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What's the difference between WATCHOUT and Pandora's Box?


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Hello everyone,

What's the difference between WATCHOUT and Pandora's Box?

I keep getting asked the question more and more when I'm meeting potential clients or AV companies for the first time.  Some have not heard of WO and others use Pandora exclusively but are looking for alternatives.   I'm a big fan of WO and have been using it for 11 years to produce impressive events.  I've never had an opportunity to operate a Coolux solution or speak in depth with a Pandora programmer, so what I understand is only what I've read and watched in online tutorials.  that's why I find it difficult to answer the question with any confidence.

Anyone in the WO world that has some market differentiators?  Any financial reason why AV companies would choose one over the other?  Is pre-production and content planning important to clients anymore?


This is what I think I know.
  • WO uses an easy timeline-based approach to programming content.  Pandora seems very clunky as a GUI and requires deeper technical knowledge to operate.
  • WO Computers are not proprietary so typically they cost less to own and operate.  
  • WO works best when advance pre-production is used.  Pandora can operate more on the fly.
  • WO is a presentation tool, Pandora is a playback tool.
I know I'm missing a ton of differentiators and my comments above may be incorrect, so If you could contribute your ideas I think it would be helpful to all WO users.
Thank you in advance


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Hi David


I would be interested as well in any input form people that have used both systems.  I've worked along side Pandora's Box, and in some ways it seems to mirror Watchout as far as final outcomes.  I think your list of differentiators sums up my observations.  Basically, Coolux is a hardware based system and as such rental/production companies like it since it meshes well with their in house switching systems (Spyder seems to be associated with Coolux frequently) and generates higher rental income.  There is a perception that Watchout takes too long on the production side which I believe is a result of how easy it is to use.  Since there is a low cost of entry and a short learning curve, you can get yourself buried quickly.  With a seasoned operator, many of the bottlenecks in Watchout can be planned for and avoided.


I have always tried to take a platform agnostic approach to the technology, and as such I am very interested in hearing from Coollux operators as far as what the advantages are.  I think both systems can accomplish the same things.  They each have situations that lend themselves to the tools available.  Your reference to a presentation tool vs. a playback tool is the best analogy I can think of.



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I think much of their differences stem from their backgrounds. Pandora came from a lighting background, and was initially operated more or less manually as a lighting instrument (e.g., from a lighting console). Their timeline was added somewhere along the way. WATCHOUT came from a show production background, and had a timeline at its core from the outset. Here, interactivity and DMX in/out was added along the way.


For many rental houses, having an expensive system to rent, which often also requires an on-site operator, is more attractive than a more cost effective solution that requires/allows for more of the production to happen ahead of time.


Just my 2c. I'm by no means well versed in Pandora, but know bit about the background of the products.



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Same same but different.


Coolux is owned by Christie (which is why you will see them lumped together alot).


PB was initially designed as a dmx media server. That is where it's beginnings lie. Over time it has morphed into a real power house. It can pretty much do what watchout can do with some limitations....


Like most dmx media servers it is a bit likited in layers. The more powerful hardware boxes are pretty much unlimited but the less powerful machines may only be able to deal with 4 or 8 layers.


Pb is not just a hardware only solution - you can license per output (& 4 layers) to run from your own hardware.


They also have a very powerful tool called widget designer which allows for some very complex automation and control.


Watchout can do a lot of the same things- it is more elegant to program wo in my opinion - but pb is probably a touch more powerful for live "busked" shows and interactive shows (performer tracking, interactive installations etc). Wo has the better time-line.

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Hello Mindopera,


I use both system extensively amongst others, I have been using Watchout since version 2 and Pandora's box since version 4. I build workstations and solutions using both system. I mapped planes, buildings, hard sets and made ultra large projection for the past 20years using both system, well, Pandora's Box got in the mix the last 5 years actually. I program Coolux Widget Designer also and will get into Watchnet as soon as my schedule gets less crazy.


In short:


Watchout is a real-time interactive compositing software, think after effect in realtime. It was conceived and evolved with a video workflow in mind. It does 444 and uses various compositing technique which makes it far more advanced than Pandora's box as far as image quality goes, on the other hand it used to be slower and far less responsive than PB, that changed with version6, PB still has the edge in interactivity especially when tracking is involved but it is not as clear cut as it used to be. Watchout use the progressively complex approach, means that when opening the app everything is super simple and it will get as complex as you want it when you want it, but it starts simple. Watchout is almost all contained in the Production app, Watchnet, the dynamic image server and iOS apps are part of the ecosystem but aren't needed for normal operations. 


Pandora's box is a media server, think videos used as lighting devices. It was built with a lighting workflow in mind. It is very responsive, extensively programmable and quite stable and versatile, in my opinion way more versatile than Watchout. It used to be the only package out of both to do 3D mapping. However it is at most 422 therefore keying and blend effects are rough, display aliaising and overall lack the finish watchout has. Also it is a layer based license, so you will have to choose how many video layers you will need when buying the product, a faster machine does NOT translate into more layers. It is either non-linear or very linear, basically you either program with a lighting console or with the included timeline tools which are very limited because of the license method. So for example if you have a sequence using layer 1 and 2, your other sequence cannot use these layers or the content won't be shown if present at the same time, greatly limiting non linear shows using the provided tools. Compositing works in a very weird way, you have access to blend effects for example but it can resize other layers, or obfuscate some, it will treat all layers under the effect and not only those you wish. No folder tracks, no groups, just basically the most advanced playback machine there is, not compositing, even though it does a few compositing tricks. Pandora's Box uses the versatile approach which means that every options are there and are in your face, nothing is really hidden, it makes the software quite hard to learn at first but it gets quite powerful as soon as you get it, you have to make it simpler on purpose but the Widget Designer makes it very easy to do so once you learned it. Pandora's Box is an ecosytem, you have the manager to manage servers, players, medias and timelines, the warper to warp content, Widget Designer to program interactivity or user interfaces, an app to monitor and start servers and players, and a floating menu to access various options like resolutions and others.


That said the biggest difference in the end as a user between both platform is service. Watchout has outstanding service, forums are monitored and people will easily get help here. When communicating with the people at Dataton they receive criticism and suggestion and consider them genuinely. It used to be different back in version 2 with their awful email forums but it changed a lot and now are an example of how to do stuff and consider your customers. Coolux on the other hand are very proud and easily offended. Their distributor here suggested I write to them and exposes the problems I had with the solution initially so I could get help on how to do stuff or at least know what's up. I received an awful letter of complaint where my distributor was being asked to talk to me because how dare I question their product and say it's not optimal. seriously, I am not joking, I was treated like a child by overproud support and have been reprimanded. After that I still kept using their product and even went as far as going to Germany to receive private teaching with my colleague for 4 days. I had a great time and they were very nice and helpful but my initial contact with them was just plain awful. After that visit we had to call support because of some serious issues where their warper kept loosing and corrupting our warp files but they don't work past 17:00 in Germany so screw us. When we finally got to them they told us completely unhelpful stuff and were basically of no help. Now that they have been bought by Christie things are just... not so alive, they released version 5.9 and version6 is told to be a fantastic upgrade went it will come but other than a patch and rumors things don't move much.



If you need more info, PM me I will be glad to provide assistance.

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