When planning or deploying videowall-based control rooms, the starting point is usually a specific control room. But many organizations have a functional need to consider how the information and data accessed in one control room will be shared with another room. The applications can be redundant or overlapping control rooms in the same organization, multiple campuses that operate in conjunction, or organizations, such as public safety agencies, that need to combine their command efforts in crisis. There are various approaches that allow this kind of sharing without the need to connect the original video streams to all locations in strategically aggregated content streams.

Planar's DirectLight Architecture Control Room Application

In co-operated control rooms, requiring both rooms to respectively manage all content that might be needed is inefficient with regard to the infrastructure and the operators’ work. Bob Ehlers, vice president, business development with RGB Spectrum, advised that “a clean and efficient approach is to share the content of a video wall as a single stream. The operator in room A has certain data and feeds on that wall, and the entire wall is then streamed to room B.” These streams can be encoded and decoded using codecs that best suit the functional needs and the receiving operator can add that stream to the wall in their room alongside other feeds.

“There are trade-offs to consider,” Ehlers continued. “Bandwidth is important to the conversation, and choosing the right bandwidth and codec can greatly expand the functional options.” Ehlers pointed out that if the aggregate stream can be compressed to 5MBps to 10MBps, these video streams can even be delivered by content distribution technology to mobile devices, creating emergency management and response options for critical personnel who are not in the command center.

As with most AV deployments, the key to success is understanding and planning for the functional needs. If the visual information in the aggregated stream is time critical but not reliant on extreme visual precision, such as traffic or weather conditions, then very low latency and low bandwidth codecs are the right fit. If visual precision is of utmost importance, even in an aggregated stream, the focus then turns to the highest resolution codecs for the bandwidth available. Ehlers suggested that the question for tech managers to keep in their mind is, “what am I sending, and why?”

One other technological trade-off to consider is that the aggregation and streaming are essentially downgrading the individual sources in the composite. Four 1080p streams are aggregated to a single 1080p stream, each original source is reduced in resolution by seventy-five percent. If this isn’t acceptable for the application, an option is to do multi-channel streaming between the sites.

The best practices in dealing with aggregated content streams are fundamentally the same balance of trade-offs that occur in most AV systems: function, cost, bandwidth. Applying that sensibility to the specific nuances of streaming video wall outputs between control and command centers can result in better flexibility and capabilities.

Justin O'Connor, AV Technology magazine's Technical Advisor, has spent nearly 20 years as a product manager, bringing many hit products to the professional audio world. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Engineering Technology from the Frost School of Music at The University of Miami. Follow him at @JOCAudioPro. Subscribe today for The Agile Control Room newsletter sponsored by RGB Spectrum (distributed twice per month, every other Tuesday).

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