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UTP Presents an AV Technology Twist

One of the most interesting aspects to the convergence of AV and IT is the crossover of techniques and technologies between the two camps. The two cultures sometimes think differently in terms of new technologies, but techniques are another story.

While usually not required for short runs and lower resolutions — usually less than about 50 to 100 feet over Cat-5 — it may be required for high resolutions and for runs as short as 120 feet when using Cat-6. Now, add the cost of this extra equipment and the time it takes for a technician to tweak each signal and you can see how using skew-free from the start is the way to go.The labor cost to pull the cable is a equivalent.

NOT JUST FOR VGA

UTP technology isn't just for VGA (RGBHV), either. Some devices can do RGBHV, Component, S-Video, and Composite using the same transmitter and receiver pairs. The signal going in and out is field configurable. This means that if a client wants to do Composite today and then switch to RGBHV later, it's a simple service call, not a complete infrastructure rework — a value-add that may mean winning a deal as a result of being a forward-thinking partner. New technologies are arriving every month to do analog or digital signals over UTP. DVI and HDMI devices exist today. Distances are less than analog, but constantly getting better.

There's a big caveat worth mentioning for using UTP: the ability to repurpose currently installed premise wiring is a tempting and promising scenario for facility owners. When the original build-out is done, every attempt is often made to cable it with almost as much UTP as power cabling. Data closets are full of terminated data runs. The stuff is literally everywhere.

Now comes the problem (and one which I have spent a great deal of time describing to IT people). The AV signals traveling over the existing premise wiring will not traverse IT equipment. Remember, we are not sending IP packets of data across these wires, it's analog (or sometimes digital) AV signals. Want to blow up some equipment? Plug the two together.

While we've come up with some interesting ways of jumping from one intermediate distribution frame (IDF) closet to another, the truth of the matter is, using existing premise wiring for AV is difficult to do. Using the “last mile” to the make the final connection and doing a home run from there to the transmitter may work, but the fact is it's almost always easier and a better install to do a full run of new UTP from transmitter to receiver.

DISTRIBUTION MADE EASY

And the last reason why I love UTP — ease of distribution. Not unlike traditional cable, distribution is a snap. In terms of RGBHV, there are devices with “VGA” in and 2, 4, 8, 16, 24, even 32 RJ45 outputs. There are also receivers with loop-through ports to daisy chain from one to the next, as well. It really makes installation simple and cost-effective for large deployments of displays. As for matrix switching using all UTP, that's available now for very large, scaled installs.

So, for ease and speed of install, cost effectiveness, and versatility, this is the technology AV should be looking at for intense cabling needs.

Kris Vollrath is vice president of Advanced AV in West Chester, Pa, and an industry consultant. He can be reached at kris@digitaldesignage.com.



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