Technologies and infrastructure for expanding AV signals over longer distances

While underlying technologies HDBase-T and SDVoE compete for market share, opportunities abound for applying structured cabling principles to AV systems.

1805cimdesign Photo 1

While underlying technologies HDBase-T and SDVoE compete for market share, opportunities abound for applying structured cabling principles to AV systems.

In growing numbers of enterprise networks, audio-visual (AV) and information technology (IT) are converging. This convergence is changing the dynamics of AV system design, installation and use and, as Leviton points out, “has positioned low-voltage contractors as the next generation of AV integrators.” Several companies that provide products and systems for IT physical-layer infrastructure also provide products and systems intended to support AV applications. This article reviews some examples of companies’ product and information offerings.

HDMI 2.0 products are prevalent in AV applications. In November, Extron introduced this set of HDMI switchers, the two-input SW2 HD 4K Plus and the four-input SW4 HD 4K Plus. Users can integrate the switchers with a control system via Ethernet or RS-232.

In a TechBrief document published in March, Anixter spells out the differences between HDBase-T, HDBase-T-IP, and SDVoE. “HDBase-T is the global standard for the transmission of ultra-high-definition audio and video, Ethernet, controls, USB and up to 100W of power over a single cable, for up to 100 meters/328 feet,” Anixter explains. “HDBase-T is the IEEE P1911.3 and popular industry standard for transmission of 5Play signals … Originally introduced in 2010 for AV transmission, it has since been extended to special applications, such as industrial and automotive using optical fiber, coaxial cable and single shielded or unshielded twisted pair.”

HDBase-T-IP, Anixter further explains, “adds the ability to transmit these signals over 10G Ethernet/IP using HDBase-T switches and bridges to extend to campuswide distances. It provides a standardized solution over Ethernet PHY, promoting 5Play interoperability among different vendors while connecting the traditional pro AV and IP worlds and leveraging existing installations.”

SDVoE—Software-defined Video over Ethernet—is “the leading system for low-latency transmission of AV over IP,” Anixter notes. “SDVoE builds on the 802.11 standards and offers solutions for the full 7-layer OSI stack … SDVoE is the standardized interface between endpoints and software [with] the ability to go beyond the signal transport and perform scaling and switching. Eventually, SDVoE will largely obviate the need for separate matrix switches, KVM switches, multiviewers and videowall processors. SDVoE promises to be very disruptive to the AV industry, and will offer challenges and opportunities for legacy and new vendors.

“HDBase-T and SDVoE both allow transmission of AV signals over greater distances than the native cable will support. In addition, they allow for other signals and capabilities beyond extension,” Anixter concludes.

Physical layer products

Earlier this year Panduit introduced new AV products, and simultaneously promised further expansion of the portfolio. In March the company introduced HDBase-T extender boxes and HDMI patch cords. Panduit said the HDBase-T extender boxes “are the smallest on the market, save space, and maintain aesthetics by easily mounting under tables and behind monitors with included mounting ears. Unlike other extender boxes on the market, only one side—transmitter or receiver—requires a power supply, which transmits power to the other device for simplified installation.”

Mike McGrath, director of product management and engineering for Panduit’s enterprise business, commented, “HDBase-T is becoming the standard for transmitting high-definition audio and video over Category cabling. We are excited to be able to further support those customers who are using HDBase-T in their buildings, and our partners who install AV as part of the cabling system.”

The HDMI cords are certified HDMI 2.0-compliant, Panduit added.

“In addition to these two new products, in-wall and in-table outlet boxes, ADA-compliant above-floor raceway, USB patch cords, an HDBase-T wallplate transmitter, an HDBase-T receiver with audio de-embedding, and new passthrough faceplate inserts will be available beginning mid-year,” the company said.

Amy Hacker, AV product manager for Panduit, added, “AV is no longer just projectors and screens in classrooms. It encompasses a wide variety of applications used in all types of organizations.” Panduit noted that its newest AV products can be used in conference, huddle and training rooms in addition to classrooms, as well as in auditoriums and digital-signage applications.

A recent blog post by Belden sales engineer John Purvey addressed High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) specifications, particularly HDMI 2.1. As Purvey explained, “The HDMI Forum continues to update HDMI specifications. First announced in late 2017, the newest HDMI standard for video cables and connections—HDMI 2.1—is faster than its predecessors and ready to support high-dynamic-range video. And HDMI 2.1 connections can handle 4K video at up to 120 frames per second, which helps create a more realistic-looking image.”

HDMI 2.0 was released in 2013, Purvey added, noting that its 18-Gbit/sec transmission speed is nearly tripled by HDMI 2.1’s 48-Gbit/sec speed. “Based on bandwidth capabilities, HDMI 2.1 can technically carry up to 10K resolution from a source to a screen, but 10K hasn’t yet been defined beyond approximately 10,000 horizontal pixels, and isn’t a standard format yet,” he pointed out.

“Unlike previous HDMI standards, HDMI 2.1 will require new HDMI cables—Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables—to take advantage of the higher resolutions and frame rates,” Purvey said. “Connectors will stay the same. The cables will be backward-compatible, and able to function with HDMI gear that operates according to previous standards. But it will take time for HDMI 2.1 to become mainstream; it was created for formats and resolutions that won’t be widespread for years.

“Although you don’t need to rush out and invest in new HDMI cables just yet, it’s important to track what’s changing in the world of HDMI standards so you know what to expect in the future,” he concluded.

HDMI 2.0

As an example of Purvey’s point about HDMI 2.0’s popularity and wide deployment, in late 2017 Extron introduced two HDMI switchers supporting up to 18-Gbit/sec data rates and signals up to 4K. The company’s HD 4K Plus product line includes a two- and a four-input model. “The switchers provide automatic input cable equalization up to 25 feet on Extron HDMI Pro Series cable,” the company said when announcing the products in November. “The switchers are easy to operate using the front panel controls or auto-switching. Ethernet, RS-232, and contact closure ports provide ample options for integration with any control system.”

Casey Hall, Extron’s vice president of sales and marketing, stated, “The SW2 HD 4K Plus and SW4 HD 4K Plus feature Ethernet control and monitoring for remote operation and management, and support a variety of HDMI 2.0 signal options to deliver a more-transparent experience for the end user.”

Black Box’s recently introduced KVM extender transmits 4K60 signals, the company said. When announcing the 4K60 HDMI KVM Extender in February, the company said it “enables users to transmit uncompressed Ultra High-Definition 4Kx2K@60Hz and 1080p@60Hz HDMI signals up to 100 meters over Category 5e, Category 6 and Category 6A cable. Because the signals are transmitted over existing network cabling, there is no need to upgrade structured cabling infrastructure.”

Black Box further explained that the extender’s HDBase-T 2.0 capability “carries video, analog stereo, power, RS-232 and USB 2.0 signals over one cable. The extender transmits signals for USB keyboards, mice and other human interface devices. Two extra USB interfaces enable the connection of USB peripherals, such as cameras. The USB 2.0 passthrough function makes the extender a practical solution when a user needs to control or monitor a server located in a remote or harsh environment and for users who need to control inaccessible PCs and workstations.”

Leveraging the technology

In an informative document that can be found on its website, Leviton offers “6 Tips for Presenting with Technology.” In the document, the company says, “How we present information has evolved significantly in recent years. As smartphones, tablets, and laptops have become common in conference rooms and classrooms, understanding how emerging audiovisual technologies support these devices and engage your audience can be just as important as knowing your subject matter. While the basics for giving a good presentation haven’t changed, today’s technology offers new ways to make your presentations—from sales pitches to corporate meetings and national conferences—strong, memorable, and effective.”

A few of the tips relate to technologies like HDBase-T and HDMI. For example, Leviton advises: “Take advantage of UHD and 4K,” then details, “HD, UHD, and 4K displays are making their way into boardrooms, classrooms, and conference halls … By relying on HDBase-T devices, end users gain greater flexibility and the full benefit of these high-performance video technologies.”

Another tip from Leviton says presenters should “know your distance.” That tip is accompanied by this thorough explanation: “Depending on your venue, the presentation source and the display might be side-by-side at a conference table, on opposite sides of the room, in different rooms altogether, or even patched to a telecommunications room from another floor of the building. An HDMI signal can only be trusted to travel about 15 feet on a standard passive HDMI cable. With HDBase-T, you have the option to extend USB, VGA, and HDMI signals up to 230 or 330 feet over existing category cabling. HDBase-T offers a standard for reliable signal extension so you won’t have to worry about the distance between your source and display, whether it’s 10 feet or 300 feet.”

As Anixter pointed out in its TechBrief, multiple technologies exist for extending AV signals over distances typically associated with enterprise networking. Both HDBase-T-IP and SDVoE rely on physical-layer infrastructure based on ANSI/TIA-568 standard design, distances, and layouts. Professionals including consultants, system designers and installers, and enterprise end-users have opportunities to turn their familiarity with 568-based infrastructure into the foundation for AV transmission.

More in IP Security & AV