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.
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.
For those of you that have been in Pro AV for decades, confusion is not something new. Remember the analog sunset? Remember HDCP? Remember going over-IP? Fortunately, confusion is a phenomenon that disappears over time.
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.
All Software Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE™)-type AV distribution endpoints are interoperable, regardless of vendor or origin. But why are these endpoints interoperable? What is it that helps guarantee this interoperability?
In my 20 years at Semtech, I have been fortunate to have worked on many interesting products and experienced many market successes along the way. However, being a part of the first BlueRiver® ASIC development was certainly a career highlight in many ways. First, it was a treat to be immersed in the amazing and innovative technologies that are the backbone of BlueRiver: 10G Ethernet, IP networking, advanced video processing, and high speed video to name but a few! Second, I was able to explore the broad applications and plethora of use cases in the exciting Professional AV market that will be enabled by, and benefit from, the BlueRiver ASIC. And finally, I had the pleasure of working with a world class team of engineers and professionals dedicated to growing the video business in Semtech’s Signal Integrity Products Group.