How Are You Tracking Your Room Checks?

PPI’s Vantage Services platform can clarify networked AV data

If meeting reminders are the most consistent notification on any screen in your office, then you probably define presentation and conference room technology as mission-critical. 

Your AV systems need to work right away, the first time. Multiply that requirement by every collaborative space across a global organization, and you are managing serious demand. 

For many PPI clients, the number of daily and weekly room checks required to keep AV systems operational worldwide can be in the thousands. As our service team has evolved to support our growing client base, two truths emerged:

  • The cost of a failed meeting increases exponentially when countless billable hours are on the line
  • AV is starting to look a lot like IT, and room systems should be managed, monitored and measured the same way as a network

It’s true, today’s AV deployments are comprised of components that are all essentially network devices. So it would seem to follow that remote management would be a breeze over the network. But the fact remains that most of the tools for managing AV technologies are either proprietary and only help with manufacturer specific devices, or are too burdensome to deploy quickly or cheaply. 

With so many separate dashboards, room checks can feel like wading through a massive sea of data, making it almost impossible to quickly identify trouble spots and keep track of what’s being fixed, or worse, what’s totally offline.  

To help our clients get a clearer picture of all their networked AV systems, PPI developed our own suite of tools and services called Vantage. It’s manufacturer-agnostic, easy to use and nearly effortless to deploy. 

One of the key features of Vantage is the Room Checks module, which is a powerful data aggregation tool that combines device-level data with cloud API integrations from UC platforms to provide a complete view of everything happening in a room.

The Vantage Room Checks tool provides a clear snapshot of operational status across AV and UC systems enterprise-wide. The interface was designed for collaboration between our dedicated Vantage service team and clients’ in-house AV support professionals. Now everyone has a better view of what’s working, what’s been found and fixed and any other incidents. 

After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. So let PPI’s Vantage platform help you keep track of all the details, and we can remove the AV-tech-related stress from those constant meeting reminders. 

Yealink and PPI Partner Up

Yealink and PPI are thrilled to announce its partnership today!

Yealink offers cost-effective room solutions for Microsoft Teams Rooms, Zoom Rooms, and “Bring Your Own Device” environments. PPI can help design and delivery the right solution for a variety of room types and sizes from Yealink’s extensive hardware portfolio that is security certified, pre-configured, and flexibly designed. Contact us to plan and price these solutions that are AVAILABLE, COST EFFECTIVE, and easy to deploy and Support.

Why Should I Pay Monthly for Technology?

In the 1960s, Gordon Moore made a prediction that said computing would increase in power at an exponential pace, and at the same time the relative cost would go down. Cell phones are one of the best examples of this because most of us have seen it evolve over our lifetimes. In 1984, the first […]

Changing Technology of the Huddle Room: Our InfoComm Takeaway

Huddle rooms are nothing new, but in the past few years we’ve worked on a ton of office build-outs with a new emphasis and dedication to these little collaborative work spaces. According to research from Gartner, the proportion of video systems purchased for huddle rooms doubled from 10 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2016. This same research predicts a 400 percent growth in group video conferencing usage by 2019 (1).

A quick trek around the InfoComm showroom floor confirmed suppliers are stepping up their game in the world of huddle rooms, and there is a lot of new technology for adding high quality, software-based codec video conferencing features to these rooms.

Audio
For high-end audio installation solutions, many small Digital Signal Processors (DSP) are making their way to the market. Here are some products we’re excited about:

Biamp has a new 4in/4out DSP with a broad selection of audio components, routing options, and signal processing. It can handle the open standard Audio Video Bridging (AVB), or Audinate’s proprietary Dante. Plus, it supports Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) audio codec – Available October 2017.

Shure has an affordable Dante enabled 8in/4out DSP with Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), made to pair with their ceiling array microphone, or two table array microphones. Shure also has a 4in/4out for soft codecs that supports one table array mic, however, this unit does not have AEC built in.

Application of either of these products allows a broader selection of microphones and speakers for installation, and for precisely tuning a room for the best audio performance. This can create a no-compromise professional audio experience in huddle spaces as they become a larger part of the day-to-day work experience.

The Biamp and Shure products operate as standalone DSP deployments. Meanwhile, QSC Audio Products is encouraging integrators to centralize DSP resources and allocate portions of large DSP servers to support several rooms, which may be more cost effective in certain deployments.

For mid-range installations, products like Biamp’s Devio and Sennheiser’s TeamConnect are designed to add quality audio into Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) spaces with minimal fuss by reducing connection requirements to a simple USB cable.

Finally, for quick, simple integrations, products like the Yamaha CS-700 and the Logitech Meetup integrate cameras, speakers, and beamforming mic arrays into a soundbar-like USB device that mounts below the display.

Video
On the video side, Atlona showed their new small presentation switchers for huddle rooms. Crestron and Extron are well established in this space, but Atlona is a new player, bringing an interesting perspective to the fold.

Atlona’s HDVS-300 incorporates a USB hub to allow BYOD equipment shared access to installed webcams and other USB hardware — a feature that’s typically anchored to a fixed PC. It also eliminates the need for a separate USB extender in more conventional builds. Additionally, Atlona’s UHD-SW-510W attempts to remove the need for wires entirely by incorporating AirPlay, Google Cast, and Miracast into one device; this allows wireless display mirroring without the need to install an extra application or driver. The unit is also one of the first – if not the first – to feature a powered USB-C port, which can be used to charge laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Solutions for huddle rooms should be easy to install and cost effective. As always, Presentation Products is here to help you wade through the changing trends in AV conferencing. Contact a PPI Account Manager to take the conversation about your business’s huddle room implementation and strategy to the next level.

PPI Huddle Room Portfolio Examples
BuzzFeed
Horizon Media
Viacom
Dropbox

Related articles
An Analysis and Comparison of Software-Based Codecs Against the Landscape of Video Conferencing 

 

(1)     Gartner, “The Rise of the Video-enabled Huddle Room in the Digital Workplace,” December 2015

The Advantages of Lamp-Free Projection

Front projection has been a key element of the AV industry for decades. Even in recent years, as flat panel displays have gotten larger and more popular, projection still has still maintained a solid footing in the industry (particularly when seamless images of larger than 90” are necessary). Throughout the years, one aspect of projectors has remained consistent: lamps have always been used to create the light that shines out of the units. A few years ago, however, projectors with solid-state light sources began to hit the market. And what at first was a prohibitively expensive technology in its infancy has recently emerged to become a viable option. As of early 2016, lamp-free projectors are a main focus of almost every projector manufacturer, and solid state projection has emerged alongside the likes of 4K UHD resolution and digital audio as one of AV’s next big things. But is the hype real? Are lamp-free projectors actually worth the price tag? And how does a lamp-free projector even work? Read on for a detailed analysis of solid-state projection.

A basic understanding of projection is necessary in order to realize the differences between traditional and solid-state units. Traditional projectors rely on one or more lamps to create light. This light is then processed to turn it into an image. There are three common styles of light processing: LCD, single-chip DLP, and three-chip DLP. Rather than getting into the specifics of those technologies, we can simplify things by saying that, generally, image quality improves as you go from LCD to 1-chip to 3-chip. Regardless of the type of projector, the final step in the process is for the light to be sent to a lens that enlarges the image and shines it onto the screen.

Lamp-free projectors use the same series of processes, with one large difference: rather than using a lamp to create the light, they use a solid-state source. Specifically, there are four common types of solid-state light sources:

  1. LED: The LED projector has actually been around for a while. Though it has the advantage of a roughly 30,000-hour life cycle, it also has a major brightness limitation. The vast majority of LED projectors are around 1,000 lumens, which is only appropriate for use in a room with all the lights off. A survey from 2015 found that of 232 LED models, over 90% come in at 2,000 lumens or less.
  2. LED/Laser Hybrid: These projectors use a combination of LEDs and a laser diode, which we will describe next. A step up in brightness, these are also typically a step up in price as well. LED/laser hybrid projectors usually come in around 3,000 – 4,000 lumens.
  3. Laser Phosphor: This newer technology is the reason for the recent boom in laser projectors. Laser phosphor projectors use a single blue laser that shines into a phosphor wheel that creates yellow light. The blue light passes through, and the yellow shines into a color wheel that creates red and green. Laser phosphor projectors usually range between 5,000 and 13,000 lumens of brightness, which is an excellent fit for corporate, educational, & other professional use. Laser phosphor projectors are usually either single-chip DLP or three-chip DLP, and are typically rated for 20,000 hours of use.
  4. RGB Laser: Also called direct laser projectors, these models are used when extreme brightness is necessary. This technology uses three individual lasers – one each for red, green, and blue. These models can provide brightness upwards of 20,000 lumens, and typically carry MSRPs well into the six figures.

So, we’ve gotten technical and described what the differences are between the insides of lamp-based and lamp-free projectors. But what are the actual, noticeable differences to projector owners? Indeed, there are many implications that a solid-state light source brings with it, almost all of which are productive. Let’s take a look at the advantages of lamp-free projectors:

  1. Reduced cost of ownership: The number one advantage of a solid-state projector is the fact that you aren’t ever going to have to change a lamp. Most laser phosphor projectors are rated for 20,000 hours of use until they reach 50% brightness. Comparable lamp-based projectors are usually rated for 2,000 – 3,000 hours of use until 50% brightness. We’ll get into a detailed price analysis later, but off the bat it’s evident that throughout its lifespan a solid-state projector will you 9-10 sets of replacement lamps and the labor cost that goes along with changing them. This is a significant savings that in concept can be applied to every single laser phosphor projector.
  2. Higher perceived brightness after day one: Let’s say one boardroom has a lamp-lit projector that has 1,000 hours of use, and a second has a solid-state projector with 1,000 hours of use as well. Boardroom A is halfway to replacement time, meaning the brightness will be at 75% or less of what it was on day one. Boardroom B is only 1/20 of the way to replacement time, meaning its brightness is still 95% of what it was on day one. So while the brightness of lamp-lit projectors will dip significantly below specification before the “change bulb” notification appears, solid-state projectors will output far more consistent brightness levels for years on end. Now, it’s fair to make the argument that the end of a lamp life cycle means a new bulb and the end of a solid-state life cycle means a new projector. The numbers, however, show this to be a relative non-issue: 20,000 hours of use is a very long time, equivalent to 10 years of 40 hours / week use. Most AV technology becomes obsolete in 6-8 years anyway, meaning your projector will probably be replaced for other reasons than end of life due to half brightness.
  3. Rapid on/off: As owners of traditional projectors surely know, these models usually take over one minute to achieve full brightness, and about half that to turn off. Lamp warm up and cool down can cause annoyance and frustration during a busy day. Lamp-free models take about ten seconds to get to full brightness, alleviating this issue almost entirely.
  4. Consistency: In multi-projector applications, such as a wide-aspect ratio image that uses edge blending, consistency is key. Lamp-lit projectors introduce inconsistency through their life cycles, which can lead to images that showcase a number of different brightness levels: lamps can progress at inconsistent rates, they can blow out, etc. The consistency of a solid-state projector helps to alleviate that problem.
  5. No worries: Quite simply, lamp-based projectors can fail. Ask any projector manufacturer: they all have contingency policies for when projectors “go dark.” With solid-state projectors, there is much lower risk of your important meeting or seminar suddenly losing an image: lamps, one major failure point that causes outages, are taken out of the equation.

So far, we’ve shown that solid-state projectors have their advantages over traditional models. We’ve also mentioned that they’re more expensive. Every facet of the AV industry – and all industries, really – provide options that give better quality for a higher cost. The real question is the following: are lamp-free projectors worth the increased price tag?

For starters, we need to say that the projector world is a tough one to navigate when looking at prices. MSRPs on projectors are typically thousands of dollars higher than what the units end up actually going for. So we’ve come up with a metric called “actual value,” which is 70% of the projector’s MSRP. This will give a figure that is pretty close to what the projectors are actually selling for.

To analyze the value, we’ve taken a look at six sets of projectors made by three prominent manufacturers. Each set contains two projectors – one lamp-based, and one solid-state – with nearly identical specifications. All projectors in the comparison feature the same resolution: WUXGA, 1920 x 1200. See the below chart for the difference in price between each model. Please note: all pricing is for example purposes only & may not reflect current market value.   A

So far, it’s clear that – to varying degrees – laser projectors are more expensive than lamp-based projectors. What we’ve done next is evaluate the approximate maintenance cost of lamp-based models. The next chart shows the value of lamps for each lamp-based model, and the number of hours the unit is rated for until it reaches 50% brightness. All the laser projectors in the chart are rated for 20,000 hours. We’re figuring that a typical service call to change a lamp costs $500 – a good value, for sure. So, we’ve divided 20,000 by the number of hours each lamp-based projector is rated for, and then multiplied that by the number of lamps in the unit, the cost of each lamp, and tacked on $500 to each replacement lamp (or set of lamps) to account for labor. This gives us a “total maintenance cost” on the unit over the 20,000 hour span that its solid-state counterpart is rated for. Tack that number onto the cost of the projector itself, and we arrive at “total projector cost.” We can compare this number to the total cost of the solid-state projector.

B

The verdict? In five out of six cases, the total projector cost is lower for the solid-state model – in some cases by over $20,000. In the most extreme case we looked at, the total projector cost of the lamp-based model ended up being 65% more than that of its solid-state counterpart. This is a massive savings, and speaks clearly to the value of solid-state projectors over their lamp-based counterparts.

Furthermore, it’s clear that this technology is becoming more affordable. We’ve also included a release year column in our chart. Half of the projectors we looked at were released in 2014, and the other half in 2015. The average difference in actual value – before maintenance costs – between the 2014-released solid-state projectors and their lamp-based counterparts is 39%. For projectors released in 2015, that number drops to 12%, a huge decrease. It’s evident that the cost of solid-state projectors, thanks primarily to developments in laser phosphor technology, has decreased significantly over the last two years.

C

Based on the data, it’s clear – in almost every case, solid-state projectors using laser phosphor technology will provide better value than their lamp-based equivalents. This means that if you’re looking for a projector between 5,000 and 13,000 lumens, you should be looking for a lamp-free model. That being said, choosing the right projector is a complicated decision, and a good AV designer will take many additional factors into account before arriving on a specification. Contact a PPI Account Manager today to begin the discussion about your next projector.

InFocus JTouch: A Well-Rounded & Affordable Interactive Display

Though perhaps not the most historically ubiquitous name in the interactive display market, InFocus has brought itself to the fore in recent years with the Mondopad, the BigTouch, and our most recent favorite: the JTouch. A well rounded, affordable interactive whiteboard display, the JTouch offers a unique array of features that make it appropriate for both corporate and educational deployments. Here’s what makes it stand out:

Configuration Flexibility: The JTouch’s primary functionality is to act a large, touch screen display for your computer. Connect your Mac or PC to the display via HDMI and USB – the standard connections for this type of functionality – and you’re good to go. The cross-party, Mac/PC compatibility is a plus in the flexibility column – many competitive products can only provide robust touch experiences when connected to a PC. 4 HDMI inputs is also an unusual plus for interactive displays – this allows integrators to connect a variety of sources to the display without bringing in additional switchers. But the most notable feature that the JTouch offers in terms of flexibility is that you don’t have to connect a computer to it to use it. Out of the box, the JTouch offers digital whiteboarding functionality without anything connected to it. This allows the JTouch to be installed without the requirement of a dedicated, in-room PC – and at once, IT support personnel everywhere smile.

Size Flexibility: The JTouch comes in a number of sizes, making it appropriate for huddle rooms, classrooms, and large conference rooms. 40”, 57”, 65”, 70”, and 80” models are all available, which allows integrators to more accurately specify the proper size display for a particular room. With other interactive displays that only come in two or three sizes, you’re often forced to round up or down to the nearest one. This always costs you – either in dollars spent, or in screen size lost.

images

The five different JTouch sizes offered by InFocus

 

Wireless Functionality: JTouch’s newest feature is LightCast, a way of wirelessly sharing content from your device to the JTouch. LightCast uses your device’s native protocol – AirPlay for Apple and Miracast for Android – to wirelessly share content. Not every JTouch model comes with LightCast, but those that do further de-emphasize the need for an in-room PC. The LightCast home screen, with no source connected to it, offers you three options: whiteboard, web browser, or wireless sharing. This is robust functionality for a standalone device.

InFocus -JTOUCH-LIGHTCAST

The LightCast home screen

Price: The most notable JTouch feature of all is its price. Compared to other interactive displays on the market, the JTouch provides extreme affordability. The InFocus page provides detailed pricing on all models, but we put together a table below for a few highlights:

 

Model MSRP
65” JTouch $2,899
65” JTouch with LightCast $3,299
70” JTouch $3,999

 

For comparison’s sake, the MSRP of a 70” Sharp Aquos Board is $7,695, and a 65” SMART Technologies Interactive Display comes in at $8,799. Now, the SMART display comes with advanced whiteboarding software, and the Aquos Board has its own features as well. Additionally, the JTouch isn’t perfect – we’d love to see more advanced whiteboarding features, and for the display to come with a stylus or two. But there’s no denying that the JTouch offers similar functionality to its competition at a significantly lower price point. For users looking for a simple, reliable interactive display without breaking the bank, it’s a great solution. Contact an Account Manager today to talk about your next interactive display.

Planar Unveils Next Generation of 4K Displays

Planar UltraRes

Planar Systems, a leading manufacturer of digital displays, announced last week the next generation of its UltraRes line of displays. These large format displays, which already were capable of supporting 4K ultra high definition (UHD) resolution (3840 x 2160), now boast several new impressive features. For a full list, take a look at Planar’s website. Here’s what’s caught our eye:

  1. A New Size: Previously available in two large sizes – 84” and 98” – Planar has added a third size to the mix: 75”. This size makes this line of displays appropriate for smaller conference rooms, where the 84” or 98” may previously have been prohibitively large or expensive.
  2. Improved 4K Support: As we’ve mentioned on this blog before, all 4K is not created equal. Frame rate, color bit depth, and chroma subsampling all play a big role in 4K image quality. And while the old generation of UltraRes could support 4K at 30Hz, the new generation supports it at 60Hz over a single HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 cable. This means a smoother image with more frames per second. Color bit depth and chroma subsampling specifications at 4K60 have yet to be released by Planar – we’ll let you know when they are.
  3. Advanced Built in Multi-viewer Options: Built into the display’s processor is an expanded version of something called a multi-viewer, which allows multiple sources to be displayed in various configurations across the single display. Previously, the only multi-source layout available was a 2×2 quad layout. The new generation now supports dual, triple, quad, or picture-in-picture layouts, allowing much greater flexibility of use. Furthermore, these configurations can be controlled and presets recalled from an app on your mobile device. Though it still won’t offer you the same flexibility that a dedicated multi-viewer will, it’s a significant upgrade from the first generation, and one that can save you thousands of dollars.
  4. Compact Mounting System: One unique component of the first generation UltraRes line was its ultra-slim Planar Profile Mounting System. This is a key part of the new series as well. This mounting system is the slimmest in the industry: the total depth, including the display and the mount, clocks in at under 4”. The combination of up to 98” diagonal image size at less than 4” of depth creates a stunning image on a wall.
  5. Touch Screen Support: Like the previous generation, the new models also all come in touch screen versions. With 32 simultaneous touch points, the displays provide a robust and accurate touch screen experience. The touch models are only .5” deeper than the standard versions, making these the thinnest large format touch screen displays on the market.

Planar Multi-viewer Control

Control of UltraRes multi-imaging is easy via a free app for mobile devices

PPI has successfully installed Planar UltraRes displays for clients like VICE Media, Horizon Media, and more. Contact an Account Manager to talk about your company’s 4K implementation strategy today.

New Product Spotlight: Extron SMP 351 Streaming Media Processor

Lecture capture, distance learning, archival, overflow support, switching, multi-window processing… all in one affordable box.

 

Extron SMP 351 Streaming Media Processor

List Price: $4,790 (not including camera, content, or any installation and integration with existing or new AV system)

Lecture capture and distance learning have long been key components of classroom and theater audiovisual systems, but never before have they been available in the same unit. Extron’s streaming media processor changes this, and does it without breaking the bank.

A one rack-unit device, the streaming media processor’s core feature is the ability to record and stream simultaneously. The device can stream at 1080p / 30 frames per second so that students who aren’t in class – whether they’re in the overflow room next door, sick at home,  or in the sister school around the world – can still attend. Concurrently, the device can record (at an identical or independent resolution) 32 hours or more of content to an internal solid state drive, to a USB thumb drive, or to a designated network directory, so that students who aren’t available during class time can access lectures after the fact. The device is also a two input multi-window processor, allowing recording and streaming of a combination of two inputs – typically a camera feed of the teacher and a content feed – in any configuration. A preview output allows the device to connect to a local TV or projector to power your local presentations as well.

The Extron Streaming Media Processor replaces a rack’s worth of gear with one unit from a reliable manufacturer, but it also is not the only option available for extending lectures beyond the confines of the classroom or the auditorium. Contact PPI to talk about your AV system – whether its lecture capture, distance learning, or anything else – today.

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
Simultaneous recording & streaming at variable independent resolutions & bit rates Requires third party content distribution network for widespread access to streams
Can record to internal drive, thumb drive, or network directory Once recorded, files are compressed .MP4, not full color space, professional video files
Built in two input switcher and multi-viewer with up to five input connectors Cannot simultaneously stream one input channel and record the other input channel
List price under $5k – separate recorder, streamer, switcher and multi-viewer can total $10 – $20k or more

PPI Tips- Best Practices for Audio Conference Calls

Audio Conference Calls in an Integrated Room

Call quality is best when attendees on both sides of the call are using integrated audio/visual rooms with built-in audio conferencing technology. If an attendee does not have a conference room built for audio conferencing, a standard desk phone with handset or wired headset will suffice. Cell phones, speakerphones, or a desk/cell phone on speakerphone is never recommended. Call quality is only as strong as its weakest link.
Housekeeping Notes:

Before the Call

Be respectful of everyone’s time.

  • Test call with the far end. Preferably with the room you’ll be dialing for the actual call. If that’s not possible, call someone at his or her desk either at the other end of your call (aka far end), or alternatively, in the office you’re located in.

Prep the Room for the Call

  • Close the windows and the shades.
  • Close the door.
  •  Make sure to set the HVAC so it doesn’t turn on while in a call.
  •  Set the volume to a comfortable listening level for the room.
  •  Dial in and initiate the call at least 5 minutes before the scheduled start time.

During the Call

  • The meeting organizer should introduce all conference members and then list best practices.
  • Use the mute button when you’re not speaking to alleviate unneeded noise on the call.

 Do Not

  • Use the “HOLD” button to avoid having the entire group listen to ON Hold music.
  • Block table microphones with laptops, notepads, sheets of paper, etc.
  • Have side conversations or rustle papers or tap the desk. These sounds will be audible to all attendees on the call.

After the Call

  •  Ensure that you have disconnected from the conference call before discussing the events of the meeting.

Overcoming the Challenges of 4K Resolution

Overcoming the Challenges of 4K Resolution

If you’ve thought about upgrading your video system in the past year, or even just considered buying a new TV, chances are you’ve stumbled across the term “4K resolution.” Previously, 1080p resolution was known as “Full HD,” so the name 4K immediately begs the enticing question: is it really possible to have a resolution four times greater than full HD? The answer is yes – but it isn’t quite so simple. 4K is in its infancy, and there is plenty to wrestle with when considering implementing this resolution into your AV system. Here’s what you need to know.

What is 4K? A Tale of Two Resolutions

Off the bat, 4K is a little trickier to understand than the previous standards of 720p (high definition) and 1080p (full HD). 720p has a pixel count of 1280 x 720, and 1080p is 1920 x 1080. Each resolution has an aspect ratio of 16:9, which is the standard for televisions and most displays. A common aspect ratio makes system designs for AV professionals as well as purchasing decisions for consumers easier – pretty much everything is compatible with everything else. 4K, on the other hand, is the common vernacular for two different resolutions. The first, 4096 x 2160, is the resolution that was adopted by Digital Cinema Initiatives in 2005 as “4K.” This resolution has an aspect ratio of 17:9. More recently, 4K has made its way to the consumer TV market. TV’s version of 4K is a slightly different resolution – 3840 x 2160 – making 4K a bit of a misnomer, technically. This resolution is technically called Ultra HD. UHD simply doubles both the vertical and horizontal pixel count of 1920 x 1080 and thus maintains the standard aspect ratio of 16:9.

Though the fact that the name refers to two different resolutions is confusing, it’s really only something for AV designers to worry about. Professionals like PPI will specify the right equipment to handle whichever version of 4K is right for you, and more likely than not, this is 3840 x 2160. Only in special cases – and in movie theaters – would you want to introduce a 17:9 aspect ratio into your system. Henceforth, when we refer to 4k, we will be referring to 3840 x 2160.

1

Does it Really Make a Difference?

4K is four times the resolution – twice the pixels in height and twice the pixels in width – of 1080p. So what does that actually look like? In many cases, the difference is less stark than you’d think. In order for the human eye to actually notice all those pixels, it needs to be quite close to the screen. See the chart below. Even on a 90” TV, you can only begin to notice the difference of 4K vs. 1080p at around 12 feet away, and you need to be within 6 feet of the screen in order to perceive the full effects of the higher resolution. A 4K display puts a much greater emphasis on a proper screen size specification – otherwise, you quite literally will not see the benefits of your purchase.

The Challenge of 4K: High Bandwidth

4K is four times the resolution of 1080p, which means four times the number of pixels in each frame. Not surprisingly, significant bandwidth is required to accommodate such large amounts of data. Here’s where it gets tricky. There are four factors that affect bandwidth for a video signal: resolution, frame rate, color bit depth, and chroma subsampling. We already know our resolution: 3840 x 2160. 60 frames per second is the frame rate we’ve grown accustomed to today – anything less can start to look choppy. Color bit depth and chroma subsampling are less referenced metrics, but still important: both reference the level of detail and intensity for color and brightness. An optimal 4K video signal would feature a 60 frames per second (fps) frame rate, 10-bit color depth, and 4:4:4 chroma subsampling. This combination would require 22.28 Gbps of bandwidth. Most common HD cables, including HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.1, HD-SDI, and 3G-SDI, cannot accommodate this much bandwidth over a single cable.

So, how do you make it work? Do you reduce your frame rate to 30 fps? Your color depth to 8-bit? Your chroma subsampling to 4:2:2? Or do you use more than one cable? The answer is… bring in an integrator to do this work for you. Even systems as simple as hanging a 4K TV on the wall are easy to mess up. If you’re going to spend the money, make sure you do it right.

Other Challenges

4K presents a change in cable distance requirements as well. Gone are the days of 50-foot HDMI cables – with 4K, any cable run greater than 10-15 feet brings about the possibility of signal loss. Twisted pair signal extenders, already extremely prevalent in the professional video world, become necessary in almost every 4K setup, making the successful “do-it-yourself” solution of hanging a TV and plugging in an HDMI cable all the more rare.

Another obvious challenge was hinted at earlier in this article – 4K is not just one resolution. This is more of a challenge for integrators and manufacturers than for end users, but 4K systems now must manage multiple resolutions. Beyond just the two referred to earlier, “tweener” resolutions like 2048 x 1080 (2K DCI), 2560 x 1600 (Apple’s Retina) and more must be accounted for. Some 4K-compatible products can switch between these resolutions, and some cannot. In either case, it falls on the integrator – whether it be the technician in the field programming the device to the correct setting or the designer in the office specifying the device with the correct resolution – to get it right.

4K Content

So, you’ve decided on a 4K TV as part of your professional AV system. You’ve contracted your integrator, and you’ve got your screen size specified. Great! But what can you actually show on it? On a consumer level, the answer is… as of now, not very much. Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offer select shows in 4K, and YouTube actually has a few 4K videos as well. 4K players, which offer a bit more 4K content than any online service, are becoming more prevalent as well. Other than these options, though, there isn’t much else out there for 4K content as of yet.

What about on a professional level? It’s important to remember that if you want a system that can handle 4K, everything in the chain – from sources, to processors, to displays – must be 4K ready. We know that the TVs are there, and sources, as mentioned above, exist in limited capacity. Processors and infrastructure, thankfully, are now available from companies like Crestron and Extron – switchers, extenders, and many other components necessary for fully featured AV systems now support 4K. So a fully functional professional 4K AV system is possible today. Additionally, 4K video cameras are readily available, so live event systems can be good to go exclusively in 4K today. 4K capture cards are also available for recording and streaming. And of course, if your company creates its own content, having a system that can accommodate a higher resolution is a no brainer.

Still, almost any logically implemented 4K system in today’s world is more focused on being equipped for the future than for the present. The vast majority of 4K content is yet to come – Blu-ray players will be coming soon, and laptops and computers, while not to 4K yet, are already beyond 1080p. Resolutions have evolved over time – in the last ten years, we’ve seen standards shift from 640 x 480 to 720 x 576, from 1024 x 768 to 1280 x 700 and most recently to 1920 x 1080. It’s only logical to expect the standards to continue to shift as they have, and it’s more than evident that 4K is next up.

Moving Forward

So what does all this mean? All this information can be reduced to two simple takeaways.

First – if you’ve implemented a new AV system in the last couple years, don’t upgrade to a 4K system just to have it. In most cases, going from 1080p to 4K shouldn’t be the main reason for the upgrade, because there isn’t enough content to display yet. But, if you were planning on upgrading already, then go for a 4K ready system. Prices are falling rapidly, and more and more 4K content is becoming available by the day. Simply put – why purchase a new system that is already behind the times?

Second – consult an AV integrator like PPI before making any decisions about 4K. Though cost is indeed decreasing, anything 4K-related is still expensive. So if you’re going to do it, do it right. PPI can make sure you do  – contact an Account Manager today.