A Lock On The Video Chain

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Key Digital Combines Feature-Richness With Ease Of Use In Products That Keep Pace With Video’s Evolution

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Key Digital is introducing a new family of HDMI matrix switchers, starting with the HDMS 4x4—capable of switching up to four HDMI/DVI video sources with inpvuts for up to four independent zones and outputs via HDMI and Cat-5

There’s no question that when it comes to video, Mike Tsinberg knows what he’s talking about.

A SMPTE fellow and an inventor involved in 37 patents in the United States and internationally, Tsinberg has enjoyed an impressive career that has aligned him with some of the most significant video technologyrelated developments in the last three decades. A former department head at Philips Research Lab, he was responsible for overseeing the manufacturer’s analog and Grand Alliance digital MPEG 2-based HDTV systems; then he moved on from Philips to Toshiba, where as senior manager he was involved with the development of the company’s DVD authoring software and architecture, as well as its digital TV receiver architecture and embedded software.

At the end of 1999, Tsinberg branched out on his own with the creation of Key Digital. The first product: the DA-12, a distribution amplifier that enabled users— in this case, retailers—to connect 12 monitors to one source for display. “High definition was just starting then, and retailers were looking for enabling technology,” Tsinberg explained. Best Buy was Key Digital’s first customer and, as it grew in popularity among other large retailers, Tsinberg began to grow a dealer network, which supported the expansion into other commercial and residential markets.

It was through the development of Key Digital’s second major product—the Digital Leeza, a distribution amplifier— that the manufacturer’s philosophy on technological development was born. “The Leeza was very sophisticated; and it was very feature-rich,” Tsinberg relayed. Those features, however, were largely created by engineers instead of being requested by end users. “We learned very quickly that the suggestions for product features that are created by engineers are not as effective as those that are demanded by customers.”

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Key Digital founder Mike Tsinberg is a SMPTE fellow and an inventor involved in 37 U.S. and international patents.

With the introduction of a new family of HDMI matrix switchers, starting with the HDMS 4x4—capable of switching up to four HDMI/ DVI video sources with inputs for up to four independent zones and outputs via HDMI and Cat-5—Tsinberg underlines that Key Digital aims to offer simplicity and seamlessness to installers. “HDMI is not a straightforward connectivity such as component VGA, which is straightforward from source to display without any feedback or handshaking,” he said. “HDMI is very rich on handshaking, since it’s analyzing display capability as well as authenticating it for proper copy protection.” This necessitates the circulation of data back and forth, which makes the format, in many cases, difficult to install. Tsinberg and his team have endeavored to change this.

“When I asked one of our dealers: ‘How would you categorize HDMI today?’ He said, ‘I can’t call HDMI plug-and-play; I can call it ‘plug-andpray,’” Tsinberg recounted. “What we are doing with this HDMS 4x4 and our other HDMI products is we are definitely making them to be plug-andplay instead of plug-and-pray.” There’s a lot of technology involved in doing so, he concedes, but it is possible.

Based on lessons learned early on, the product development team at Key Digital continues to rely on customer input to shape the R&D process. “The most effective way to offer a good product is to have the customer be a featuregenerator, not an engineer,” Tsinberg said, adding that the engineer’s role is to then find the best way to follow through and improve upon those suggestions. “We don’t need to create products that the customer does not really want. The customer should be driving the product outlook and features set. Now, this is our religion.”

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