Barco recently released a new line of media servers: the Barco XHD-200 and XHD-400. The XHD-400 comes with three configuration options: the 400, 402, and 404. Although Barco developed the hardware for this new endeavor, the software platform is X-Agora, which is a product of Moment Factory, a Montreal-based media and entertainment studio. The current X-Agora software has been around in-house at Moment Factory for a while and early versions were used on shows 7+ years ago.
On the hardware side, the new XHD servers have a maximum of one 4k output on the 400 range and two 2k outputs on the 200 range. The 400 range in comparable to middle range media servers on the market today. A more powerful version of these servers is slated for release later this year, which will be competitive with the top of the line servers offered by competitors today. The rear panel of the 200 and 400 series is basically the back of a normal rack mount PC rather than having all the connections custom engineered for this industry as seen with Avolites Ai, d3 technologies, and Green Hippo to name a few. While most needed connections are there, it lacks an XLR input if you were to run the server off of timecode. The beefier version due out later this year will have a custom back panel and should be a bit more rugged than the 200 and 400 series.
Offering the X-Agora system in a mainstream market, however, is exciting. As X-Agora was developed by Moment Factory for in-house use, bringing the software to the masses creates more competition and hopefully will help push the field to new and better heights. The software has been re-written over the past year to make it more powerful. One of its selling points is its 3D projection mapping capabilities. Many of the features are similar to those we see with d3, Pandora’s Box, and Hippo. The software puts an emphasis on projector study and presentation to clients. In this realm, it has some unique tools such as WYSIWYG integration as well as specific projector measuring and presentation tools. In addition to the 3D interface, there is also a 2D interface for shows that would not benefit from the 3D workflow. The feature that is unique to X-Agora is their 3D projection study tool, which allows the user to determine optimal projector placements, chart the brightness on the 3D object given the specific projector placements, view pixel density, shadows, and output this information in a clean, presentation ready format.
This is an interesting new direction in the market for a company to build hardware to run an independently developed server platform. Until now, most major server companies have had purpose-built hardware that runs the software they offer. While the XHD servers are purpose built for X-Agora, it is new for two companies to come together like this. The current XHD product line serves the entry and mid-level markers. With the big brother right around the corner, it will quickly have enough firepower to compete with the other pro-level servers on the market. If the X-Agora platform can capture a large enough market share, this combination could quickly became a big player in the media server market.