Last week I once again saw a need to share the output of an Android device. As I’ve described previously, this requires the use of an HDMI splitter to feed both a monitor and the HDMI capture card in my vMix PC. The monitor satisfies that HDCP handshake, which allows the PC to see the video stream.
However, there are times when it’s just not convenient or practical to have an extra monitor involved. This came up recently in a thread in the Wirecast support forum. Someone wants to capture the screen of a number of Mac Mini’s in order to bring multiple Skype video calls into a streaming production. They run the Mac Mini’s headless, accessing the Mac desktops using a software screen sharing application.
A software approach to collecting the Mac screen is definitely less costly than a multi-port HDMI capture card and the requisite cabling. Further, even if a hardware approach was implemented they may need to satisfy the HDCP handshake, which implies multiple splitters & monitors. That’s a clunky and costly arrangement.
It also seems that the Mac Mini suffers poor video performance when operated completely headless with a screen sharing application.
It then occurred to me that there is another way. CompuLab offer a range of HDMI & DisplayPort dongles that they call the Fit-PC Headless. The tiny plugs are intended to connect to a computer or gaming console in place of a monitor. They simulate a monitor, which enables the video output at unconstrained levels of performance.
According to CompuLab:
On a headless PC
One of the key requirements in using a PC without a display attached (headless PC) is remote desktop access, but in many cases configuring the headless PC to support high resolution remote desktop proves to be so challenging that sometimes users connect a display to the PC just to be able to have remote desktop access!
I have transitioned my desktop video activities from Wirecast to vMix. vMix outperforms in so many ways. It’s NDI-based desktop sharing is one fine example one example. I can see how a display emulator might simplify some of the things that I do on occasion. It’s worth $15 to give them a try.
These little display emulators, combined with vMix’s NDI-based desktop sharing might just be an affordable, high-performance way to gather multiple desktops into a streaming production.