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Changes in the AV over IP Landscape Pt 2

Show 172, Part 2

SVC Podcast – Show Notes – Show 172-2

In this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles completes his talk with Jordan Christoff,  CEO or Visionary Solutions, a company specializing in equipment for real-time transport of audio and video over IP networks. Jordan provides his take on the applications for AV over IP in the house of worship and higher education environments. He also discusses latency and bandwidth along with the progression of AV over IP hardware.

 For Part 1

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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

The AV over IP landscape is changing every day and manufacturers have to stay on top of it. Jordan Christoff, CEO of Visionary Solutions is back to discuss how churches have applied the technology. He’s also going to tell us about wireless applications and how Dante has made a big impression on the industry. That’s coming up here on the SVC Podcast.

Jordan, nice to have you back with us on the SVC Podcast from Visionary Solutions in Santa Barbara, California, makers of AV over IP equipment. Last week we talked about compression techniques and the progression of AV over IP hardware but on this one I wanted to get into 4K video. Let’s look at a specific here. How does 4K video on Ethernet apply in the house of worship market?

Sure. I think 4K video, it’s going to be deployed rapidly. One thing really driving it is the panel manufacturers themselves. They’re pushing it so hard. I mean it’s already difficult to find a new 1080p monitor that it’s not a closeout or something else. And we’re seeing this as we deploy for trade shows and things like that. House of worship can kind of make use of the 4K pretty rapidly for either projection or other large displays where they need a great quality in a large image. Also, since there’s maybe not as much legacy gear for them to replace they can adopt a partial or complete 4K workflow pretty quickly. And certainly it can be as simple as one encoder, a network switch and a decoder, and away they go. And in some cases you could just use a crossover cable between the two. But you’re always better off having a network switch. And I think that they can be up and moving their 4K video in less than an hour. [Timestamp: 2:09]

And below the mega-church level they’re usually working with pretty tight budgets.

You know, one of the things we strive for in the house of worship space is to have products that can be deployed and supported by volunteers rather than a paid professional. I think that that quantum jump when you have to have a full-time professional really leaves a lot of solutions only to mega churches. [Timestamp: 2:30]

Yeah, they have all the options but that’s the exception rather than the rule. A lot of these already make use of Dante audio and this may be a little bit of a loaded question but from your viewpoint, what impact has the Dante protocol had on the AV over IP industry?

I think Audinate has done an amazing job of bringing audio over IP to everybody. The biggest reason we became an adopter was the assured interoperability. We grew up in the IPTV space over the last 17-18 years and we’ve battled interop continuously as different companies interpreted standards differently in their own way. With Dante it just works. They’ve educated the market, which his at least half the battle any time. And we’ve known for a long time that AV over IP can be extremely reliable if you do it properly. We have thousands of encoded channels running at schools with tens of thousands of decode points, so I think Dante is a model for that in the audio space. [Timestamp: 3:26]

It’s deep into market implementation with Dante everywhere now and it has gotten easier to use as it has evolved. Let’s look at the higher education environment. How do AV over IP systems perform in a high-density wireless environment?

Yeah. So wireless is always fraught with some kind of difficulties, but being an essentially low bandwidth relative to wired and a one-to-one environment where they haven’t really gotten a widely-deployed broadcast standard for the wireless. So if you tried to do multicast over wireless it’s really not at a state where we consider it a reliable option. So the only way we distribute today wirelessly is using HTTP live streaming or HLS to ILS or android phones and clients, or some set-top boxes and VLC media player allows you to pull it in. You really have to be sure that you have significant bandwidth for each client where the systems can deliver poor performance and that really drives user frustration. I think the controlling expectations is really important. People shouldn’t think that their wireless system is going to be like their wired system. So for email and other things like that it’s really great. And 4G bringing in your Netflix or Amazon video works pretty well, but you really have to look at it and make sure that you have the system designed properly. And certainly none of the medium or low compression solutions we’re talking about, the JPEG 2000 or line codecs or uncompressed are really applicable to wireless. [Timestamp: 5:00]

And anything that’s new in that area is probably going to show up on a college campus first and the IT people there are constantly challenged in that regard. I know we talked a little about this last week but how do you see the transition to all AV over IP systems?

It’s hard to estimate, of course. I think there are elements in the industry that will never voluntarily move away from legacy circuit switched systems. I think they know them so well and to be fair they’re highly reliable. And maybe they tried an IP-based system years ago and it didn’t work well the first time. On the whole, though, just like data signaling with RS-232 or 20 mA current loop, simple contact closures and that sort of thing thermostats, that went to IP first. Then voice over IP swallowed telephony and now with AV over IP the same thing is going to happen. You can’t really stop the progress of a single flexible interconnect system that gets cheaper and easier to maintain. The entire AV industry is much smaller than just Cisco. And the power you get in an inexpensive Ethernet switch really kind of makes dedicated circuit switch matrices look quaint by comparison, I think. [Timestamp: 6:09]

6As far as the hardware evolution goes, the first thing we saw in HDBaseT was separate, outboard transmitters and receivers and that was quickly followed by systems with everything built in and just going straight port to port on twisted pair. Does that apply here at all or is the network hardware already so well developed that we don’t have anything like that interim step?

Well I think that the progression with be slightly different due to the nature of network-based end points. I think the end points can remain simple using the same shared infrastructure with other IP devices and you can move more of the smarts to commodity hardware and software handling the workflows. I do think there will be a variety of end points, right? You know, you’re going to have a wall box or you’re going to have a multichannel in a closet, so different densities of end points. But I don’t think that we’ll need as many specialty items if the workflow can be handled at the system level. [Timestamp: 7:03]

And what options do users have on latency vs. bandwidth? In what applications other than gaming does latency become a significant problem?

We’ve found over the years that latency can be an issue for a number of users. Image magnification within a room needs very low latency. Stadiums or venues where the original action can be seen at the same time as the monitor. Cases where audio can be heard coming from the source at like a festival or concert. People are used to circuit-switched AV having very low latency and I think AV over IP has a mandate to keep that latency below the perception or at a spot where it’s just not an issue. You know, in the compression there’s kind of four profiles in the compression world, your H.264-265 give you the most compression for content distribution. They deliver over low bandwidth networks. And there are low latency options for it, but they all involve some video quality tradeoffs. But you can get pretty good 1080p video below 10 megabits per second. The stuff that we’re talking about mostly in AV over IP is either full-frame wavelet kind of compression or line codecs. The full frames have as low as one frame of latency and we kind of see that’s where the market is today as representing the best option of quality and price. And for comparison you’d be using 100-200 megabits per second for really good 1080p video. Line codecs like TICO are really low latency; as many as like eight lines which can be microseconds, with say four to one compression. And that lets you get your 1080p video in at 750 megabits per second. But I really see that as remaining more in the broadcast field for a while. [Timestamp: 8:49]

With the size of displays behind live performers now, if the lip sync is even slightly off you can’t miss it. All this is moving very fast and the hardware is moving right along and at Visionary Solutions you have the job of keeping up with it and dealing with the increasing competition so what’s coming up next for Visionary Solutions? New products, trade show presentations?

Sure, we have a couple of things coming up. We have a nice installation for Peavey at the NAMM show. We’re distributing video around their booth, which is really a large room setting using Ethernet. It’s got about 18 monitors and a large LED display. And one of the nice things is the video quality is the same everywhere in the network and the synchronization on all the screens is really tight. I know this is going to be coming out after the NAMM show, but hopefully some of the people listening might have seen it there. And then we’ll be introducing our groundbreaking duet system at ISE in Amsterdam. We’ve integrated Dante audio into our video end points and we’re really calling it – it’s really video for audio professionals. We’ll be demonstrating the first end points, switching AP over IP using Dante Controller so people who are familiar with Dante Controller can immediately use that to switch video without learning another piece of software. Which we kind of see as really changing the game for people. You’ll be able to acquire the AV at a single end point, route the audio to DSP for processing, and then recombine at the decoder to drive monitors or speakers. The audio and video can be routed separately or in tandem anywhere on the network. So it opens up a lot of really great work flows for people who want to sort of treat the audio and video to the best of the abilities in each segment. And really, for me, it was kind of the realization of a dream I’ve had for 15 years to try and create a true integration for AV over IP. [Timestamp: 10:40]

You’re well on your way and there are a lot of others trying to get in the game so you’ve got to stay on your toes as it all changes. I appreciate your being with us. Visionary Solutions CEO Jordan Christoff and the state of AV over IP right now. Such a fast moving game I don’t envy your having to keep up with it.

Well, it makes it fun to come to work in the morning. And you know, we’ve been doing this as long as anybody, so…

Okay, Jordan. Thanks for being with us.

Thank you, Bennett.

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 Be back next week for the SVC Podcast.

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