Hackintosh Visual Media Server

The Hackintosh VJ/Media server project came about through the need to have a powerful, stable and reliable multi platform machine for live performance, VJ and visual installation use.

After weeks of hunting, nothing on the market could do exactly what I needed and anything close was either grossly over priced or grossly under-powered.

The requirements:

It needed a machine that could run realtime generative content and span it across at least 9 video outputs for projection use. It had to be as flexible as possible in terms of what it could cater for and be able to run both mac and pc applications. As well as multiple outputs, it needed to be capable of live video/camera switching and live video streaming.

Some of the possibilities this media server can be used with are:

  • Large scale multi projector events.
  • LED screen setups at festivals.
  • 360 degree geodesic dome installations.
  • Realtime, generative graphics and animation using a single machine.
  • High resolutions video walls.
  • Live VJ and video clip triggering on both Mac and PC platforms.
  • Large corporate setups which require multiple projector blends.
  • Events which require video switching between SD/HD SDI cameras.
  • Live webcasts for sporting or current affairs events.

The biggest requirement by far was stability. If this machine is to be used in live broadcast-critical environments, it has to be rock solid, reliable and stay running in the most harshest conditions (heat/humidity/dust).

The Build (hardware):

Choosing the parts for this machine was a lengthy process. There were a few really great resources online which helped with compatibility (I’ll list them at the bottom of the page) which was one of the main problems in a hybrid mac/pc setup.

In the end, I opted for the following hardware components:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K (LGA1155, Ivy Bridge)
  • RAM: 16Gb Kensington Hyper X DDR3 1600
  • Motherboard: GA-Z77X-UP5-TH (LGA1155, Ivy Bridge)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660Ti, Intel HD4000 (onboard), Nvidia GeForce GT440
  • CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro-Series Liquid CWCH60
  • Solid State Drive: 2x Samsung 256GB SSD
  • Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda SATA 6Gb/s 1TB HDD
  • Power Supply: Corsair HX Professional Series 650-Watt – CMPSU-650HX
  • Network: TP-Link Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter with 3 x 2dBi Antenna (TL-WDN4800)
  • Video Capture: 2x Black Magic Intensity Pro PCIe cards

The case is a 4U Carillon made from heavy duty steel and what feels like cast iron! Carillon were a London manufacturer of high end audio PC systems for music studios.

The Build (software):

Once the hardware was installed and working, the next step was to setup the raid of the two SSD drives in bios and partition them so both Windows and OSX could boot from them. The best way to start here is with a tool called UniBeast which allows you to set up the bootloader and install OSX via a bootable memory stick image. While booting from this OSX image, you have the options to format the drive. If you are dual booting from one hard drive you’ll need to partition in a specific way to avoid windows taking over the partition table.

Here are the steps for setting up the hard drive for dual booting:

Boot OS X installer from the UniBeast memory stick -> utilities -> disk utility
Format SSD GUID with partitions sized as you need as follows:
1st partition – name Win7, format MSDOS FAT
2nd partition – name OS X format Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
Exit disk utility
Exit installer.
Reboot with Win7 install DVD in tray.
At the install screen, select the MSDOS partition and install windows.

When windows is installed you can reboot with the memory stick and install OSX on the second partition.

At this stage, download a tool called MultiBeast, it will allow you to install drivers for your specific hardware and also customise your bootloader which will allow you to switch between windows and OSX on system startup.

When you have got a working system with both OS’s, it’s a good idea to make a disk image for backup purposes. There is a utility called SuperDuper for mac which will do this nicely.


The testing process involved overclocking the processor and RAM on an extremely hot day (42 degrees in this case) and leaving it to burn in for 24hours running a CPU stress tester which maxed the CPU out at 100%

Keep a close eye on the temperature of both the CPU and the ambient temp inside the case. For this CPU it’s highest temperature reading was 70 degrees on full load which is just under what it is spec’ed to perform at.

Next is the real world testing which included running Resolume on windows and VDMX on mac for 12 hours each randomly cycling through effects and clips to see if there were any compatibility issues or codec problems.

Finishing touches:

Finally, integrated into the system are two BlackMagic Intensity Pro PCIe cards which give me the video capture, switching and live stream capability. I’m also looking into the BlackMagic ATEM TV Studio switcher as a hardware redundant backup. All this is to be racked into a shock resistent 4U road case with extra cooling and ventilation.

Custom Builds:

If you would like one built for you or something similar, customised for your specific requirements, please contact us using this contact form and we’ll get back to you with a quote.



Comment below if you have any questions, I’m happy to help if you are building your own and get stuck along the way.

8 responses to “Hackintosh Visual Media Server”

  1. Simon Ross says:

    i recently decided my next step for Vj work is to build a similar set up to what you have here, to run VDMX. i am not necessarily concerned with running windows. i want to have live inputs and multiple outputs, looking at your build i am wondering if their was a specific reason for your graphics card configuration, for instance why not 2 identical GTX’s for instance, i am just curious as to if that particular configuration has anything to do with the way your outputs work and how they perform.

    i would appreciate any advice you can give me on my build, I’ve been doing a lot of research on this recently and am so happy i came across your work.


    • Jamie says:

      Great question! There was no specific reason other than that’s what I had kicking about, and that from the research I did they all seemed to play nice together in other hackintosh builds. The motherboad also only supports 1 16x PCIe slot, the other is 8x so there was a potential bottle neck with two GTX cards. I haven’t noticed any frame rate drop-outs with the current setup though so more graphics power isn’t needed just yet.

  2. Alexandre says:

    Hey, what Osx are you using? And what brand is this Gtx660. Thanks!

  3. Timothy says:

    I am building a 24-core, 64gb DDR3, k5000, 5 angel bird raid cards with 32gb ddr5 and 4 SSD hookups (2gb file copy in 2.5 seconds), custom double wide case.

  4. Manfred says:

    Hey, nice build. Have you ever (on OSX) experienced any glitches or (software-)crashes?

    • Jamie says:

      Hey, No crashes on OSX actually. A few minor bluescreens on Windows 7 when detecting new devices when 5+ projectors are plugged in, but that’s more of a Windows thing.

  5. Amrit says:

    Nice build.

    Going to put one together myself as I really want to be able to have more displays connected than I can with my current MacBook Pro. 😉

    Wondering how many displays you can hook up to your configuration?

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