Trying to battle the cost of switching? Luxul user experience manager Steven Crabb looks at how to deliver cost-effective HD video walls and multi-display distribution with IP-based technology.
Switching and distributing HD video to multiple displays has historically required very expensive and specialised equipment. Even a simple matrix switch for managing a handful of sources and displays has represented a significant investment for business owners, while switches to handle a few dozen sources and displays have been prohibitively expensive for the average neighbourhood sports bar.
Fortunately, there’s now a solution for integrators that’s more flexible, scalable and cost-effective.
Simply put, HD-over-IP is audio and video encoded as a data stream and transmitted across an IP network. There are three basic elements to the system: a transmitter, a receiver and a managed network switch to route the signals. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the use of Just Add Power transmitters and receivers along with Luxul managed switches — all purpose-designed for custom integrators. Let’s take a closer look at how it all works.
For video to be routed through an IP network, a source signal is first connected to a transmitter. The transmitter converts video and audio from an HDMI source to a stream of packetised data that leaves the transmitter via an RJ45 Ethernet jack. At the display, a receiver receives the stream via its RJ45 Ethernet jack and converts it back to standard HDMI video ready for display. The receiver device can be powered by PoE (using the same Ethernet cable and RJ45 connection) and is about the size of a small paperback book, making it easy to place behind a display.
These transmitters and receivers are essentially network devices. Once they’re connected to a Layer 3 managed IP network, all signal routing is handled by the switch. A deep technical explanation of how it works is beyond the scope of this article, but put simply a Layer 2 managed switch can route traffic from one port (the source) to another port (the destination), enabling basic matrix switching capabilities. More powerful Layer 3 switches are essentially multi-port routers and add more advanced capabilities like VLANs and subnetting, which enables features like CEC control, video wall management and on-screen display.
Flexibility and Scalability
One of the key advantages to HD-over-IP and IP switching is flexibility. No longer do you have to specify a single piece of equipment to accommodate every possible configuration. One 26-port managed network switch, like Luxul’s AMS-4424P, can support a system with four sources and 20 displays (4×20), 12 sources and 12 displays (12×12), or sixteen sources and eight displays (16×8). Flexibility is key when your customers don’t always know exactly what they’re going to need.
Another major advantage of HD-over-IP is scalability. With a robust managed network switch like the AMS-4424P, we can exploit a feature called ‘stacking’. Stacking allows multiple managed switches to be connected together and used as a single switch. With stacking, the number of possible inputs and outputs a Just Add Power HD-over-IP system can support grows well into the hundreds or even thousands. Need to add more displays? Simply add a second switch, configure the switches in stacking mode, and the size of your video matrix doubles.
But Wait, There’s More
The advantages don’t stop at cost, flexibility and scalability. With Just Add Power transmitters and receivers, you can also offer customers enhanced video wall functionality with features like scaling, rotated and flipped displays, logo overlays and more — features previously available only with hardware costing tens of thousands more.
Any video switching system needs a control method. With the Luxul/Just Add Power HD-over-IP combination, installers can use a variety of third-party software and hardware from leading control brands such as RTI, Control4, Crestron and AMX. Just Add Power coordinates with control system manufacturers to make sure there are drivers available for download to make installation and integration easy. The control systems can be configured with live switching from a custom user interface, or fully automated.
Because HD-over-IP is so flexible, it can be deployed in a variety of commercial settings—from corporate boardroom and command/control, to retail, hospitality and sports bars. For instance, Just Add Power and Luxul equipment was recently installed in The Break Sports Grill in South Jordan, Utah. Previously, staff used a pile of handheld IR remotes to manually control satellite receivers at each of the 18 TVs. The integrator moved all the sources to a central rack, integrated Just Add Power receivers and transmitters along with two stacked Luxul AMS-4424P AV Series managed switches. An RTI system enables staff to easily control all the displays and sources from several iPads anywhere in the bar. With instant switching, any of the 14 satellite receivers and two cable boxes can be displayed on any TV in the bar.
HD-over-IP is Demanding
Transmitting HD and 4K video across a network is no small feat, and not all equipment is up to the task. Make sure the network switches you select have robust Layer 2/Layer 3 support, and are built to handle a demanding high-bandwidth application like HD-over-IP. Luxul’s AV Series of managed and stackable switches are designed and field-tested to handle video-switching applications, offering near-instantaneous seamless switching with the Just Add Power HD-over-IP system. The design and quality of a network switch can make the difference between a reliable, high-performance video system and one that just doesn’t function reliably. Be sure to source quality equipment, designed for the task, from a manufacturer that knows how to support integrators and understands their challenges.
Traditional matrix switching and signal distribution can be expensive and inflexible. As an integrator, you want to offer your customers a flexible solution that can grow as their needs change. HD-over-IP offers scalability and flexibility at a price more customers can afford. Specify hardware that’s purpose-designed for the task, and partner with manufacturers that understand your business. The right HD-over-IP technology partners can help you cost-effectively deliver world-class video switching and distribution solutions to a broader base of customers.