Developed in 2008, Martin P3 is a video system controller for Martin’s range of LED video panels. It provides a versatile platform for simple video mapping, addressing and distribution instead of using DVI cables. Since its release, a number of creative LED fixtures and moving lights have been developed for video and pixel mapping, but traditional protocols such as DMX, Art-Net and sACN are not compatible due to limitations with pixel count, synchronization and addressing. As a result, Martin P3 was extended in order to support creative LED fixtures in addition to LED video panels.
This blog will discuss the key features of P3 and explore how it can be used to map creative LED, video panels and fixtures.
P3 combines video merging capabilities with DMX lighting controls, all in one infrastructure. It offers one centralized location to address, map, and manage all fixtures. You can create a layout of fixtures to map video from various sources, such as:
- Media server
- Video mixer
In addition, you can patch fixtures remotely via the P3 System Controller, eliminating the need to physically address fixtures using their display. Likewise, P3 helps cut down on costs associated with running hundreds of universes with Art-Net or sACN, as P3 can supply large quantities of pixels without the need for additional processing nodes.
P3-enabled Martin Fixtures
Martin has a wide range of P3-enabled fixtures for various applications, including creative LED fixtures, moving heads, and architectural creative LED fixtures. The current catalog includes:
Creative LED Fixtures:
Architectural Creative LED Fixtures:
All of the fixtures listed above offer controllable pixels for displaying video. And many more P3-enabled MAC, VDO & Exterior fixtures are in the pipeline.
P3 System Controllers
There are currently four different P3 system controllers that offer a range of pixel output for any size video and lighting installation. This includes:
- Up to 20,736 pixels output
- Screen-capture input
- Art-Net input
- Windows computer (Mac version on the way)
- Free of charge from Martin website
- Up to 100,000-pixel output
- DVI input
- Art-Net input
- 19” rack mount
- Up to 520,000 pixels
- DVI input
- Art-Net input
- 19” rack-mount
- Up to 2,080,000 pixel output
- DVI input
- SDI input
- Genlock input
- Art-Net input
- 19” rack mount
Basic P3 System
It’s important to understand the basic setup of P3 in order to properly route data from the input to the fixtures. A basic P3 setup includes an input from a video source, lighting console or both. The video source can come from a media server, switcher, or camera system and is sent via DVI, HDMI or 3G-SDI. The DMX source comes from the lighting console via a DMX cable or through Art-Net or sACN via Ethernet.
After P3 receives the video and/or DMX input, it outputs the data to the lighting fixtures via the P3 network.
P3 allows you to create a visual map showing where your fixtures will be on stage, like a lighting plot. This allows you to map the video input from the media server onto the fixtures and create a preview to see how the mapping will look on your setup. P3 takes care of all rotation and scaling, including products with different pixel pitches. The system allows you to easily create a visual map by angling, grouping, scaling and splitting fixtures.
You need to start with a background in order to create your fixture map. You can use different types of backgrounds, including:
- Blank background
- Imported lighting plot
- Imported stage or set drawing
- Imported video input
After you select your background, you can map your fixtures into the background from either the fixture library or discovered devices library. The fixture library contains all Martin P3-enabled fixtures, allowing you to build your map and patch without having real fixtures connected. The discovered devices library will show any fixtures that are connected to the P3 system.
Once you select the fixture, you can place it on your background to represent what is on your stage. There are different tools to help you map out your lights, including:
- Align tool: aligns fixtures horizontally or vertically
- Spread tool: spreads out fixtures evenly
- Group tool: groups fixtures together so you can move them together
- FreeScale mode: allows the video-input to be scaled up if the stage is “bigger” than full-HD resolution
- Draw mode: draw test patterns such as alignment bar on canvas for easier fine-alignment
After you map out all of the fixtures, you can preview how the video will look in the “Video Input” view. Here, you can select a video input source to preview your fixtures, which includes:
- HD-SDI A
- HD-SDI B
Likewise, there are options to manipulate the video input source, including:
Once the input is selected, some fixtures will start playing video immediately if they are only video-controlled, such as the VDO Spectron LED strip. Fixtures with other attributes, such as pan, tilt, and zoom need to be patched into a lighting console in addition to P3 to control those attributes. P3 can only control the video pixels.
Patching and Addressing Fixtures
P3 allows you to directly patch and address fixtures from the controller, saving you time from having to physically walk to each fixture and address it.
To patch lighting fixtures into the P3, select the fixtures in setup mode and place them on your background. Once the fixtures are selected, go to the DMX and Motion menu. Click on configured devices to patch. When patching, you will be able to select the control mode of your fixtures.
Some fixtures have a Hybrid Mode, which includes a channel to allow you to toggle between P3 control and lighting console control. There is a channel in the Hybrid Mode that allows you to switch between the two modes via the lighting console by using their DMX mode or video mode. More recent fixtures have a P3 Mix channel, allowing more advanced cross-fading between DMX and video. This is especially helpful because you can switch (or crossfade) between the modes during playback for easy control of the lights from either the P3 or the console. Likewise, you can choose a universe and a starting address for the fixture when patching.”
Additionally, when patching P3, you can split the fixture into segments, which separates the pixels into different control channels. Without P3, the setup for full pixel control can require many Network Processing Units, DMX nodes, power sources and cables, which can be expensive and time-consuming. However, because P3 allows fixtures to be split into segments, it reduces the need for NPUs, nodes and most cable runs because it allows all pixel effects to be run directly from P3 via Cat5 Ethernet or DMX.
Apart from patching Light Controls via DMX, Art-Net or sACN, the P3 System Controller also allows you to patch Motion Controls. These allow you to move and rotate the fixtures on the canvas using a lighting desk or motion control system.
The P3 System Controller also shows real-time status information from all connected fixtures, giving a full overview of the entire system at all times. Firmware upgrades of connected fixtures are also handled by the P3, removing the need for other specific tools or interfaces.
P3-PC allows a laptop to act as the media player and lighting console for all fixtures on one device. This is helpful for pre-production and pre-programming because you can render your setup onto a picture of the stage or a building using P3. This can help you visualize how the content will look on the layout of your fixtures without physically having them. Likewise, you can also visualize the Art-Net coming in through the lighting console, making it a great tool to preprogram presets and cues.
P3 in Fixed/Architectural Applications
P3 is used in various fixed or architectural applications and can monitor and address fixtures remotely, which is extremely helpful in architectural settings where fixtures can’t be easily accessed. Remote monitoring allows you to trigger advanced presets via the web server or DMX/Art-Net. Additionally, the webserver shows a live view of incoming video to easily monitor the output. P3 also has a P3 Fixture Adjuster, which allows you to match outdated fixtures with new replacements to easily perform service without having to re-calibrate all your fixtures.
P3 can store presets or “snapshots” of different fixture layouts, patches and DMX modes, which is helpful for complex applications, such as television shows with moving set pieces. Likewise, P3 presets are extremely helpful for festivals with acts that feature different layouts, DMX modes and patches. The P3 presets allow for simple and fast recall in a single second.
I hope you enjoyed this article, but I also invite you to view my full Martin Learning Session Webinar video replay: ‘Basic Introduction to Martin P3′.