When Apple announced its new Macbook Pro with Retina Display back in June, I quickly saw its potential as a lightweight projection design control machine. The slim laptop comes with two Thunderbolt ports in addition to an HDMI output, making it capable of controlling three projectors without the need for any additional peripherals. Having tested these outputs with both Isadora and Figure 53 QLab, I was pleased to find that this stripped down workflow works.

The flexibility of the machine makes it the perfect projection design computer for mobile or budget-conscious productions. In many situations, the flexibility of the Macbook Pro’s outputs eliminates the expense of additional display computers, video cards, and multi-display adapters.

The only downside to this laptop for projection design and playback purposes is that it lacks an internal Ethernet port. This can be overcome via a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter but at the sacrifice of one display output. That said, the need for network connectivity is somewhat mitigated by the decreased reliance on additional dedicated display computers. If needed, show control via DMX or MIDI can be also handled with common USB adapters without issue. Of course, you can also try using WiFi as the network, but your mileage may vary.

I tried this single-computer system recently on a workshop for Basil Twist’s forthcoming Rite of Spring and found that it performed very well.