Input Maps are the key to running a show with Chaser and StageFlow. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that Input Maps are the key to running a good show in general. If you’re playing any type of setup that is more than a single 16:9 output, you’ll benefit from using Input Maps. Input Maps are so important I capitalize the word throughout this page. Input Maps are love, Input Maps are life.
So what’s an Input Map?
An Input Map is a logical layout of all the slices and screens that make up your stage. You use it to lay out content and to decide which screens show what. When creating custom content, it will serve as the guide to render everything to. During programming, you use it to check if everything is working as it should. Essentially, the Input Map is the representation of your stage in Resolume.
Practically, an Input Map is all of the slices in your stage, positioned snugly next to each other, without any overlaps, so that each slice has its own little spot to live in.
How to make an Input Map
The first thing you need is the LED pixelmap, also known as the output map. These come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes they come as an excel sheet. Sometimes they come as an image. Sometimes they’re already in Resolume’s output xml format.
Whatever the format, the output map tells you the exact size of each LED panel in your stage and its exact position in the LED processor. In other words, it will tell you the resolution and topleft coordinates of each LED panel, and which output it belongs to. The LED supplier should always provide you with this file before the show. It is essential and you cannot do a good show without it.
Once you have this info, you open Arena’s output setup, switch to the Output Transformation tab and enter the values for each slice, just slavishly copying the values as they are provided. If you’re lucky, the file is already in Resolume’s output xml format and you can just load it in.
Match Output Shape
Then it’s time to position the slices logically. The position in the output map is often determined by technical factors like optimizing the data sent down the fiber cables. Slices that are next to each other in the output map, can be on opposite sides of the stage, or vice versa. For the Input Map however, we’re optimizing for two things: composition size and intuitiveness.
Once you have the output map done, you switch to the Input Selection tab. You select all the slices, right click and choose Match Output Shape. This ensures that all slices are exactly the same size on the input and output and there is no unnecessary scaling.
The Input Map is your guide to the show. So it should have a logical layout. It should be easy to find a particular slice. Slices that are next to each other on the stage, should be next to each other in the Input Map. Slices on the left side of the stage should be on the left side of the Input Map. You get where I’m going with this.
Suppose you see something out of the ordinary happening on the output of the stage. Maybe it’s black where there should be a visual, maybe it’s glitching, maybe the colors are off. Whatever the cause, ideally, the moment you see it on the stage, you should be able to flick your eyes to that location in the Input Map. That way you immediately see if it’s something on your end or something downstream of the signal and you can troubleshoot accordingly.
It’s important to remember that Resolume will render every pixel on every layer at the composition resolution. The bigger your comp is, the harder it has to work. Even pixels displaying black or transparent count towards this total. It’s really in your benefit to keep your comp size as small as possible, because you want Resolume to run as smoothly as possible.
So if following the stage layout results in an Input Map with big unused gaps of black pixels doing nothing, don’t be afraid to do a little shuffling to pack those slices closer together. As long as they don’t overlap, it doesn’t really matter to the final output where a slice lives in the Input Map.
For example, it’s fine to stack long banners on top of each other, if that cuts your total composition size in half. Even though they are side by side forming a long strip on the actual stage, Resolume’s input to output transformation will make sure they’ll still come out looking correct.
Exporting to PNG
When you’re done, you can use Chaser to export your Input Map as a PNG file. Hit File > New to load the Resolume output setup you just created. Then hit File > Export Inputmap and bam, you have one of those perdy colordy images that everybody loves so much.
Tips and Tricks
- When naming slices, follow the naming convention the LED provider is using, even when it doesn’t make the most sense. Communicating with the technical crew on site is a lot easier when you both call the same thing by the same name.
- Having a more intuitive, easier to read pixel map outweighs optimized composition size. Remember that your Input Map is your view of the show, so 1 or 2 extra fps are useless when your map is a puzzle where you can’t find anything.
- When your stage is symmetrical, make your Input Map symmetrical too. This makes it easier to create mirrored looks.
- Keep an 8 pixel gap around every slice. Although this is more relevant on the output side, this way you have some margin for error for any misaligned panels or bleed from any AD conversions in the signal chain.