Marc Franklin /
The Ins and Outs of Video Converters
MULTIPLE CITIES: There are two basic families of video
converters available, namely hardware and software, each with dozens of
variations that provide plenty of choice among those using converters. However,
in the age of powerful nonlinear editing systems that accept all sorts of video
standards such as SD, HD 720, HD 1080, both in 60 and 50 Hz, users do not
need as many of the video standards-converting “black
boxes” that were used for post production from the 1980s into the
early part of the 21st century.
Production facilities that are still using tape and have the proper deck are
probably using NLEs that process IEEE-1394 or HD-SDI, such as Adobe’s
Premiere Pro CS 6, and will accept the signal enabling editors to use multiple
resolutions and standards on a single sequence.
If the project is completed in a 1080i 29.97 format, and it
needs to be sent to Europe—where 720p 25 is the norm—then
Adobe’s Media Encoder is an option. Just load up the project and set
the output. The Adobe encoder should provide a file that can easily be sent via
FTP, burned to DVD/Blu-ray or output to tape (almost all HDV and DV VTRs record
50/60 Hz, NTSC/PAL).
The main use for hardware converters today is the integration of modern cameras
with digital outputs into older equipment, including analog. Imagine a
situation on a shoot in which the live mixing of the show occurs. Picture it is
shot with a Sony HVR-S270u, with an HD-SDI out and a Sony HVR-Z7u with an HDMI
out. Because of the distance of the Z7 from the HD-SDI switcher, an HDMI to
HD-SDI converter on the switchers will be required to maintain the quality of
In addition, on the switcher’s output, 6000 lumen projectors are
being used to take component analog. Since those projectors have plenty of life
still in them, most facilities are not likely to spend about $10,000 each on
newer digital projectors, when, for about $500 apiece, an HD-SDI to analog
component converter can keep the older projectors from becoming obsolete in the
The latest systems from video converter manufacturers like AJA Video Systems,
Blackmagic Design, Cobalt Digital Inc. and Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd. all
offer capabilities that will likely be of interest to broadcasters and video
AJA VIDEO SYSTEMS
AJA Video Systems offers the “UDC,” a palm-sized converter
that supports formats such as 3G/HD/SD-SDI input and output, HDMI output,
two-channel RCA style audio output and eightchannel embedded audio. The
mini-converter can be configured through built-in DIP switches, or by
AJA’s MiniConfig software for Mac or PC via the converter’s
AJA is also seeing rapid adoption of their FiDO line of converters. That family
of five mini converters can take any type of SDI signal and sends it over
fiber-optic cable 10 kilometers without degradation. Models include the FiDO-R
Single-Channel Fiber-to-SDI Mini Converter with dual SDI outputs, the FiDO-2R
Dual-Channel Fiber-to-SDI Mini Converter, the FiDO-T Single-Channel
SDI-to-Fiber Mini Converter with looping SDI output, the FiDO-2T Dual-Channel
SDI-to-Fiber Mini Converter and the FiDO-TR SDI/Fiber transceiver Mini
In December 2011, Blackmagic Design acquired Teranex Systems Inc., a producer
of “high-performance video processing products for the post
production and broadcast industries” including video converters.
Teranex’s prime converter, the VC100 did up/down scaling, standards
conversion, analog and digital. BMD’s redesign of the VC100 has
resulted in the Teranex 2D and 3D Processors, which are one rack unit in size
and come with a built-in power supply, 3 Gb/s SDI, HDMI and analog video in and
out, independent eight-channel AES/EBU and four-channel analog audio.
Design’s Teranex 2D Processor
The Teranex 2D Processor is a single processor model that offers all
conversions in 4:2:2 quality in a single channel. The Teranex 3D Processor
offers dual processors that can handle dual-channel conversions for full
resolution 3D processing, as well as 4:4:4 quality. The Teranex 3D model
includes extra SDI connections for dual-link 3 Gb/s SDI input and output,
built-in redundant power supplies, 3D camera-align, 3D dual stream standards
conversion, 3D format conversions and incredibly realistic 3D simulation.
Both models have new whisper-quiet fans, and the same quality processing,
including up conversion, down conversion, SD/HD cross conversion, SD/HD
standards conversion, cadence detect and remove, noise reduction, adjustable
scaling, aspect ratio conversion, smart aspect, time code conversion, subtitle
conversion, 16 channel audio and test signals.
Design’s Teranex 3D Processor
In addition, BMD still produces its full line of regular and “heavy
duty” mini converters, with models that go analog
component/YC/composite to SDI, SDI/HD-SDI/3G-SDI audio de-embedder to
eight-channel AES/EBU or four-channel analog audio, up, down and cross
converter, full NTSC/PAL standards converter and many others.
COBALT DIGITAL INC.
Cobalt Digital Inc. offers the 9901/UDX Cross Converter Card, which can uplink
video audio to 5.1 audio, or “linear acoustic up-mixing,”
says Chris Shaw, the company’s executive vice president in sales and
Government broadcasters and video producers should be interested in the
9901/UDX because they tend to have legacy material that can be converted, Shaw
said. “Everyone wants the latest greatest sound; they can take that
stereo signal and uplink it to 5.1 audio,” he said. In addition, the
full audio support includes per-channel audio delay.
Inc.’s 9901/UDX Cross Converter Card
The 9901-UDX card offers up/down/cross format conversion, frame sync and
advanced audio and ancillary data support, Cobalt says. Options available to
users include inputs and/or outputs fiber, analog video, AES and analog audio.
The 9901-UDX’s level of integration reduces module count and
simplifies the signal chain, as well as providing flexibility for ever-changing
requirements, including 3-D television-compliant 1080p, wings insertion,
general purpose keying, color correction, Dolby E/ AC-3 encoding and decoding
(with both decode and re-encode on the same card), ITU/ATSC/EBU and compliant
In addition, in situations where the full conversion capability is not
required, the 9901 series is available as a base model version with the ability
to upgrade to the 9901-UDX model, according to Cobalt.
MATROX ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS
Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd.’s MC-100 is unique in the world of
video converters. At first glance, it may look like any other SDI-to-HDMI
converter, but it does more. Rather than a single HD-SDI input, the MC-100 has
two, and instead of a single HDMI output, it also has two HD-SDI outputs. The
video converter can be used as a live production switcher that feeds monitors,
projectors and a record deck using all the outputs. The MC-100 only does
glitch-free cuts, no dissolves. For under $500 the unit is worth having as a
backup in case the main switcher dies right before a show.
Systems Ltd.’s MC-100
Users needing to get a PowerPoint presentation or a video into a broadcast or
display may want to consider Matrox’s “Convert
DVI” products. Both the Convert DVI and Convert DVI Plus will convert
the signal coming out of a computer’s DVI port into a
broadcast-quality HD-SDI and analog component signals for use in production and
presentations. The “Plus” model includes features such as
“area of interest,” which enables users to access the
unit’s software and place a box around a portion of the screen
highlighting the content wanted rather than the whole thing.