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Matrix Switchers Add Functionality To Keep Pace With Evolving Formats

The incredibly rapid pace at which video is evolving has presented us with a sizeable list of factors that we will need to consider in the upcoming years, including DVI, HDMI, HDCP, higher definitions, and higher bandwidths. With so many new sources, formats, and distribution methods to consider, it’s time to take a look at some matrix switching innovations that deal with these changes in video.

Extron SMX System MutliMatrix Series

Switching all these fancy new digital video formats with HDCP (high bandwidth digital content protection) used to be a rather nebulous proposition, but several companies now offer an ever expanding amount of innovative digital matrix switching products.

Some companies have decided to offer modular matrix switchers as a way to keep up with the array of different digital video formats encroaching on our industry. Although modular matrix switchers have been with us for years, it seems that many manufacturers are stepping onto the modularity dance floor. Extron’s new ISM and SMX series switcher boards offer a full range of high bandwidth, HDMI, DVI-D, SDI, and even fiber output modules for long distance video transmission. The good news about many of these boards is that they are HDCP compliant when it counts.

Another company that has seen this digital video revolution coming is Gefen. They offer several configurations for HDMI and DVI in sizes up to 8x8 with full HDCP compliance. Gefen has had a lot of interesting products that are on the cutting edge over the years and they have always worked reliably for my projects. If you find yourself in a tricky situation with some interesting new digital format, it’s always a good idea to check Gefen out.

Not to be left out, Kramer Electronics has also begun to offer several new types of matrix switchers. Kramer offers a full range of HDMI, Firewire, DVI, SDI, and HD-SDI matrix switchers all with full HDCP compliance.

Communications Specialities Fiberlink Matrix

If you find yourself working on a project that still incorporates analog video, but it is using video with resolutions at or above 1600x1200, you will need a matrix switcher with a very high bandwidth capacity. I typically will specify a matrix switcher with two times the bandwidth of the anticipated signal frequency. Thus, if you are routing 1600x1200 resolution video at 60 Hz, you will need a matrix switcher with a bandwidth of at least 300MHz. You can determine this by multiplying the horizontal and vertical resolution by the vertical scan rate, which in this instance was 60Hz. Then you divide the entire thing by .6666 to come up with the answer. In this case, it was 173 MHz, so it’s safe to say that a matrix switcher with 300MHz of bandwidth is a safe bet. Even safer though, would be a 400MHz matrix switcher, however they can be more costly and in most cases it’s not worth breaking the bank. The following are some higher bandwidth matrix switching products that could be considered for your next uber-high resolution, analog video project.

Autopatch/AMX offers a full line a modular, and fully configured analog video matrix switchers that can handle bandwidths of up to 600MHz in configurations of 256 inputs and outputs. That should just about cover most resolutions that one could encounter.

FSR also offers some matrix switchers with bandwidths as high as 625MHz with input and output counts of up to 32x32. Again, 625MHz should typically be more then enough for most analog signal formats.

Crestron DigitalMedia Switchers

There are several other companies out there that make higher bandwidth matrix switchers such as Altinex and Black Box. The playing field will be changing over the forthcoming years and it’s going to be up to us to stay out in front of the changes so that we can deliver properly integrated, yet future- proof systems for our clients whenever possible. Imagine if satellite receivers, digital cable receivers, or even laptops stopped having analog ports on them and only had HDCP protected outputs? You had better pray that our beloved and ever-evolving professional AV equipment manufacturers have expanded their matrix switching offerings to handle the digital video revolution.

Joey D’Angelo (joseph.dangelo@ is a principal consultant at Charles M. Salter Associates. He has worked at Salter for the past 12 years and has completed more than 300 projects since graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also plays in a punk rock band and enjoys hearing from readers.