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Smart Analog

Nov 17, 2011 10:12 AM, By Steven Swift

Fort Leavenworth conference upgrade combines high tech with fiscal responsibility.

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Analog vs. digital

One reason FCC was able to afford the extensive AV systems was a decision to stay with analog versus digital audio and video signal transport.

The most important reason to install an all-digital system, according to Steve Martin, design consultant for CTI, would have been HDCP compliance, necessary to show

Blu-Ray movies and other consumer media in high definition. But that just wasn’t an issue in FCC.

Extron wall plate with component, S-Video, VGA, and audio inputs plus VGA monitor out.

Still, Martin and Don Otting, senior AV technician for the center, wanted to make sure that the facility would be ready for new laptops and other devices with digital HDMI outputs. Martin says that as long as HDCP copy protection is not an issue, there are several inexpensive converter boxes that will take an HDMI output and convert it to a VGA or component signal. “The quality will not be as high as it would be carrying the native digital signal, but the difference will be subtle,” he explains.

This is not to say that the center expects to stay with an analog system forever. “Our biggest concern,” Martin adds, “was making sure they had a cable plant that would handle 1080p video in native formats when they were ready to make that investment.”

The 64x64 Extron Cat-5 switcher, which routes any signal from any source to any combination of displays and sound systems in the facility.

Category cable

Martin says that, for the Frontier Conference Center, CTI purchased the very first MTPX Plus 64x64 Cat-5 matrix switcher shipped by Extron, and that made significant additional savings possible.

Cat-5e cable not only will able to handle 1080p digital video when the center is ready, but it is far less expensive to install than other cabling systems. Component and VGA cables use considerably more copper than twisted pair, are more expensive to manufacture, and require much larger conduits. It also takes considerably more labor to pull the heavier cables through that conduit and then terminate them.

In addition, the Extron switcher and Extron MTP transmitters and receivers make it possible to carry an RS-232 signal on the Cat-5e cable, avoiding the need to purchase and install a separate set of serial cables for the AMX control system. The Extron MTP transmitters also have EDID minders built in, so EDID compliance—an issue today for many analog systems—is not a problem.

Martin estimates FCC may have saved as much as 25 to 30 percent of the cost of the entire AV system by using Category cable and the Extron components.

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