It’s the end of the year as we know it. This year in review and its companion peek into my pixel and ink-stained crystal ball at the year coming up will be largely “pixel” posts in that I’ll talk about commercial AV. Perhaps one or two literary mentions to round things out. And more on the Year-to-Come post later. This is a very quick highlight of just a few AV trends from the past year. There is, of course, more. There’s always more. For now, in no particular reason are some thoughts that stuck in my mind from 2013.
My look forward at 2014 will come as part of the SMW team on our ExpresShen’s blog. You’ll still see me here, but I’ll also be spending some time there along with some of my very bright and talented colleagues, not only in the AV discipline but our data, security, medical planning and acoustics disciplines as well. That should be an exciting part of the new year and something in which I am greatly looking forward to participating.
2013 was the year….
….that the HDBaseT “standard” hit a saturation point and stopped being interesting.
Crestron, AMX, Extron, Kramer, Aurora, Purelink, Lightware, Muxlabs, and probably a half dozen others I’m not thinking of at the moment all have what is, for all intents and purposes, the same digital video ecosystem: modular card-frame based switcher, smallish form-factor standalone transmitter/receiver units, two-gang wall plate transmitters, etc. Some added an array of input and output formats (3G-SDI, VGA and other analog formats, etc.), most have single- and multi-mode fiber options, and if you squint just a bit it’s hard to tell which one you’re looking at. I kinda flew through the HDBaseT Pavilion at InfoComm without too much catching my eye.
This is part of the reason I’ll not post on “switcher wars” anymore: so many of the decisions are so project-specific that it’s almost impossible to compare various manufacturers in a vacuum. Do you need SDI outputs to feed a production switcher or capture appliance? Multi-format inputs for a variety of legacy devices? SDI inputs for broadcast cameras? A smaller form-factor and lower heat load because you’re stuffing it into a credenza? Does it need to fit with some existing asset management infrastructure? Projects aren’t one-size fits all, and we’ve gotten to the point at which we look at subtle details rather than: “This one is good. That one is bad.”
….but some manufacturers have found ways to step out of the box
I’ll list two that surprised me a bit. One is the Altinex Muse, technically not quite HDBaseT, but similar technology and interesting nonetheless. The innovation (shown off in a pretty popular booth at InfoComm) is 150 watts of AC power right at the receiver. This means that you can plug in a smallish flat panel with nothing but a single Cat5e or Cat6 cable and without an electrician. Highly groovy and a bit surprising.
Another one that caught my eye is Aurora Multimedia’s L2 series of receivers. These have a tiny Web server and control processor built into them. This is terrific for very small, one- or two-input rooms with fairly simple control needs. It lets you run the space with a single-gang Decora-style keypad *and* monitor it via your favorite building-management solution. I’d rather have a more robust control system for more complex spaces, but this is a thoughtful solution which certainly has its place.
….Dante took the lead in the digital transport battle
…but not everybody gave up on Cobranet
I thought this would finally be the year we stop talking about CobraNet, but that seems to not be the case. Soundtube opened the year with the introduction of IP-addressable speakers using the venerable CobraNet protocol. The company’s stated reasons for sticking with this over Dante are that the CobraNet chip is small enough to fit into the speaker back-can along with an amplifer. Soundtube also contends that, for many applications, the latency and channel counts available from CobraNet is more than sufficient. I have my usual level of skepticism, and am concerned about the extra layer of complexity conversion to CobraNet will add in systems which are primarily Dante or AVB. That said, there is a somewhat compelling point and it does seem an interesting solution for certain applications.