The Future of Pro AV
The digital transformation of network-connected devices has reshaped on-demand entertainment, home security, workspace communications, and more. We are in an era of IT innovation. The Pro AV industry is also experiencing a turning point with the transition from proprietary circuit-based audio-visual connectivity to “AV-Over-IP”.
What is AV-Over-IP?
The term “AV-Over-IP” refers to Audio/Video over Internet Protocol. Using standard network protocols, such as local area networks (LAN)/wide area networks (WAN) to stream synchronized Audio, Video, and auxiliary control data through an IP network. It provides a wide range of advantages over traditional AV switching & distributing methods through interoperability between vendor equipment, scalability, distance, and additional services like remote management.
Traditional AV networks and infrastructures are built with three main components:
- Referred to as ‘source,’ transmitters are responsible for audio/video capture and transmitting
- Referred to as ‘designation,’ receivers are responsible for audio/video receiving and display
- Matrix Switches are the backbone of audio/video distribution systems. The number of ports in the matrix is comprised of input ports x output ports and defines the routing path between “source” and “designation” devices connected to the switch. Additionally, matrix switches often provide video composition and duplication capability for one to many or vice versa routing schemes.
AV network connectivity is circuit-based, wire to wire, and commonly utilizes copper cables in coaxial or twisted pairs. Fiber optic is also utilized for an extended range. Depending on the circuitry and protocol behind the ports, separated audio and control signal cables are also required to interconnect the video devices.
Challenges Facing Interoperability
Interoperability depends on the circuit design behind the ports and is based on video protocols like HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, and SDI in digital, or component, S-video, and Composite in an analog fashion. Pro AV vendors are likely to select their own standards/specifications to serve their target market or end user’s requirements. As a result, equipment may be incompatible with others. For example, 3G-SDI, a common Serial-Digital-Interface to support Full HD video via coaxial cable, can be transmitted/received through Level A, Level B, or Level B-DS. EDID and HDCP are options in HDMI. They also define device video/audio and encryption/decryption capability. Different vendors design “designations”, “source” equipment, or matrix switches differently. End users may experience incompatibility and potentially break the video chain by integrating equipment from different vendors.
The number of ports of a matrix switch is a major limitation of the total “source” and designation” that can be supported. Replacing a high port count matrix switch can be costly and cascading may only work for vendor-specific, if applicable. Additionally, routing distance is dependent on the protocol behind the ports and many are not designed for long distances. In this case, an extender or repeater device would be required. While SDI and Fiber optic provide long reach, the cost of cabling is concerning for large-scale deployment. Centralized or remote management of each end node within the traditional AV network is not inherent with video protocols and a separate communication link must be introduced for such service.
AV-Over-IP vs Traditional AV
The main difference between traditional AV networks and AV-Over-IP is that AV-Over-IP utilizes a standard IP network to transmit and receive audio/video data signals in packetized form. Standard packetization enables IP-based switching or routing and is no longer based on the circuit design behind physical ports. Due to this transition, a transmitter is often referred to as an Encoder and a Decoder for a receiver. Standard IP network switches are used as an A/V switcher instead of a matrix switch. The expansion of a network switch is a convenient, cost-friendly solution in comparison to replacing a matrix switch as adding an additional encoder/decoder device or changing the routing scheme will not require a system overhaul.
Another main advantage of utilizing a standard IP network is transmitting distance. Category Cable (CAT5/6) guarantees a maximum of 100 meters from switch to switch and an unlimited distance between two AV endpoints that connect to the network. Network accessibility is the foundation of AV-Over-IP and the device management/service can be implemented as part of the AV-Over-IP network interface to provide remote access with ease.
Which AV-Over-IP Protocol is Ideal for Your Design?
A number of AV-Over-IP protocols have been introduced in recent years. Each has its Pros and Cons. SDVoETM is one of the leading solutions for low latency transmission of AV-Over-IP up to uncompressed 4K video stream. SDVoE stands for Software Defined Video-Over-Ethernet, a full stack software solution that supports all 7-layers of OSI and adopts IEEE 802.3 10G Ethernet standard as the backbone for future-proofing.
The SDVoE Alliance is a non-profit consortium that seeks to standardize transporting AV signals over Ethernet in Pro AV environments. Its steering members include, Black Box, Christie Digital, IDK Corporation, NETGEAR, Semtech, and ZeeVee. Semtech is the ASIC provider behind the standard. Their BlueRiver™ SoC series enables equipment vendors to develop comprehensive SDVoE compatible products and single chip solutions that replace traditional matrix switches, AV/KVM extenders, video wall controllers, and multi-viewer with embedded network transmitters/receivers to support standard off-shelve Ethernet switches.
Looking for more information on how you can future-proof your AV design? Our team of expert Applications Engineers are eager to help. Consultation is free and accessible throughout your entire design cycle. Contact Symmetry Electronics today!
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