When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, there was a general feeling that it would all be over in six months. Few expected the global shutdown of live events and professional sports. Concert tours were postponed and sports arenas stood empty as the effects of the pandemic rolled on into the year. I had bought tickets to see the My Chemical Romance reunion tour in September 2020, for my son Max’s 18th birthday. But of course, it’s been postponed (twice) and it looks like I’ll be taking him for his 20th birthday instead! Pro sports are starting to open up in many countries, and people like me are itching to go to concerts to see our favorite bands, comedians and theater productions, and be immersed in the collective cheers and applause of the audience again. In the immortal words of the late, great Freddie Mercury, “the show must go on!”
Since starting out my career working at Dolby Laboratories in the early to mid-90s, I’ve often been referred to as “the audio guy.” However, I’ve actually spent the majority of my career working with video technologies, initially with the Serial Digital Interface (SDI), and more recently, with Software Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE™) which is powered by Semtech’s award-winning BlueRiver® technology for Pro AV. Still, I have a soft spot for all things audio and make a point of highlighting the audio features of my product lines, as some of these often get overlooked.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for higher education establishments to adopt hybrid styles of learning, providing the benefits of in-room learning to remote students. The Audio Visual (AV) experience is a major component of this hybrid approach, combined with the flexibility of high performance networks, to deliver the most stimulating and immersive experience for both teaching staff and students. As the world recovers and students go back to school, there may still be the need to reduce class sizes for social distancing purposes, and therefore, “extend” the teaching experience beyond the single classroom, with many students still participating remotely, either from different rooms or from home.
I designed my first product using the Serial Digital Interface (SDI) back in 1996, and little did I know that this fledgling coax-based video interface standard would dominate my career for the next 20+ years. Back then, SDI was limited to carrying Standard Definition (SD) digital video at 270 Megabits per second (Mbps), but would evolve to higher and higher data rates to carry High Definition 720p, 1080i and 1080p, and most recently 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video, at cable lengths that were not thought possible. The convenience of a low cost single conductor coaxial copper cable, capable of carrying 4K video up to 100m has meant that SDI has become the de facto AV connectivity of choice in markets such as broadcast, Pro AV, medical and surveillance.
With the move to a more distributed workforce as well as an increasing number of staff permanently working from home, businesses are opting for smaller huddle rooms for ad hoc meetings and remote collaboration. Also taking advantage of the power of today’s personal computing technology, businesses large and small are relying less and less on dedicated, permanently installed video conferencing systems. These days, it is quite commonplace for users to drive the meeting and room technology using their own devices, and collaborate using the latest video conferencing software tools. This is often referred to as a “Bring Your Own Device” meeting, or simply BYOD. However, since the entire meeting experience relies totally on the user’s device and meeting software, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, this application is more often termed BYOM for “Bring Your Own Meeting,” with users simply benefiting from the available audio and video peripherals of the meeting space they are in.
When it comes to AV signal switching and extension over standard copper category cabling, Semtech offers two high performance platforms: AVX chipsets for point-to-point AV extension applications, and the BlueRiver® AVP series of devices for AV-over-IP and Software Defined Video Over Ethernet (SDVoE™) network-based applications. Both solutions take advantage of standard Ethernet technologies, typically operating at 10Gbps, to support transmission of high bandwidth 4K60 video with uncompressed image quality. However, when video bandwidth does not require the full 10Gbps, both AVX and AVP can operate at the 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps Ethernet rates. The benefits at operating at these lower data rates includes significantly longer cable reach over high performance category cable, or reuse of existing network cable infrastructure designed to carry lower data rate Ethernet.
It’s been almost a year since the official launch of Semtech’s ASIC platform for Pro AV extension, routing and distribution. Two dedicated platforms were launched: AVX for point-to-point AV extension applications over copper category cable and optical fiber, and the BlueRiver® AVP series of devices for AV-over-IP and Software Defined Video Over Ethernet (SDVoE™) network-based applications. And what a year it has been! Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, customer uptake and product developments have certainly exceeded expectations, and 2021 will see the launch of an exciting range of Pro AV products powered by the new AVX and BlueRiver AVP ASICs.
With the launch of the BlueRiver® ASIC at the beginning of 2020, the AV over IP landscape is being redefined by products offering new levels of cost, performance and interoperability. As the core technology for Software Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE™), BlueRiver is recognized as the only IP-based technology capable of providing true video matrix-level performance, with pixel-perfect image quality and ultra-low latency. Supporting a broad range of markets and end-applications, such as live events, esports, medical, high-end residential, and command and control, system designers can take advantage of the powerful SDVoE Applications Programming Interface (API) to develop application-specific software running on a common BlueRiver-powered hardware platform.
In the world of Pro AV, point-to-point cable extension technologies are essential for transmitting AV content from point A to point B, where standard cabling just cannot go the distance. With the advent of HDMI, full bandwidth AV signals are sent in digital form at high data rates over shielded twisted pair (STP) cables, which typically max out at around 20 meters of reach. When carrying 4K video content, HDMI operates at up to six Gigabits per second (Gbps), and as data rate increases, so does the challenge of transmitting it over longer distances. Soon after HDMI transformed AV connectivity to digital, another technology was developed to extend these signals over standard copper networking infrastructure. This technology is called HDBaseT.
For most of my career at Semtech, I’ve been responsible for SDI-based products and technology, often extolling the features and benefits of copper-based, long-reaching audio and video (AV) signals. While SDI product lines matured into a meaningful business for the Signal Integrity Products (SIP) group at Semtech, there has been significant investment and record growth in optical fiber transmission technology for enterprise computing and communications. Fiber connectivity is now the backbone of worldwide communications with SIP optical products at the heart of this fiber revolution.