?

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Getting audio from all of them would also be an issue to figure out. All picture-in-picture setups I've seen require you to pick one channel or the other to have audio from, not both playing at once.

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The facile solution would be to just have four smaller TVs/monitors configured in a 2x2 grid attached to the wall or something. It would at least address the issue of getting the audio out of all four computers to play simultaneously, like esselfortium just pointed out.

Not terribly helpful, I know. But your idea sounds sweet nonetheless.

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Just find some way of doing it like Q3 so that you are always following the winning player. It is also possible to get VLC to broadcast your screen to an ip, so multiple instances of that on your "TV" computer may be an idea.

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A purely hardware solution would require you to get TV studio-grade equipment. Even analog ones (working with different TV signals) would be too expensive, and HDMI ones even moreso. You'll have more luck with a "soft" approach like the one proposed by Mr. T.

The only hardware that would likely be affordable would be an audio mixing console (kinda like the ones used by DJs or radio stations, there are amateur models with less than 8 channels and not too many complicated controls).

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40oz said:

I've been planning to assemble a Home Dooming station in my house when I move out in the near future.

The idea is to get four computers and wipe the hard drives of everything except for the operating system, the Doom IWADs, Odamex, and XPadder (so that they can each be played with Logitech F310 Gamepads).


I know this is the most minor of your issues, but Odamex has built-in joystick/joypad support (done by Hyper Eye) thanks to our XBox build. I haven't heard of a case where it hasn't worked yet.

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esselfortium said:

Getting audio from all of them would also be an issue to figure out. All picture-in-picture setups I've seen require you to pick one channel or the other to have audio from, not both playing at once.


I could just plug speakers into three of the computers, and let the first computer get the TV speakers right? Of course I would turn off music for the other three computers so it doesn't get too annoying. It might not be great but it's a temporary solution.

Ralphis said:

I know this is the most minor of your issues, but Odamex has built-in joystick/joypad support (done by Hyper Eye) thanks to our XBox build. I haven't heard of a case where it hasn't worked yet.


Oh I know, but Odamex doesn't recognize all of the buttons on my controller, just some of them. I'm using XPadder to utilize the remaining buttons.

Mr. T said:

Just find some way of doing it like Q3 so that you are always following the winning player. It is also possible to get VLC to broadcast your screen to an ip, so multiple instances of that on your "TV" computer may be an idea.


If I'm understanding this correctly, I can stream video from the other computers onto the first one, and then just display the first computer running doom in one corner, and the other three corners have streamed video? Would it work in real time? I would hate to have the first player getting an advantage by seeing the other players before they can see him. Deathmatch in Doom is a very time sensitive game.

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Yeah I wouldn't put all 4 screens in one spot, from years of experience playing split-screen multiplayer from PS1 QuakeII to Timesplitters3, I can tell you 'screen-looking' cheaters suck. I remember there was this amusing screen-looker prevention device in a gaming magazine for Quake2, it was essentialy a paper tube you taped to players faces **

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Dunno, if it's a LAN then your latency would be next to nothing. I would be more worried about it being CPU-bottlenecked if your comps are all ancient. Worth a try tho.

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I checked out VLC Media player, watched some youtube demonstrations of how to stream stuff with it. All the examples I read about and saw are people streaming a video file to another computer, not the entire desktop like I would want. I haven't downloaded the program yet to see if it can do that too though.

my younger brother does live streaming of him playing Team Fortress 2 to a website called twitch.tv using a program he has called XSplit Broadcaster. Apparently that streams your entire desktop. I looked at it for a little and you can stream directly to another IP address, but I would like to know how to receive the streamed video (Maybe with VLC Media Player?).

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There is this technique that lets you show (at least two) displays at the same tv at the same time. The players wear glasses with different settings to see their own screen and none of the other players'.

Dunno if it's in stores yet or not. But it was a while ago since I saw it demonstrated at QuakeCon.

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Out of curiosity, I googled to see how much a 4-channel video PiP processor would cost, and it was far more reasonable than I thought:

The Ambery 4-Channel Quad Video Picture-In-Picture Video Processor retails for $118 dollars, and allows you to mix up to 4 composite sources in real time with no processing overhead. Assuming all of your video cards have S-Video outputs, this can be converted to composite with a simple passive adaptor (we're literally talking soldering two wires and a capacitor here).

Other similar products with composite inputs I saw on eBay are about the same price range. If you need higher quality (S-Video or higher) or built-in audio mixing, you'll have to go fully pro-gear and into 4-figure prices. HDMI mixers are simply prohibitive.

Depending on what you want/expect, this may cover you. Since you're obviously set on burning some money (but not too much) on this project, a $120-$150 investment doesn't seem so unreasonable. As a bonus, you'll be able to record matches on VHS or a PVR with video inputs ;-)

A pure software solution might cover you but you will the very least need a (quite powerful) dedicated PC to handle the mixing of video streams, you'll need to burn some CPU horsepower on every broadcasting PC in order to run real-time screen grabbers, plus a lot of menial setting up work.

Even if you "simply" use 4 separate VLC instances and tile them along a screen, the signal bandwidth required to broadcast an uncompressed 640 x 480 True Color video feed @ 60 FPS (that's another problem, video needs a fixed frame rate!) is about 55 MB per second! From a single PC. Multiply that by 8 and you get 440 Mbps, again for a single PC, so if you go with uncompressed video for full-quality,
you'd need a single Gigabit LAN connection from every PC to the "master mixer" PC, which would need 4 Gigabit Ethernet adapters, too.

If you use client-side compression you can decrease the video bandwidth dramatically, but at the cost of client CPU power (plus screen grabbing overhead). Don't expect stellar framerates out of that, and still I'd go with at least a single Gigabit LAN and hi-speed switches to ensure that the network doesn't choke on the output of 4 PCs pumping data like mad. In any case, you'll have to weigh the various resolution/frame rate/quality/bandwidth tradeoffs very carefully. No matter what you do, forget any type of wireless setup here.

Personally, I'd simply plug in a $120 composite video mixer and call it a day ;-) Cheaper, and with no lag :-p

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kristus said:

There is this technique that lets you show (at least two) displays at the same tv at the same time. The players wear glasses with different settings to see their own screen and none of the other players'.

Dunno if it's in stores yet or not. But it was a while ago since I saw it demonstrated at QuakeCon.


That's fantastic. I'm guessing this is a creative abuse of 3D-capable (high refresh rate) TVs and shutter glasses. The only tricky thing is that you need shutter glasses with lenses that lighten and darken together instead of in sequence. If TV manufacturers were smart they'd calibrate their glasses to work this way by default, as now that I think about it it seems like this is a technology with far more potential than 3D-TV itself. With two audio-outs, two pairs of headphones, and the right circuitry and programming inside a TV to decode two channels simultaneously, a couple could watch and enjoy two completely different shows on the same TV while snuggling on the same couch. This alone could lower the national divorce rate.

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I just tried out some streaming over a home LAN network I set up. At first I tried running my laptop (which is pretty slow) as the server streaming video to my desktop PC (which is pretty good) and the results were awful, choppy as hell, and the sound quality was all bogged up.

I did it that way to simulate my hypothesis that running Doom, streaming videos from 3 different servers, and running the Doom server would be pretty labor intensive for my computer, so I imagined having one good computer, and then the three not-so-good computers streaming video to the first one.

Then I tried it in reverse, where my good computer was the server and the laptop was the client. The results were much better, but hardly ideal. The video was still rather choppy, and the display was really lagging behind the actual gameplay. I don't think I can get this to work without top-of-the-line computers.

I guess I could try that device Maes linked to. $118 is very reasonable. I can only hope that the quality is good and that it's compatible with the TV's I'm looking at, but I haven't really gotten that far yet. I should probably wait a few paydays before I dive into spending any more money on this. I really appreciate all your help btw. I was really kinda at a standstill before I made this thread but now I feel like I have a much clearer idea with what I'm doing.

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Not sure I'll have a problem with that. 4-way split screen murderfests are an awesome way to bring people together.

I've been looking into getting the splitter box Maes linked to, but I'm a bit concerned about what the box looks like from the back.



I'm definitely gonna need some of the right cables so that I can connect the PC's to it. I did a bit of quick google searching, and I kinda suck at google. Is this the right thing?

http://www.mycablemart.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=3078

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40oz said:


No, this is a VGA-to-VGA cable and it won't work with ordinary TV/Video equipment. All you need is a bunch of good plain old coaxial RCA video cables:

http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/445223618/Coaxial_RCA_Composite_Video_Cable_wire.html

assuming that your video cards have S-Video and/or composite video outputs. Pretty much any gamer-oriented video card made after 1996 has them, but if you have integrated or whatever weird shit they build today or you need some proprietary connector to get access to the signal, then forget it (e.g. some video cards have some weird mini-DIN custom connector which needs an adapter supplied with the card itself. If you lost them, too bad.)

It all boils down on whether it's cheaper/less laborious to get 4 smaller wall-mountable monitors, or a single big-ass hi-res TV and set up all the auxiliary mixing hardware and/or software. Keep in mind that with composite video you won't get much in the way of quality: you will be limited to standard TV resolution and frame rate, even though it will be cheap and lag-free. With anything of higher quality, even higher-quality analog, the cost will skyrocket so steeply that it will be really cheaper to get 4 separate monitors. With digital solutions, even with "set your own FREE VideoLAN server ones!" you are still exceeding the cost of 4 monitors, and you will have a lot of problems like lag, CPU usage and network bandwidth to worry about.

In the end, I think the most sensible thing to do is just piecing 4 separate monitors together: advantages include full quality signal for each PC (VGA or HDMI with no degradation due to converting to composite), full resolution on each monitor, NO LAG OR DELAY, no additional software or hardware required, no "video mixer" PC, no nothing. At most you'll need to get some extra-long cables (there are long VGA cables, dunno about HDMI ones though). There's no need to overengineer things or jump through hoops.

Audio is the only component where you might need an analog mixer/console, and it's much more intuitive than the video stuff (you can even have a DJ operating it ;-)

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Maes said:

In the end, I think the most sensible thing to do is just piecing 4 separate monitors together

That's what I suggested earlier. But as I'm assuming he would want something more aesthetically pleasing than four old CRTs he found in the trash fastened together with brackets, it's a costly way of doing something like this. Unless you can find some desperate person or idiot on eBay who's selling four contemporary monitors for a few dollars.

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DoomUK said:

That's what I suggested earlier. But as I'm assuming he would want something more aesthetically pleasing than four old CRTs he found in the trash fastened together with brackets, it's a costly way of doing something like this. Unless you can find some desperate person or idiot on eBay who's selling four contemporary monitors for a few dollars.


Actually I suggested "wall mountable" monitors. A new run-of-the-mill TFT 19" computer monitor is like, what. $120 nowadays? Very thin, easily mountable. For this kind of application and viewing distance there's no need to nitpick about 2-3 dead pixels or whether they are really true color or 5-6 bit crud.

And Hey Presto, with a total expense of $500 (including long-ish VGA cables) he will have a total resolution exceeding that of any TV or monitor of comparable size and price. Unless there are $500 38" or 40" monitors with resolutions close to 4000 x 3000 ;-)

Any other conveivable solution would almost surely cost more (even a low-end large TFT TV with an analog 4-channel PiP mixer) and/or suffer in quality and/or be harder to setup and/or suffer severely from sync/speed/lag problems.

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