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Changes in the AV over IP Landscape Pt 1

Show 172, Part 1

In this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Jordan Christoff,  CEO or Visionary Solutions, a company specializing in equipment for real-time transport of audio and video over IP networks. Jordan discusses the state of AV over IP, the pros and cons of the various compression techniques and he speculates on the changes or modifications of the current video transmission standards.

 For Part 2

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This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Jordan Christoff of Visionary Solutions. Show notes and equipment links for the podcast are on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

AV over IP is moving ahead by leaps and bounds. That puts the job on content providers and network professionals to work together and to fit the hardware to the applications. Visionary Solutions is right in the middle of the movement and CEO Jordan Christoff is here to help us chart a course through the AV over IP technology. That’s all right here on the SVC Podcast.

Jordan, welcome to the SVC Podcast from Visionary Solutions in Santa Barbara, California. There is so much happening in your industry right now. You see as much AV over IP hardware now as we have seen in recent years with proprietary switchers, matrixes and signal extenders so the competition between the technologies seems to be at the peak. What’s your take on the state of AV over IP right now in relation to the dedicated matrix and multiviewer hardware?

Well, Bennett, I’d say kind of after years of waiting that we’re finally hitting the upward bend in the hockey stick. Many of the typical impediments to adoption have been overcome by ease of use and implementation advances. There’s myriad AV over IP projects installed and working every day that people can kind of look to and say hey, I’m not going to get hung out to try if I do this. I really think that legacy technologies have hit their maximum adoption and that most of the growth will be in IP-based systems moving forward. [Timestamp: 1:45]

Well, that makes a lot of sense after you see what the market has to offer and what’s out there but that means more competition for you.

Oh, that’s okay. You know, we’ve been in the competitive landscape for a long time.

On the people side of this, content providers and network managers frequently work for different departments and different supervisors who have differing agendas so how do these people work together? I would think that at the most basic level they’ve got to know something about each other’s jobs at the very least.

Yeah. It really varies according to the industry space. In the enterprise space where we do things, most IT departments understand what is needed for like large IGMP multicast deployments, say school districts or universities or major corporations. You know, it’s not news to them that they’re going to need to move multicast over their network. And I think the projects can go smoothly as long as it’s originated by the AV department that they really try and include the IT department from the beginning. I think the most important aspect for systems integrators is to look at the project holistically and make sure that it’s not like they’re working for AV or they’re working for IT, but they’re really working for the customer and that the customer will be better off if you can integrate IT and AV. [Timestamp: 2:55]

And among these people you have a lot of different opinions on this but when is it advisable to have your AV and data on separate networks?

Once again, I think if you’re dealing with a smaller organization or no IT department at all it’s really advisable to use a separate network just to prevent someone who doesn’t really understand all the intricacies from going in there and making the configuration change that could wipe out the network. You can kind of really optimize it at installation time and then sort of leave it until there needs to be more end points or an advancement. Also if you’re using a large number of end points it can consume significant bandwidth. Putting it on a dedicated network really can be easier to maintain and deploy. However, in big environments with enterprise customers we put these systems in all the time and basically they put them on either a single or multiple VLANs that are either PIM routed or not depending upon whether they want to keep the video separate. [Timestamp: 3:15]

There are a lot of different angles to that and one of the things, of course it’s not new anymore, HDBaseT was the big extension tool, the big enabler for HDMI to go more than a few feet. How does AV over IP compare to the still-strong HDBaseT movement? Are there specific applications where one is more appropriate?

Well, I think HDBaseT has done a great job in doing kind of, you know, I would call medium-length extension. But I really see it as best utilized in smaller fixed configurations like in a single room or a small set of rooms, maybe like a quad. I can have a lower cost of endpoints where you can put a small matrix in one spot and not have to really change it or move it around much. The IP-based systems really come into their own if you need flexibility and scalability. If you had a legacy circuit switch system in there with a 32-by-32 matrix at the core and you need to add one more input or output, now you’re kicked into a whole ‘nother big jump in price to put in another switch matrix. Whereas with an IP-based system you can really scale linearly and just put that next endpoint on there as long as you have switch fabric. [Timestamp: 4:58]

Yeah, probably for just getting HDMI video from a podium to a projector HDBaseT is still the strong tool.

Yeah, I agree.

Now you’re line is not just hardware devices. So with your E4000 encoder and the D4000 decoder you’ve got the Vision Lite software. What can that do for you?

Well, Vision Lite really comes out of our Vision system, which was kind of a bigger, heavier-weight system for the IPTV market. And what we did was kind of take the best elements of that and distill it down to be used in virtualized switch matrix routing over IP fabric. It allows you to do configuration and routing for the 4K AV over IP line and it allows a computer on the VLAN to discover, configure and route AV using our endpoints. One of the really nice things, it has drag-and-drop routing with live thumbnails that come from the actual encoders and decoders. They’re not proxy. So you can get confidence monitoring of what’s really happening. When you made the route, did it really take and is it really staying there so you can see what you’re doing? Another nice thing, it’s a Java-based application so you can run it on a Windows machine, a Mac machine, a Linux machine and its operating system agnostic. So it’s really kind of how people can interact with our product and discover it in the system and get it all ready to go. [Timestamp: 6:17]

Well, drag-and-drop routing, that sounds like my kind of software. I can monkey test anything so it would be safe with me as an operator. We’ve got so many different compression techniques. Now we have some new zero compression transport. Are there advantages to say H.264 compression over JPEG 2000 or is it all moving toward uncompressed video where a short time ahead we may not even remember all of these compression tools?

Oh, you know I think that some form of compression will be applicable for a long time to come. You know, every time a new higher resolution is introduced you have to compress it to get into existing channels. So you know, the H264 is really for end user content distribution. It’s really what television was moving to after MPEG-2, and it’s designed, really, for lower bandwidth networks with content that’s sort of video files. For delivery to mobile devices you really need something like H264-265 to be more robust over a lossy network like the public internet. Low and medium compression, like JPEG 2000 and line-based codex, they’re really useful for high bandwidth, reliable campus-type networks. It allows people to deliver excellent quality video using standard IP networks. I think in five years I hope we’re talking about the great video being delivered really rather than a specific type of compression. Even uncompressed it’s great, but you know the bandwidth, even now if you’re trying to do 4K p60 you’re looking at 12 gigabits per second. So you’re already over 10 gigabit per node, you know, which is pretty heavy. The important thing to remember, really, is these are all just tools and we really need to keep focused on the mission, which is to move customers’ video where and when they want it with great quality. [Timestamp: 8:00]

Looking into the crystal ball here, what do you think is going to come along in the next few years with changes or modifications to the current video standards?

Well, hopefully we can still move to greater interoperability in the AV over IP space. There’s some constraints now in terms of revenue models where people have to do certain things in order to make sure that they can make their money on a per-box basis. I think on the broadcast side of things they’re trying to do the standards, but even there there’s several line-based codex vying for that space. I really think that the battle between standards and proprietary systems will continue in the industry as long as people are involved and it’s a gamble by companies whether they’re going to be able to corner enough of the market in the proprietary system to be useful or whether a standard is more useful for them. [Timestamp: 8:47]

Well, it can be a fast-moving game so you never know what’s around the corner. Maybe we’ll find the magic bullet that does everything well. This has been Jordan Christoff, CEO of Visionary Solutions in Santa Barbara, California. In Part 2 we’ll be talking about Dante and some wireless implementations of AV over IP. It’s been great having you here Jordan, and we’ll see you then.

Thanks, Bennett. I appreciate it.

Thanks to Jordan Christoff for getting with us on the podcast. Show notes and equipment links are on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at Next week Jordan will tell us about AV over IP in the house of worship environment and he will talk about bandwidth and latency. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

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