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Video distribution: keeping up with changing tech

We look at where video distribution is headed, as installers keep up with rapidly changing standards following years of relative stability.

Previously discussed was the growth of HDBaseT and video over LAN; here Ian McMurray looks at where video distribution is headed, as installers keep up with rapidly changing standards following years of relative stability.

Discussion of where the video distribution industry is and where it’s heading becomes, inevitably, complex with a range of solution types vying for attention and supremacy. Equally inevitably, it gives rise to discussion of the role of integrators within an increasingly IT department-dominated landscape.

“As always the AV industry continues to produce cutting-edge solutions through brilliant engineering – yet is very slow to adopt them,” believes Andy Fliss, director of marketing at TV One. “During the last two years, the concept of video over IP has taken hold and owns significant mindshare for project considerations. In practice, adoption is slow. Consultants and integrators that support IT in addition to AV are specifying and deploying video over IP at an increasing rate, while traditional AV integrators and dealers continue to rely on traditional video distribution.”

He has something of an ally in Mike Allan, CTO of Exterity. “While, initially, BYOD solely leveraged low bandwidth applications, organisations increasingly want to integrate employee devices with their professional IPTV system,” he says. “This means that IPTV systems need to support multicast as well as http-based protocol technologies to deliver video to a wide range of screens, such as smartphones and tablets. This new mixed model is still in its early stages, which means that the pro-AV industry is still coming to terms with merging traditional delivery with more OTT-style delivery.”

Complex challenge
With change comes challenge, as Kamran Ahmed, CEO and co-founder of AptoVision describes: “The single biggest challenge in video distribution remains the complexity of installation of AV signal distribution systems. All signal distribution systems are composed of proprietary pieces of equipment that have to be purchased from the same vendor to ensure interoperability. Since each system vendor has a unique set of hardware and software settings, the installation of which is complex, integrators are left with having to invest heavily in learning the intricacies of each system. This leaves them with little opportunity to choose between multiple vendors without having to invest heavily in learning multiple platforms.”

“Another challenge,” he goes on, “is keeping up with and transitioning to new standards such as 4K, 4K@60, HDMI 2.0 and HDCP. After almost five or six years of relative stability, these four standards are creeping up on the industry all at the same time, creating considerable uncertainty and confusion which is expected to last for a few years – similar to the introduction of the original HDMI, although certainly not as much.”

“Today’s AV distribution systems are expected to handle a wide variety of sources and outputs,” adds Tom Barnett, Crestron’s director of marketing communications. “The biggest challenge is finding a single, scalable platform that can seamlessly route any input type to any output type, whether it’s uncompressed 4K video with no latency over a point-to-point connection, streaming wireless input from a BYOD device, fibre output for distribution across a campus, or H.264 links to send the video around the world.”

A major hurdle
And then there’s the issue of content protection to which Ahmed alluded.

“Content protection is a major hurdle that all pro-AV installers and end users face when deploying a video distribution system,” notes Allan. “Organisations looking to provide access to third-party content should be aware of the need to comply with the content industry’s security requirements, ensuring that they can leverage catalogues of top-quality content. To provide security that meets these requirements, it is paramount to utilise a robust and flexible network that supports Conditional Access and High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection v2 [HDCPv2], ensuring that content is fully secure throughout its journey over the network.”

“HDCPv2 is the only security standard permitted for delivery of content, previously protected by HDCP, over IP,” he explains. “It protects communications over one or more links in a network and protects both wired and wireless communication between devices. HDCPv2 provides users with a security mechanism that protects communications over multiple networks and is specifically designed for IP distribution. HDCPv2 combined with CAS and SecureMedia encryption future-proofs technologies and enables customers to deploy a single system for all their digital signage and IPTV requirements without risking unauthorised access to the content.”