Dataton Watchout reviewed

Dataton Watchout is a multi-display production and presentation system. It combines multiple displays and devices with standard computer and network technology to create presentations.

What do you use the software for?
We primarily use Watchout for live events and large corporate shows. We have also done a couple of fixed installations using Watchout.

For our live event work we are often asked to create large panoramic screens with content that either fills the whole screen or is shown as picture-in-picture.

Live events typically comprise at least three displays to give the audience that visual feeling of large projections. Often we will also have a couple of plasma screens connected to Watchout for digital signage and information to support the main display. The effect of different displays acting together or as one is a very cool feature, which is one of the strengths of Watchout and promotes the company’s messages very clearly.

Since it is impossible to anticipate the exact timing of a live event, we use a lot of looping video. Watchout is set to pause on the timeline, while the looping video continues to play, and we are ready to execute a transition to the next cue when the time comes.

What do you like about it?
I love the simplicity of the software and its stability. It is very powerful and, under the hood, there is lots of real-time processing in the rendering engine.

Also I have started to use the inputs and outputs in the new version 4.2 of Watchout, and I am very happy about these features. For example we use the output feature to send TCP/IP commands to other equipment like switchers, relay boxes and DMX commands.

What would you change?
There are a few things that could be improved for an easier workflow. This mostly comes down to feature requests that make editing easier in the production software, like adding a transition effect on a clip using Apple Final Cut Pro. This allows us to be able to split clips at the cursor point, offsetting videos, adding a pan effect for audio, and allowing us to send text cues to the message window from within the software. Of course it would also be nice to see real-time gaussian blur and a text engine - but I would be afraid that these kind of features might slow down the software. Maybe something for future upgrades.

In Use
Watchout is a very stable software, but we will always keep a couple of extra display computers up and running as a back up. We have experienced computer problems like a CPU-fan failing, which will cause the computer to shut off or spark power shortages. Because we take this precaution we never have any problems with the software, as long as we don't install other kinds of software, for example DVD-player software. We always use the production software for execution because we are often still programming up to the final moment.

For fixed installations we have used control systems like Medialon Manager to control Watchout through TCP/IP. This is a stable combination and the Medialon software can read the status from Watchout and send a status update via e-mail.

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