Even as moving AV signals (even industrial-strength video) over IP has moved from bleeding edge to mainstream, the industry still has a long way to go. Depending on your perspective, that involves either A) wringing out even more latency and other image quality glitches, and improving security features for a better final package delivered to the user, and/or B) educating both the AV integrator and the end user that sure, we need to do more of A, but we now have some robust solutions that solve a lot of our challenges today, with today’s gear.
David Shamir of Atlona demoed their new OmniStream system for AV over IP, showing the similarity of source material to the video delivered at the receiving end.
Silicon Valley—home of Netflix, Google, and any number of companies that have mastered the art of moving squilabytes of data through digital pipe with astounding speed and efficiency—is a good place to launch a discussion on the state of AV over IP for the commercial AV world, and last Friday it was the place I got a personal demo of some interesting new solutions from a serious contender in that world. That contender is Atlona, which has been on the scene a while, and are some pretty eloquent spokesmen for both what’s available today for AV over IP for the commercial AV market as well as for the need to push the envelope to make it all even better. Atlona, with headquarters in San Jose, CA, has just this week announced a new solution, its OmniStream product family for AV over IP, that I saw in San Jose, and that InfoComm 2016 attendees will get to see in Las Vegas. Atlona believes its industry-exclusive features include the ability to supply redundant AV networks with independent data streams with cost-efficiency breakthroughs, and enterprise-grade network-error resilience and video compression with extremely low latency not achieved with previous technology. I had a chance to meet with David Shamir, director of product management at Atlona on Friday, and Shamir did a great job of putting not just Atlona's offerings but the larger issues in context.
“What we see as our goal,” said David Shamir, “are two things: to address the integrators that are already doing AV over IP; and to explain why the traditional circuit-based integrator may want to consider AV over IP. What are the issues for AV over IP today? As a system integrator, it’s not really about 'moving video over IP' as many people say. At InfoComm, you’ll see some 40-50 vendors all claiming to move video over IP. I say, it’s not about moving the video over IP. When you immerse yourself in packet-based switching, which is what IP is, there is more that you as a systems integrator need to take into consideration than just moving video over IP. In fact, that is the easy part. But when you as a system integrator approach IT guys, they speak a different language. Their religion is different. So if we want to go with IP trends, we need to speak their language.”
Having heard many technology industry analyses over the years, few people have offered a view as broad-ranging as Shamir’s, who spent less time explaining Atlona’s offering than explaining why the world is changing and who is at the forefront of the IP revolution. In fact, Shamir outlined specific changes going on inside the tech giants' offices in the Bay area, including a recent AV/IT makeover at eBay corporate headquarters where it transitioned everything to IP.
20-30 or more milliseconds of latency, depending on the application, results in poor delivery of high bandwidth video across an enterprise or across the country. So the need is obviously as little latency as possible, as Atlona demoed.
But I was down the street from eBay, at Atlona’s offices, to get a peek at what Atlona will be showing at InfoComm in June. In a refreshing break from usual product pitches, David Shamir virtually built with me an enterprise AV over IP system, where we populated each part with ideal solutions based on current demands from users. We built out the system, and the needs analysis. In a way, it was like reverse-engineering an ideal product, rather than starting with a product and then shoe-horning it into needs real or imagined.
With the luxury of more time than I’d ever have at a trade show like InfoComm, we were able to deconstruct a network, using as our model a corporate campus, with multiple buildings, with a need for delivery of sophisticated data and video to displays in:
• Meeting rooms
• Training rooms
• Internal TV
• Digital Signage
That’s the need. To build out the system, think not first of what gear you can sell in there; think first of what the customer needs:
• 4K/UHD capability
• Need for multichannel, not just a single channel network
• Redundancy for each network (not the strength of circuit-based systems)
• Security. Content, and encryption.
• PoE. Power over ethernet. With a 10G network? Can’t do it, today, with any switch. (Will AV over IP do it?)
• Error resilience. This is a purely technical term that addresses how and how quickly the system can rebuild lost bits of data on the receiving end of a network. The problem of error resilience is compounded with more need for scalability. The more machines on a network, the more error, based on the LAN’s inherent weaknesses as burst data from each device clogged things up.
• Related to error resilience is the tardiness of data transmission: latency. This of course is more important with video. Anyone reading this knows the issues: 20-100 milliseconds of latency, depending on the application, results in poor delivery of high-bandwidth video across an enterprise or across the country. So the need is obviously as little latency as possible.
Only after all that deconstruction did the engineers at Atlona explain how their new OmniStream solution addresses all those needs. But my take-away is that where their solution makes breakthroughs that we can most easily assess, at a demo at InfoComm say, is in the following:
• The Atlona OmniStream encoding/decoding can, according to the company, deliver 1080p, 60Hz, with only 9ms of latency, at 4:2:0. (UHD, 30Hz, with 18ms, but at 4:4:4). Atlona said that its new system for getting latency down to negligible levels is based on algorithms developed by the BBC for broadcast TV, over which it has layered its own technology that eliminates the need for frame buffers and so spends fewer frames to get the resulting full data-packages delivered to the customer’s porch.
• Atlona will intro also their Dante product for audio transmission over IP. Dante is part of OmniStream family. “We don’t want to do the audio DSP,” said David Shamir, “but just move the audio over IP to deal with latency.”
• Up to two channels per box, not just one. This is important for what it enables, but also for the cost savings of just needing one box.
• All of the above three, at an attractive price point.
You don’t have to take Atlona’s word for all that. You can see it in action at InfoComm in June, and bring your golden video eyes and your integrator’s tough questions. It should be well worth the visit.
This is the full press release from Atlona, just sent out today:
OmniStream AV over IP Product Family
OmniStream is an all-new AV-over-IP product family from Atlona for distributing 4K video, audio, and control over a standard gigabit network. It delivers the performance and dependability of traditional AV distribution with the added advantages of scalability, security, and cost efficiency associated with IP networks.
OmniStream was engineered from the ground up at Atlona and features several industry-exclusive capabilities, including:
•Redundant AV networks with independent data streams
•Secure content distribution
•High density encoding and decoding
•Enterprise-grade network error resilience
•Critical-quality 4K video compression with extremely low latency
•Audio distribution via Dante technology.
OmniStream will debut at InfoComm with three components: a dual-channel encoder (AT-OMNI-112), a dual-channel decoder (AT-OMNI-122), and a Dante audio interface (AT-OMNI-232).
OmniStream Key Technology Specifications and Features
•Supports HDMI video up to 4K/UHD, plus audio and RS-232 control over IP
o4K/UHD at 30Hz with 4:4:4 color sub-sampling, or at 60Hz with 4:2:0
o Video, audio, and RS-232 can be routed together or independently
•High density video over IP integration
oEncoder and decoder process two independent video channels—a pro AV industry first
oDramatically reduces encoding and decoding cost per channel
•Networked AV redundancy
oCan replicate AV content over two separate networks and IP streams—another pro AV industry first
oEnables 99.9 percent system failover for mission-critical applications; meets stringent IT requirements for fault tolerance
•Ideal for applications requiring secure content distribution
oAV presentation content can be encrypted to prevent unauthorized access
oImportant for secure facilities in government/military applications
oSeparate from HDCP—OmniStream is also HDCP compliant from encoders to decoders (some competitors are only HDCP compliant at the encoder HDMI input and decoder HDMI output, while allowing decrypted content to be streamed over the network)
•Highly robust and reliable over IP networks
oSMPTE FEC (forward error correction) for very high resilience to network errors
oEnsures reliability and dependability of traditional video and audio routing platforms
•Extremely low latency of 0.5 frame from encode to decode
o9ms for 60Hz video—lowest in the pro AV industry
oIdeal for live events with audio synchronized to video
•Power over ethernet
oEncoders and decoders can be remotely powered a PoE-equipped gigabit switch
oPower to all endpoints can be centrally managed using Atlona Management System software or the network switch
•Professional broadcast-grade video compression technology
oSMPTEVC-2 codec, developed by the BBC for critical quality broadcast applications
oEmploys light compression; ideal for high-motion video and graphics at 4:4:4 color
•Standard gigabit network infrastructure
oWorks with standard, off-the-shelf gigabit managed switches from Cisco and others
oEasily, inexpensively integrated into existing network infrastructures
•Allows highly flexible and scalable AV systems
oNo theoretical limitations on I/O size, switching capacity, or transmission distance
oNo fixed limits or port assignments for inputs or outputs
oEnables the “virtual matrix,” route any source to any destination, anywhere on the network
oEasily add sources, displays, and additional network switches as needed
•Flexible audio integration
oEncoder streams HDMI video and embedded audio, together or separately
oDecoder supports HDMI embedded audio with network or local audio embedding, plus audio de-embedding and multi-channel audio down mixing
oEnables system design for simple audio needs as well as complex scenarios with audio DSP systems
•Dante audio network interface integrates audio from sources such as PCs and microphones
oTransmits and receives audio over the network using Dante, the pro AV industry’s most-widely used network technology for delivering audio over IP
oAudio can be conveniently processed and routed in systems with a Dante-equipped DSP
•Specifically designed for pro AV integration
oHigh performance 4K/UHD scaler at decoder with 4:4:4 video processing
oAutomatic display control using RS-232 or CEC
oDisplay user-provided images, slides, and logos
AT-OMNI-112 OmniStream Two-Channel Networked Encoder
• 4K/UHD 30Hz at 4:4:4 or 60Hz at 4:2:0
• Two HDMI inputs; two ethernet ports
• Send two independent channels or send redundant IP streams
• Broadcast-grade video compression
PoE Powered AT-OMNI-122 OmniStream Two-Channel Networked Decoder
• 4K/UHD30 Hz at 4:4:4 or 60Hz at 4:2:0
• Extremely low latency: 0.5 frame from encoder to decoder
• Two ethernet ports; two HDMI outputs
• Dual, stereo outputs with dual stereo inputs for complex audio routing
PoE Powered AT-OMNI-232 OmniStream Two-Channel Dante Networked Audio Interface
• Audio input/output for Dante audio networks
• Two balanced, mic/line inputs; two balanced line level outputs
• Dante audio networking technology for compatibility with leading DSP platforms
• PoE Powered