Will 2017 See the Start of ‘Digital Sunset?’

digitalsunset2Didn’t we just have Analog Sunset? And, what the heck is Digital Sunset?

Yes, it’s true that it seems that we just completed Analog Sunset — the retiring of everything analog (in mainstream technology, that is) and the realization that all things will become digital. That ended, believe it or not, like six years ago and now, at least with consumer TV and entertainment, all signals are digital. Yay!

Sure, we still have people using VGA, but think about how much HDMI and digital audio you do now compared to what you did in 2000.

digitalsunset-1216So, if we’ve been in digital for six or so years, why would we already be talking about a Digital Sunset and what the heck is going to replace HDMI, DVI and DisplayPort?

Simple. The network.

2017 will most definitely be the year that you’ll see all sorts of things written — both from the press and from the manufacturers (or, at least the one’s getting ready for the AV-over-IP transition) about Digital Sunset and how signals will move from HDMI to the network.

OK, OK, I can hear a certain group of my readers already saying, “Hey, I am already doing networked AV via systems from SVSi (aka AMX) and AptoVision (aka everyone using the AptoVision chipset).” Yes, you are — and good for you! You are on the cusp of something big. Really big.

roku-ultra-streaming-player-1216AV-over-IP is just starting. And, it’s going to be C-O-M-P-L-I-C-A-T-E-D. Trust me on this one. You can compress 1080p from HDMI and run it down all sorts of network cables and get a decent-looking signal. Even compressed it looks pretty good when decompressed from most AV-over-IP systems on the market today. But, not with anything higher than 1080. Add a color-critical install and forget it. You need a network of at least 1 Gigabit and to do it right, you need a 25 Gigabit network, certainly if you’re doing 4K. Yep, 25 Gig! And, yes, Cisco already has them! Oh, and yes, they are fiber — you can’t do this with CATx cable — so that’s a good indicator of the quality of your current AV-over-IP system…

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Can you compress it? Sure! Look, Roku and all those crappy 4K set-top boxes are doing it and, yes, you get 4K resolution — even when compressed — but the color is, well, sh*t. The elements of the signal fall apart when you look closely. And, blow it up to a bigger than 70” screen (the average “big, big-screen TV in a home today” then you’ll notice all the craptastic signal flaws. No, don’t buy the 4K Roku player or the 4K version of the Chromecast — both dubbed “Ultra.” They both suck.

So, we’ve got a long, long way to go to get good quality 4K through the pipeline of the average network — and many don’t think it’s going to happen until 1 Gig or even 10 Gig network switches are the norm. But, 2017 will be the year that even major manufacturers in the signal routing and distribution space introduce 4K over IP products — and most will have a family of products with various compression levels and quality option — it will just depend on how much you’re willing to spend to do it right.

You will get what you pay for in AV-over-IP.