Terms like “revolutionary” or “game changing” are heavily over used in this industry, and usually without justification as often the claimed “revolutionary game changing” technology is not much more than an updated take on current practice. However occasionally we do see advances in technology that are truly disruptive and have the potential to significantly change the way systems as designed and implemented. Video over IP is one such technology that is fast emerging as a game changer (there now I said it) in the AV industry.
Video switching and distribution has long been dominated by large, usually modular, and generally expensive matrix stitch systems. Requiring dedicated specialist cabling linking all inputs and outputs in the system to a centralised matrix switch (frame). The frame controls all routing. The advantage to this approach is dedicated bandwidth, and low latency delivery. Which are highly desirable attributes in a professional AV system. However this comes with significant disadvantages including;
- Central point of failure. If the frame fails the entire system stops.
- Limited I/O flexibility. Most frames are fixed size and utilise plug in cards for I/O. E.g. 8×8, 16×16, 32×32 etc. Once the frame is fully populated expansion options are very limited or impossible.
- Centralised dedicated cabling. All cabling must start at the frame. This often imposes arduous and expensive cable installation requirements.
- Limited upgrade capability. Should you need to upgrade the system to support new formats such as 4K video you often need to change out cards and/or the frame and/or the cabling. Often it’s simply not economically viable.
Video over IP (VOIP) technology is posed to change all of this. VOIP (not to be confused with Voice over IP) is a DISTRIBUTED model. You simply drop encoder boxes wherever you require an input to the system, and decoder boxes wherever you require outputs. You then connect them all via standard IP network topology using standard commercial off the shelf (COS) hardware. With VOIP your network is your router. AV routes are implemented as data packet switching in the network.In contrast to the centralised frame model outlined above, the distributed VOIP model offers many advantages;
- No central point of failure due to distributed hardware model. Should an encoder or decoder fail, simply swap it out with a spare, or another from a less critical role.
- Virtually unlimited expandability. You are only limited by your network bandwidth. Systems can expand in an ad hoc basis as required. You are also no longer limited to the “square” format of traditional frame based systems (8×8, 16×16 etc.). Meaning one to many, or many to one style systems are absolutely viable.
- VOIP systems utilise industry standard network cable infrastructure. Suitable cable is probably already installed on site. If not it’s a readily available cost effective skill set to obtain and supported by a large body of certified installers.
- Simple upgrade path. Just swap out the encoders and decoders required. Your network backbone remains.
Harman/AMX, a manufacturer of traditional style AV switching hardware must have come to the same conclusion as they recently purchased the industry leading VOIP Company SVSi, with SVSi products will now be marketed under the AMX brand name. The combination of SVSi’s industry leading VOIP technology, along with the R&D, sales and support capability of Harman/AMX is bound to catapult SVSi and VOIP into mainstream AV routing applications.
At Jands we see SVSi and VOIP as highly relevant in entertainment and hospitality applications where system I/O requirements are often not ‘square’. For example a typical bar / club style application may have several video displays distributed throughout the venue, most of which display the same, or a selection of a small number of input sources. These systems are often implemented using RF (MATV) distribution models as centralised dedicated matrix switches are usually inconvenient for cabling and not economically viable.
AMX SVSi based solutions open up possibilities in such environments. Finally bringing the possibility of high quality video delivery to your favourite club, pub or bar. I’ll drink to that!
Further information on SVSi products and technology available here: http://www.amx.com/