In this round up we explore the world of HDMI, DVI, and other video signals and how they can be routed, switched, and managed in a wide variety of devices. One of they key elements of the digitally based systems is the ability to transcode or reformat one type of signal, say RGBHV into another like DVI internally within the matrix/router. This capability allows a true anything in/anything out structure and more importantly can have a significant impact on the design and cost of the cable infrastructure required to both feed signals into the matrix and distribute the resulting outputs.
The digitally based systems also open the door to the use of fiber optic cabling, increasing both the density of the possible I/O and the distances over which signals can be transmitted cleanly. In many cases both fiber and conventional copper cabling can be intermixed. Additionally the digitally based systems also allow the introduction of Cat 5/6 and high speed Ethernet as an option for signal transmission both in and out of the matrix. This blurring of the line between A/V and IT is expanding quickly as the technologies needed to accomplish the high-bandwidth transmission of HD video get ever lower in cost and more robust in performance.
The five key points to consider when planning the use of a digitally based matrix switcher/router are:
Do you need a system that allows future expansion or changes in signal format and content or can you define your requirements accurately enough to purchase a system with a fixed I/O structure?
Digitally based systems generally allow a much easier growth curve; that is, the addition of more inputs and outputs than hardwired analog systems. So be sure to consider this when planning the amount of rack space and such things as cooling requirements, additional cable routing and conduit and similar factors.
The high packing density of connectors found on digital systems can be an issue when using certain type of “consumer style” cables with oversized plugs or jacks that will not fit correctly. Make sure that the cables you plan to use will allow proper connection and termination.
If you are planning to use an HDMI based system, be sure to consider the use of the locking type HDMI connectors. HDMI connectors are notorious for their ability to magically unplug themselves at the worst possible time in the most inaccessible place. The newer generation of cables offers