ArKaos has stepped just a little bit further out of its VJ booth by releasing Media Master, a software-only media server. Media Master’s list of features aren’t necessarily going to surprise or wow anyone used to working with media servers: 8 fully-controllable layers, various blending modes, mapping to various simple shapes, etc. It does have a few neat little touches, including support for MSEX (Media Server Extension - enables late model lighting consoles to see thumbnails of content on the console), a Flash Player component that allows in-application audio visualization, a built-in LED mapper, and a Library Management window that isn’t as revolutionary as they make it sound but is still well designed and very useful.

There are some drawbacks as well. The interface, though it so closely resembles the Hippotizer in layout that I worry about litigation, feels less powerful and graceful than Hippo: controls, data fields, and previews are too small or misaligned, making the feedback to the user harder. There is also no way to use the Media Master for playback without DMX control or any way of incorporating live video input.

All of this being said, there are two very important reasons ArKaos has made an important contribution to the market with the Media Master: price and platform. It’s not the first software-only media server on the market—since Barco/HighEnd released Catalyst back into the wild, SAMSC has come out with three software only versions. However, at comparable feature sets, Media Master is slightly cheaper. I’m hoping the increased competition will help drive prices down even further. Also, Media Master is dual-platform with a promise to “deliver blistering speed on any machine on which it is installed.” Aside from making me want to drag my old 486 out of the closet and really test that perhaps hyperbolic claim, Media Master gives me hope for flexible, affordable, and capable media playback options in the future.