PI7 Z-Merge Video Wall

Here's a pretty exciting way to show off a special photo. I saw a video wall similar to this done in PhotoShop, and I liked it so well I decided to make one myself. The method used is completely different in PI7, but I think that the end results are just as attractive.

The entire wall of video monitors is made from a single path object duplicated, stacked and blended together with the new Z-Merge tool.

After the monitors are made, we'll make a simple 2D rectangle object and fill it with an image, then apply TV lines with the Multiply Merge method. To add some fun, duplicate the video wall image and place it on a Path Library computer object.

The video wall shown above is 75% of its original size. You can see the whole thing full size here.

Start by creating a new True Color image 500 X 500 pixels. It's likely you won't be able to see the whole thing at 100% size. Hit Ctrl+1 to view at Actual Size. Select the Outline Drawing tool. In the Attributes toolbar, click Shape and select the Rectangle. From the EasyPalette's Material Attributes Gallery, Plastic, double click on Black. In the Attributes toolbar, choose 3D Round for Mode. If the Path Panel didn't open automatically, click Panel in the Attributes toolbar to open it. From the 3D tab edit the Border to 7 and the Depth to 30. Draw a rectangle like this one.

draw a rectangle in 3D, black

This rectangular path object is the building block for the rest of the video wall. Select the Z-Merge tool (arrow) and select Z-Merge in the Attributes toolbar. You will not need to edit the Z-Elevation level at all in this tutorial. However, if you are interested in learning more about Z-Merge, which regulates the relative elevation of selected objects in order to combine them seamlessly, be sure to check out Carol Brooksbank's definitive Z-Merge Tutorial.

select Z-Merge

Right click on the object and Duplicate. Right click and Duplicate again, so you have three objects. Drag the objects into a horizontal line across the top of the base image. Since you duplicated a Z-Merged object, they all have the same properties now. Drag the middle object over to the left, so connects with and overlaps the original object. You'll see how the beveled edges blend right together. While one object is selected, Shift+Click the other two objects. Right click, Align, Top.

align tops of objects

Right click, Group to temporarily keep the objects together. Right click and Duplicate. Drag the 3 duplicate objects directly below the first row, overlapping the bottom of the first row. You'll notice that the two rows, including the highlights on the objects,  blend together very smoothly.

add second row

Duplicate the row two more times, adding each row so that it overlaps the bottom of the row above it smoothly. When you have four rows altogether, Shift+Click to select all of the rows, then right click, Align, Left (or Right, it doesn't really matter as long as the objects all line up in a straight vertical line). It will look like this.

Take a look at the Layer Manager and you'll see a thumbnail for each object. Note that each thumbnail shows a Z icon for Z-Merge status. 

layer manager shows Z-merge status

While all of the objects are still selected, it's a good idea to drag them over to the EasyPalette. Doing so will open the Add to EasyPalette dialog box. Give your objects a name (e.g., video wall) and save to My Library. That way you can use the video wall again on another photo, if you wish to do so.

Right click and choose Merge as Single Object. Take a look at your Layer Manager and you'll see that there's only one thumbnail, representing the merged objects. You'll also see that it's now an image object and it's not Z-Merged anymore.

image object, not z-merged

Select the Path Drawing tool. In the Attributes toolbar, click Shape and select Rectangle. From Mode, select 2D, color doesn't matter. Draw a large rectangle object the same size as the video wall. If you don't get the size exactly right, switch to the Transform tool, Resize option in the Attributes toolbar, and resize the object until it is the same size as the video wall. Right click, Arrange, Send Backward. While the big rectangle is still active, Shift+Click the video wall so that both objects are active at the same time. Right click, Align, Center Both. Make sure none of the big rectangle sticks out around the edges of the video wall.

video wall and rectangle centered

Hit the space bar to deactivate all objects. Click on the big rectangle to make it active. In the Attributes toolbar, choose Selection from the Mode dropdown list. We're going to fill this selection with an image.

Choose Edit, Fill (or hit Ctrl+F) to open the Fill dialog box. Click the Image tab. Select File and click the Browse button to access the Open dialog box. Browse to and select the desired image, then click OK. You'll see a thumbnail of the image in the Fill dialog box. Under How to fill select "Fit the image."

fill dialog box, image tab

Click OK to fill the big rectangle with the image. Right click, Convert to Object.

fill selection with image

Select the Transform tool and tap on the video wall object to make it active. In the Attributes toolbar, select the Perspective Transform option. Drag slightly inward on one of the top control points, making the object narrower at the top. Click on the big rectangle with the photo to make it active, then repeat the Perspective Transform option. Be careful to keep the objects the same size. If you're wondering why I didn't just Group the objects and do the Transform tool, here's the reason -- you can only Resize grouped objects. The other Transform options aren't available for groups.

perspective transform on both objects

striped imageYou don't have to put TV lines on your image, but it's an interesting look. If you'd like to add TV lines, right click and save this narrow striped image to your hard drive. Open it up in PI7. Choose Format, Data Type, RGB True Color. This will open up a True Color version of the striped image. Copy this into the Clipboard by hitting Ctrl+C or clicking the Copy button.

The big rectangle filled with the photo should still be active. Choose Edit, Fill (or Ctrl+F) to re-open the Fill dialog box. From the Image tab, choose Clipboard, Tile the image. Edit the Merge method to Multiply and the Transparency to 75.

fill with clipboard contents

Note that these Fill attributes work well for this image. They will probably work well for most photos. But if you have an image that is much darker or lighter than this one, you should experiment with different Merge and Transparency values. Click Preview to see how the fill looks over the image. If it looks good, click OK. If not, click Continue and try different Merge and Transparency options. When you're satisfied, click OK. The photo will be filled with the lines. If you're going to add a notebook computer to the bottom of the image, copy the line photo object into the Clipboard, then choose Edit, Paste, As a New Image. Leave it in its own window for the moment.

Click the blue title bar for the video wall image to make it active. Right click, Select All Objects. Right click, Merge as Single Object.  Choose Object, Shadow (or right click, Shadow) to add a drop shadow, if you'd like one. The video wall is essentially done.

To add a notebook computer showing the video wall, open the EasyPalette's Path Library. Drag from the Notebook thumbnail to an empty area in the work space. While the Grouped objects are active, choose Edit, Rotate & Flip, Flip Horizontally. Right click and choose Merge as Single Object. Right click and choose Properties. When the Properties dialog box opens, from the Position & Size tab, edit the size to 50%. Be sure to select "Keep aspect ratio" to constrain the proportions. If you added a shadow to the video wall, add the same shadow to the notebook computer. You'll have something like this.

With the Transform tool selected, drag the duplicate lined photo object onto the computer image. It will be way too big. You can use the Resize Transform option in the Attributes toolbar to make the image small enough to fill the notebook computer's screen. Rotate the image 5 or 10 degrees counterclockwise so that it's on the same plane as the notebook screen. You'll probably have to make the photo object a little wider than it should be to fit. Then choose the Distort Transform option from the Attributes toolbar to drag the control points (arrow) on each corner to fit the notebook screen shape. Shift+Click the notebook computer object, then right click, Merge as Single Object.

Drag the notebook computer object down to the lower left corner of the video wall. Add any text you'd like, then right click and Merge All.

I hope you had fun making this video wall. This Z-Merge technique would also be great for making window panes.

This tutorial uploaded 12/14/01

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