What is a Media Server? Do I Need One? Is it the Same as Pixel Mapping?

Have you ever wondered what a media server is, and more importantly – if you need one? Find out in this video.

Pixel Mappers

A pixel mapper works by arranging the lights in your program to mirror however they are set up in real life. This can be displayed as either 2D or 3D. Once you have it on your canvas you can then play content on it. The content that you choose to use can be any sort such as words, images, or generated things. The content will then be mapped by taking video content and placing it onto your lights.

You can easily use this for stage lighting fixtures, LED pixel strips, individual Christmas light pixels; essentially anything that works via ArtNet or SECN is going to fall under the umbrella of pixel mapping. Depending on your chosen program you can even take media and install it into your lighting. There are truly a ton of options as far as the things that you can create.

Media Servers

Media servers actually made an appearance in the lighting world prior to pixel mappers. A media server is a playback device for video signals. It comes in the form of a box that you buy and configure to your liking. You may find software or hardware based approaches. It allows you to arrange your different screens or outputs, set their sizes, and then output through multiple video outputs on the back of the box to different devices. You can connect this to projectors, TVs, LEDs, etc.

A lot of times when you are starting out, you are going to be using a computer. Generally, these days, most pixel mappers will incorporate some sort of media server together with it and vice versa.

Choosing Between The Two

When choosing between pixel mappers and media servers it comes down to deciding what is more important to you and what will best meet your needs. Many software programs actually offer the ability to do LED pixels within the software but it’s more of an aside rather than the main function, which is doing multiple video outputs. A pixel mapper generally does a single video output with its main focus on pixel mapping.

When making your choice between the two it is important to think about if you are looking more to do lights on a canvas with content running across them or if you are looking to arrange multiple video outputs with minimal amount of pixels.

The two can actually work quite well together bridging a gap where the other is lacking, or separately depending on your needs for your display or show.


Both pixel mappers and media servers have a number of amazing, beneficial features that can help you make your show amazing. It really comes down to what type of creativity you feel like working with and what you feel will suit your show the best. Weighing out these options will help you make the best decision for yourself and give you the best possible show or display from start to finish.

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