A Definitive Guide to Networked AV

Networked AV

In the past Networked AV meant AV being transmitted over any network: WAN, LAN and the Internet. Technically speaking it still does today but what tech geeks really mean by Networked AV these days is how to optimise AV over IP in ways that make the most sense for your business and that deliver the best return on your investment.

How does AV over IP work? Here’s the science bit – decoders package up audio-visual data and transmit the packets over IP networks via Ethernet network switches. The decoder receives and unpacks the data packets to retrieve the audio-visual data.

AV over IP is continuing to evolve and dominate the networked landscape with AV and IT professionals working in close collaboration – especially in the current environment with security, GDPR legislation and other factors being given high importance across organisations.  So AV specialists and IT experts need to work hand in hand on solutions around security, bandwidth requirements and managing non-AV related data streams as well.

With all of that in mind, here is our definitive guide to the current Networked AV landscape…..

Data Packaging & Compression

The beauty of AV over IP networks is that AV data travels quickly and, when done right, causes no disruption to other mission-critical data that your business needs to operate smoothly.

One of the first considerations is whether to use standards-based data packaging and compression algorithms or to use proprietary packaging and algorithms. If you’re after the simplest path to interoperability and flexibility with the infrastructure migration, standards-based is the best choice.

SDVoE (Software Defined Video-over-Ethernet) is one packaging standard that is experiencing increased levels of adoption in the pro AV market. SDVoE focuses on video quality and image processing capability. It supports both upscaling and downscaling for resolutions up to true 4K60 4:4:4, with almost zero latency.

Network AV Interoperability

Networked AV interoperability is often an end goal for businesses. Rather than relying on one brand to work seamlessly with the same components straight from the factory floor, most companies want interoperability. A network that can work perfectly made up of different components from various brands and vendors is becoming a requirement for many businesses, so expanding and maintaining their network over time is easier.

On top of all the components working together, organisations want to include interoperability into the network itself. Your IT teams will be seeking out solutions based on common IT networking standards and solutions such as PTP, RTP, UDP and/or TCP/IP.

Your AV integrator will need to work closely with your IT department and all the other stakeholders to create a solution that can either stand alone or interact with other data on a common IT network.

Is all this collaborative work and investment worth it? In most cases the answer is yes. Interoperability gives your business much more flexibility in the components it can use and will increase the life span and futureproofing of the network.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is another important aspect for your business to consider when working on networked AV solutions. You’ll need to make sure that the IP network can handle anticipated AV traffic and have plenty of space for headroom.

Some considerations…..

A raw 1080p60 stream with 24-bit colour requires 1920x1080x60x24 = ~3 gigabits per second. 4K with the same parameters needs ~12 gigabits per second. A single stream with compression can be easily conveyed by an ordinary gigabit switch.

If correctly configured, a single switch can handle some very heavy traffic from multiple sources on numerous displays. Some caution however is needed to manage the bandwidth this way. If a UDP/IP multicast is used, then the IGMP functions of the switch must be properly configured. If not, you could flood the network with data resulting in a flooded network that will be unable to properly deliver the streams.

Whatever the technical requirements of your setup, you’ll want to develop a solution that meets your needs so do work closely with an AV specialist that has the experience to deliver. For some business, lower latency might be the highest priority and for others, the highest resolution possible might be the main priority. Or like many projects, it may be high res with low latency!

Networked AV has come a long way. Decoding and transmitting data as seamlessly as possible has never been more important to business functioning at the highest levels. Understanding and implementing the right Networked AV solutions can make all the difference. If you need any help with your networked AV setup – please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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