Tuesday, 26 February 2008

3 SCREENS

We have had the 3 screens setup in the office for a little bit now and they have their first official event as a trio tomorrow morning. We have tested a range of game engines and other things to get the feel of how this huge screen setup can work for us. Apart from the scale and awesome peripheral vision feel to the width the other things I notice now are the desire to have more height and the vast amount of heat generated by 3 LCDs beaming at you.

After a bit of playing I found that 3840x768 was the highest res that would work through the Matrox TripleHead2Go and the Mitsubishe 46" 1080 LCD screens. This res works with the wide aspect ratio of the BIG screens (circles are round even), while the higher ones dont work with these ratios. The Dell XPS1730 we have running the rig works for most tasks we throw its way, but running things at these extreme resolutions is pushing the friendship.

Under Windows the effect of such huge screens is different, you have real-estate to burn, but things are a long way apart at this res - the mouse has a loooong way to travel.

[The 3 screens running multiple windows - all enormous]

One of the neato things in the Matrox kit is the Bezel Management. In the game engines this lest us make the bezels feel just like the framework in a car or cockpit. So things are hidden behind the frame in essence which means that diagonals look straight and things dont 'pop' across that gap. This make the immersion all the more impressive!

[The 3 screens configuring the bezel management]

Sketchup is the modeller taking the place by storm, and it seems to cope quite nicely with the huge screens, interestingly you dont get much benefit from the extreme surround nature of the 3 (rather than 1). A wide model does convey something interesting - take this Opera House model as an example. The performance even on the grunty XPS with this model wasnt too hot - sketchup isnt good this way, but this HUGE res wasnt helping either.

[The 3 screens running a sketchup model]

The Lost Coast was an obvious next choice and it is a joy with the surround feel and the bezel mgt. Though when driving you are concentrating very much on the centre screen, the impact of the extra 2 is quite high, that extra peripheral vision really does increase the immersion. The lost coast has some beatuful lighting, textures, scenery and such that really look the part in this setup - I particularly like the waling through the rusting ship hull.

[The 3 screens running The Lost Coast]

Half Life 2 itself is another great way to experience the immersion the 3 screens bring. The now famous square at the start feels even more special. The colonaide on one side illustrates one of the tricks with such a wiiiiide rig. The perspective distortion on the sides can get really extreme. The wide narrow view we have is a bit like looking at things as if we were an old-school Cylon Warrior. So looking up or down slightly produces the effect below. You get used to this very quickly - but it looks a little odd if you are looking on at someone else drive.

[The 3 screens running HL2]

For something different we got EVE Online going, the epic space scenes look even more engulphing this way.

[The 3 screen running EVE]

Unreal III is an engine we will be taking up alot this year - however it doesnt quite cope with the untra wide aspect ratio. Though we are the correct height in-game the view looks very odd - almost like we are 2 ft tall. It is a pity we havent got this baby working for us.

That brings us to the mighty Crysis. Running at 3840x768 in any of the modern engines is asking alot, in Crysis it is asking the impossible. So even though it looked ok (medium) it was very choppy to play - we could stand relatively still and admire the panoramic beauty which is still mighty cool.

[The 3 screens running Crysis]

Lastly a quick pic showing the carnage on my desk while we were testing on the other. The 2 laptops M90 and my Mac and one of the big screens which is great for working collaboratively with people who come in and I was getting used to it for other tasks (except for the heat)

[One of the big screens on my insane desk]

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