AV Networks: Future of Audio, Video Directly Tied to IT

AV Networks: Future of Audio, Video Directly Tied to IT

While there are a wide range of signal types to consider when thinking about the right AV network, the type of cable most often used for such networks is Ethernet.

Things tend to come full circle, don’t they?

What devices will actually will talk to each other in order to make a system work?

How many do you guys remember when a computer network amounted to a token ring that used BNC connectors and coax cable?

OK, so maybe a few of you, but not all. Now, how many of you are familiar with how many different types of signals can flow over a CAT5 or CAT6 cable?

Maybe I should start listing them, just so we can start to see the sheer quantity of different things that are all transmitted over a similar connector type. Today, instead of installing Multi core copper snake cable for an audio mixer, many of us are instead opting to put in a digital snake with a CAT6 cable.

Under such a configuration, can I plug a digital snake into your network switch? Can it then go to multiple consoles?

I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but it’s all with the intent of starting you thinking about the complication in the potential consequences of not knowing all of the signal tapes, and how they all need to talk to each other.

On a system recently installed of note, it included a high-end Cisco network switch that drives all of the traffic between all the connections, such as the video projector, to the TVs throughout the building, to the amplifiers, the system DSP, the front of house mixer, as well as the touch panels that control everything.

One of the issues that just came up was that installation after it had been completed, involved a couple of 75-inch large displays that had been put on stage by the owner. One of the volunteers at the church proceeded to grab an Ethernet cable, looking to plug from the back of the TV LAN port into a random Ethernet jack in a floor pocket. They then wondered why they couldn’t get any signal on the stage display TVs.

So if we start with Dante as one of the connectivity standards available on the market today, then another to talk about would be AES50, then HDBaseT, after which we would need to talk about DigitalMedia, or DM, from Crestron, AES67, ANet, QLAN, then we can’t forget standard IP traffic, let alone passive baluns for video signals.

Fortunately, all of the signal types noted above use the same connector type, that being Ethernet.

On the plus side, we could run just a ton of Ethernet cable throughout the building and put in patch bays, and allow you to connect anything to anything. The only problem with that approach is you have to understand what devices plug into each other, and which ones will actually will talk to each other in order to make the system work.

Being that I’m a bit of a car nut, I’d like to talk in terms of shifting gears, so let's burn a little rubber into second gear and talk about what are the good things related to having networked AV.

Referencing my earlier example, where there were the projector, the TVs, the amplifiers, the DSP, the front of house mixer, and all of the touch panels all talking on the same network.  One piece that AVE has added to systems like this is a rackmount computer, where we can have remote access and make programming changes or troubleshoot from a far.  When it comes to being able to answer questions and service churches, this is a fantastic asset. In addition, you could control the AV system throughout the building, just with an app on your smart phone, allowing you to control the lights, the displays and many other aspects of the system.

See an example of that in the video below.


Be sure to watch the video for at least 60 seconds…

One of the main ways that system control can be implemented is through the use of QSC’s Q-Sys platform.  It is not only an audio processing DSP, but also a unit that allows control commands to be sent to many other devices across the network. It also has the flexibility of setting various levels, limiters as well as tracking, if say a guest mix engineer ran the system so hard that it pushed your subwoofers into clipping and blew them out, to where you would have a record of when it happened and who was logged in.

Oftentimes, I see on various Facebook groups where I am a participant, people talking about system integrators, and whether they should use a specific one or not. I would say in that evaluation process, it’s important to see if they have any network experience, as the future of AV is directly tied to IT.

We are entering the age of IoT. Also known as Internet of Things.

It was probably 10 years ago when I first started to learn about this, and it was frankly a bit intimidating at that point, but looking back and seeing where we are at today, I now can only imagine where we’re going to go in the next decade.

A fascinating side note: I now have full records and control of my home’s heat and cooling via an internet device - a thermostat!

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