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Tag Archives: Network Media Streaming

What is 4:4:4 color and why should I care?

 

In the AV industry we pride ourselves on providing the best-quality audio and visual communication to our clients.  One way in which we can do that is to offer video solutions in 4:4:4 color.

 

 

When digital video was first introduced, video files sizes were large in relation to storage and transmission capabilities.  One of the ways to address these larger file sizes was to introduce “chroma sub sampling.”  In digital video there are two main components; Luminance and Chrominance.  Luminance (or contrast) is the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of an image.  Chrominance is the color saturation of an image.  The human eye is very sensitive to small changes in contrast (Luminance) and is less sensitive to changes in color saturation (Chrominance).

 

 

To make digital video files more manageable, compression was introduced.  A true-color video signal (4:4:4) includes all of the red, green, and blue color information of each pixel.  In a 24-bit system, there are 8 pixels for each color and thus 24 bits in true color.  Chroma subsampling reduces file size by removing color.  In the AV world, the most common color space is 4:2:0, which is DVD quality. However, with 4:2:0 quality, the viewer is only seeing 50% of the available color.  To make up for that loss of color, the pixels that were removed are recreated by borrowing or “interpolating” from the adjacent pixels.  In some instances 4:2:0 quality is perfectly acceptable.  In other instances however the chroma sub sampling provides the viewer an experience that is less than optimal.

 

 

I can think of at least three instances in which 4:4:4 color is required:

 

  1. Telemedicine:  Surgical procedures streamed over a network require extremely accurate color information on the receiving end.
  2. Spreadsheets: Small text on a spreadsheet in color is virtually unreadable at anything other than 4:4:4 quality.
  3. Corporate Branding: Accurate color representation in a company logo.  Think of how some iconic brands might appear if the colors were not accurate represented.

 

 

If two video streams with identical content are placed next to each other, one at 720P 4:4:4 color and the other at 1080P 4:2:0, chances are extremely high that the average viewer will choose the lower resolution image with the true color as the more impactful.  Color trumps resolution pretty much every time.  So the next time you are specifying a streaming solution make sure to factor in which color space is most appropriate for the application.

 

Learn More about our VIEW® Pro streaming product lines and see the difference.

 

 

 

The Power of AV over IP

 

Traditionally, AV content is distributed using fixed hardware matrix solutions – a method still being used in some projects. This method will have one piece of hardware with fixed number of inputs and fixed number of outputs; all the sources and destinations being connected to this same box.

 

 

There are some major disadvantages in using this traditional method. To name just a few:

 

a) Multiple racks of equipment and more footprints are needed
b) Expensive, specialized, and source-dedicated cables are  needed
c) Complex installation and maintenance is required
d) Cable restriction for length limitation is a consideration and even it may pick up noise and distortion
e) Rigidity is a reality – the system is neither scalable nor flexible. For example: Starting with one 16×16 (sources x destinations) unit, a customer would face purchasing another entire 16×16 system should they need to add just two more channels…a 32×32 system in which only 18×18 are being used.

 

The modern and new way of distributing AV contents is through TCP/IP Ethernet network. To explain simply, the source devices are connected to a device called an “Encoder.” The destination devices are connected with a device called a “Decoder.” The Encoders and Decoders are connected with an Ethernet Network Switch.

 

 

There are countless advantages in using this new method. To name just a few:

 

a) Highly scalable: Any source to any destination in any combination of the inputs/outputs can be connected in the system. Add a device when needed and if needed.
b) No distance limitation in the network.
c) Highly flexible, including video, audio, data, and control – all in the same network. Can extend the system by increment of 1 unit (unlike the purchasing scenario above!)
d) Highly reliable with high-quality signal transmission over standard Ethernet networks, using standard CAT5e/6 cables.
e) Internet Protocols are matured and standardized for interoperability and are future-proof.
f) Highly affordable, using the existing IP network infrastructure that includes the switches and cables.
g) Ease of installation and maintenance.

 

 

ClearOne’s StreamNet technology – a high-quality, AVoIP streaming solution that provides digital media distribution with unmatched scalability and ease of deployment on existing IP networks. It supports all types of AV sources to be distributed through existing Ethernet networks to all types of endpoints – from video wall screens to single, large-display screens and laptops or mobile devices.

 

ClearOne’s VIEW® Pro delivers the highest-quality multimedia streaming & distribution on an existing IP network with 1080p60 resolution, and an H.264 codec with ultra-high-quality 4:4:4 color-space video, ultra-low latency, low & adjustable network bandwidth, self-discovery, built-in control, RTSP/UDP streams for 3rd party products interoperability.

 

 

 

HDCP isn’t just another useless acronym

Have you ever heard of HDCP?  Ever wondered what it really means or why it exits?

 

HDCP is an acronym for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection.  It is a form of digital copy protection that was developed by Intel with the intention of preventing the copying of digital audio and video content as it travels across connections. Being that HDCP is a digital technology, HDMI and DVI cables are used.

 

HCDP becomes relevant when it comes to moving audio and video signals over a network…..AV over IP Video Distribution.   If a signal is protected by HDCP, once that signal is put into a video distribution system, it will pass if the device the signal is flowing into is HDCP compliant.   There are two general standards in the HDCP world….1.4 and 2.XX.  Without getting into the details on either, suffice it to say that in a professional AV Distribution System, the equipment you use should be compliant with both in order to provide both a legal solution and one that is flexible for your clients needs.

 

In our industry one of the main challenges that integrators face is with Apple.  Using an Apple device as a source into an Encoder can create an issue even if the content being played is not HDCP protected.  AV Integrators have told me that their customers often call and say that their Apple Device is not passing audio and video even when the content being played is not HDCP encrypted.  By default Apple has HDCP Content protection enabled on their devices.  Apple has presumably taken this route so they will not be liable for the actions of an end user.

 

To get around this, some encoding and decoding devices have a switch that enables them to turn HDCP off.  In theory this appears to be a viable solution.  The reality however is that the HDCP licensing agreement that all manufactures who wish to be in compliance sign, does not allow for this work around.

 

With ClearOne’s View Pro System we fully support the HDCP standards of 1.4 and 2.XX.  Our View Pro AV over IP Streaming Solution will never block protected or unprotected content. There is never a need to turn HDCP off.  ClearOne has taken the position to comply with HDCP Licensing to the letter of the law.

 

For more information on HDCP, visit the link below.

 

http://www.digital-cp.com.

 

As a leader in the AV community, we must provide equipment to our partners that protect their interests and their customers.

 

 

When ‘Standard’ is the only option

 

A lot can be said for standards. For instance, could you imagine how difficult it would be if the gas pedal wasn’t always on the right? Look at the recent troubles several car manufacturers have had, including lost lives over messing around with how an automatic transmission’s shift level works.

 

Standards work in all parts of life. So, as AV professionals, why have we had a variety of non-standard ways of delivering content?

 

The excitement of AV over IP products implies that maybe we will start using standards to replace balun and HDBaseT products for a more standards-based approach. But the more IP products that come to market, the more proprietary streaming products that emerge. The trouble with a proprietary stream is it locks the end user into a single solution, with limited expansion capabilities.

 

With a true standards-based solution, you can build an eco-system of devices, but are not tied to a single manufacturer, you can mix and match based on budget, features and the architecture of the system. ClearOne’s VIEW® Pro streaming solution leverages the power of H.264 streaming, thereby using visually Loss-Less streaming algorithms, to allow crystal-clear, ultra-high-quality audio and video at very low latency, all at a very low overall bandwidth (typically 8MBb/s). Additionally, based on what the clients’ needs are, we can control and manipulate streams that we don’t even encode, such as those natively streamed from an IP security or PTZ camera, or a conferencing codec with H.264 capabilities or from a computer on the network. Similarly, if perfect frame synchronization is not required, or the need for video windowing, or other advanced features is not required at some displays, there are many, easy, low-cost ways to decode the stream, such as Apple® TV or other H.264 stream viewers, or simply watch the stream on a PC, MAC, IOS or Android device.

 

By leveraging the power of Standards, we open the client to an eco-system of devices that will be a viable signal distribution infrastructure that will stand the test of time. To take this one step farther, ClearOne’s VIEW® Pro solution leverages H.264 streams, yet provides ULTRA low latency, low bandwidth and the best possible image quality, yet provides advanced capabilities like Video Wall processing, windowing processing and other neat features like USB HID and native RTSP and UDP streaming.

 

If you haven’t tried VIEW® Pro yet, why not? I’m sure it will exceed you current standard.

 

The Many Faces of Streaming

It seems that every few years, there is a new “Word” that makes its way into our vocabulary.  Back in the 1970s, it was the word “Disco”.  Every nightclub and bar suddenly became a Disco.  In the 1980s, it was “Camcorder”.  Everyone was talking about buying and using a camcorder to document their lives’ events.  These “Words” seemingly come out of nowhere, and suddenly explode into our lives.  You see and hear them everywhere, on the TV news, in advertisements, at parties.

 

This year’s word is “Streaming”.  It’s everywhere.  Coming from the tech industry, “Streaming” means something very specific to me.  But, to the average person, it means something else entirely.  In fact, most people don’t know exactly what it means.  I did a quick (and very unscientific) survey among my non-tech friends.  We played a quick game of Word Association.  When I said “Streaming,” they all said “Netflix.”  In other words, they look at Streaming as an inexpensive method of entertainment, allowing them to “cut the cable” (everyone’s fantasy).

 

To industry insiders, it is more specific.  But, it still has many meanings.  Is it a point-to-point delivery of a camera into a command center for security?  Or how about bringing a remote camera source into a video switcher for a TV broadcast?  What about point-to-multipoint streaming, as in content delivery, such as a church service via a web site?

 

How people define “Streaming” depends on the side of the electronics industry they are in.  To make the categorization easier, I like to break it out into four distinct trade shows:  ISC (International Security Conference), NAB (National Association Of Broadcasters), CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and Infocomm (Pro Audio/Video).

 

In the Pro AV industry, it’s not as much as a camera feed (though that can be a component of the content);  it’s a replacement for a point-to-point hard connection, kind of like a long extension chord.  It is generally an efficient, and versatile way to move content.  In some cases, it is just a lower-cost way to move content.  In other cases, it enhances the experience by adding graphics and effects that were difficult to accomplish in the past.  And in other cases, it ties in content from far-off places that could previously not be reached.

 

ClearOne VIEW® Pro streaming solutions sit squarely in the Infocomm world, Pro Audio/Video applications.  It is more commonly called “AV over IP.”  By running content over the network, it eliminates the need to run multiple cables over a long distance to get content to monitors, in a point-to-point connection.  Think digital signage and video walls.  It is a combination of cost saving, convenience, and experience enhancement.  A great example is in the case of a sports bar.  With so many monitors placed in such a wide proximity to the source, AV over IP saves time, money, and complicated installs.  Direct connections are no longer needed. Everything is delivered through the network.

 

In addition to content delivery, VIEW® Pro products are actually more than encoders and decoders.  They are video Digital Signal Processors (DSP).  When audio DSPs were invented, they did so much for live audio.  The VIEW® Pro products do the same for video walls and digital signage.  Not only do they distribute the content, but they add effects to make the content more interesting and attention-getting.

 

Streaming serves many purposes.  It touches everyone’s lives in so many ways of which we are not even aware.  There is a reason it is the “Word” of the year.  It enhances our visual experiences in so many ways.  The age of streaming has arrived.

 

 

 

VIEW® Pro Streaming and It’s Incredibly Versatile RS-232 Control Abilities

 

VIEW® Pro streaming encoders & decoders lead the industry in sending high quality h.264 video and audio over an existing IP network; but you probably already knew that. What you may not have known are the brilliant and flexible control capabilities of this technology.

 

In this post, we’re going to take a look at controlling devices via RS-232 and how you can use this power to take over the world, well, maybe just a client’s displays and audio outputs.

 

As an integrator, you’ve labored for several weeks (and weekends), up and down three flights of stairs, installing a multitude of displays for a client. You’re now hoping to solve the problem of powering on/off monitors, and to make it easy for the end user to select which source to show on any of the multitude of new displays. VIEW® Pro is the answer; allowing you to create an ASCII command list in the Dealer Setup software and then selecting that list using the Serial to Command selection on the Sources tab of any encoder being used  in your streaming project.

 

Dealer Set Up Serial to Command

 

The true efficiency of this “mesh network” setup is that you need only have the command list on one device, then using the magic of AV over IP, you can send those serial commands to any decoder on your network to perform the functions you’ve programmed. These commands can include the Active On/Off of the decoders themselves as well as Monitor Power On/Off which would of course require a serial cable from the decoder to the display. The D210 decoder is designed to mount directly behind a display with its small design, making this feature perfect for that model.

 

Additionally, commands such as Source Select can be used to change which sources are being played on any decoder on your network. Using a 3rd-party controller, such as a Crestron device, connected to the serial port of any available encoder or decoder, a savvy integrator could then program a stylish interface for powering displays on and off as well as providing the client an easy-to-use GUI for changing what video and audio is being played throughout the organization.

 

To expand on this ability, integrators can use VIEW® Pro’s new 2 way rs-232 pass through allowing use with ANY of the popular control system such as Utelogy, AMX, and the aforementioned Crestron to “pass-through” any driver over IP and extend the power and reach of the control system.

 

This control feature is included with all of our VIEW® Pro streaming product lines, with no additional upgrade or licensing. Competitors don’t offer this method of control with their streaming devices. Think about the possibilities you can provide for your clients. Not only are you giving them the industry leading 4:4:4 color space of vibrant, crystal-clear video with the lowest latency times;  you’re offering built-in control that allows you to provide a professional AV over IP solution with fewer devices and affordable upgrade licensing across their existing networks.

 

Look into ClearOne’s VIEW® Pro streaming encoders & decoders for your next project and see why we are taking the industry by storm with our network media streaming solutions. You know us for audio, and now you know why “we do video.