November 22, 2005

Building a Linux video jukebox for an anime convention

Author: Amy R. Zunk

How do you run video to four different video rooms at an anime convention without having a staff member change tapes or DVDs at regular intervals? How do you run a video room where viewers can choose what to watch and when to watch it? You hire an open source developer to code a video keg and video jukebox.

Roy Harms, the CEO of METROCON, Tampa, Fla.'s largest anime convention, was trying to figure out a way to play non-stop anime, Japanese live action films, and other videos of interest in four video rooms at the convention. He wanted an inexpensive solution that was stable, and that wouldn't require a staff member to change out videotapes or DVDs at the end of every program. And he needed something that could play for three days straight with no interruptions.

"While I am a Windows person by nature, I decided that I didn't want to go with a Windows-based solution," Harms said. "Laptops with Windows loaded on them are costly. Security was another issue. With all that video being on a laptop, it would be easy for an attendee to simply close it up and walk off with it. And lastly, I wanted a dedicated solution that I could use again and again, with it having only one purpose."

Harms described his needs to Ian Blenke, a software engineer and open source advocate from Tampa who had been using Linux since one of its earliest incarnations. Blenke was up for the challenge.

"I've been interested in doing this kind of project for some time," Blenke said. "I wanted to find a way to integrate the MythTV PVR (personal video recorder) and MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) into one box. The video keg was just the natural progression of that idea."

The idea was to find an inexpensive PC, install a distribution of Linux, and write some custom code what would allow preloaded video to be scheduled and played without interruption. They also wanted to develop a jukebox-like interface for one of the boxes so that attendees could choose what video they wanted to watch and when they wanted to watch it.

Blenke describes the goals and details the process of building the Linux video keg in his blog.

The video kegs were locked in the main video control center while coax cabling ran from each keg to each of the video rooms. For the jukebox, a touch screen and keg were placed in the video room but locked securely to a piece of immovable furniture.

The video keg and the video jukebox were a huge success at METROCON. All four units ran smoothly with no issues. The staff loved them because they didn't have to babysit any hardware or worry about changing videos, and the attendees loved them because they could choose any video they had seen at the convention throughout the weekend.

The project saved the convention time, money, and manpower and wound up helping contribute to the convention's continued success.

Category:

  • Open Source
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