Video Distribution

If you've ever had to connect a Blu-Ray player to a TV only to find intermittent picture you know just how peculiar and frustrating our new technology can be. HDMI, the new standard in high-definition interface, has brought a dream solution many would describe as a nightmare. Gone are the days of simple analog plugs that always worked and if it didn't you simply plugged it in the wrong spot. Now everything is going digital, and if you're not keeping up, you'll soon be left in the dark.

First I'd like to take a look at the why. Why is the industry moving to a digital standard? Well that's a loaded question in it of itself. There are two reasons for this change, one is the need to provide more information on a single platform and the other is for content protection. Which is the most important is really almost irrelevant, what is relevant is that the content protection is paramount over everything else being delivered. Movie studios and the like are more concerned than ever about their legal property, and they are coming up with ingenious ways to not only deliver it, but also protect it. Every piece of media you watch and listen to these days is digital, and with that comes the ability to track and protect that media. So make no mistake, above all else, the new wave in digital media is all about content protection. The other purpose is of course to provide one superior platform for distributing that media. By superior I mean capable of combining audio and video, as well as control, internet, and communication, all over one medium. It is a standard that will soon be enforced as mandatory for the purpose of viewing HD movies in the very near future. Many sources already only have an HDMI output on the back, such as the new Apple TV, leaving you helpless if you don't have an HDMI connection to your display. And by the end of 2013, all sources and DVD Players will lose any other form of analog output for the purpose of high definition. Soon after you can bet cable and satellite boxes will also be doing away with HD except through digital HDMI connections. So get ready.

So how will this affect you? Well that strongly depends on how up-to-date your products/infrastructure is. You may need to upgrade your TV if you're still sitting on some of the older analog sets. You may simply need to buy a new cable to connect to your TV. But what if your TV is mounted on a wall and your equipment is located in a cabinet or closet somewhere else? Here's where it gets tricky and where knowledge really is power.

HDMI distribution is very complex. There are distance issues like the older analog systems, but even more importantly, there's content protection sequences that must occur for it to work. If you have a switcher that shares your sources such as cable boxes and DVD players with multiple TV's then you really need to know what you're getting into. Many manufacturers sell products guaranteed to work, but all that means is that if it doesn't work they'll return your money. While this may be nice, it's not solving anything. The reality is you need a system that not only has been thoroughly tested to work, but also contains a form of verifying everything that is happening to solve any issues you may have. HDMI gets very complicated, and without a diagnostic tool to show you what is actually happening, you are simply guessing your way out of an issue. If you install a DVD Player in a closet and use an existing cable to get HDMI to the TV 30 feet away, how do you determine if it's working properly? How do you know you're getting a 1080P picture? How do you know if your cable supports Deep Color, 3D, or any other upcoming technology? Luckily there is at least one company that is always ahead of the curve in finding solutions. That company is called Crestron.

Crestron has taken initiative in solving the problems of tomorrow, today. The future of video distribution isn't just about video anymore, it's about all forms of media, and that media needs to be managed to be legally distributed in high definition. There are distance issues, source capability issues, display capability limitations, verification timing issues, and a multitude of other considerations for properly designing and commissioning a working video distribution system. HDMI Cables can be used, but so can copper and so can fiber optic cables. Which is the right choice? Well that all depends on the circumstance as there is no one right answer. Finding the right professional can help take the guesswork out of it.

Crestron has provided a way to verify the qualifications of a designer and installer to be sure you're dealing with someone who's been properly trained, and I highly recommend using these tools to verify certifications of anyone you may be looking to hire for this purpose. A Certified Engineer is a must when designing and installing a video distribution system if you want to avoid the headaches that come with trial and error. Unfortunately, there are few experienced in this field as this field is so new. There are even fewer trained in this field as their is such little training available. Do your homework and make sure your ESI (Electronic Systems Integrator) understands and has solutions for your needs that account for digital content protection and future HD capabilities.

Lauren Killough