As part of our infrastructure buildout for digital operations, we investigated several different product lines to identify the best conversion and signal distribution equipment.
Card and frame technology and choices are not as simple as they once were, with technology progressing from simple signal distribution frames to the systems now that provide multiple functionalities on a single card. And items such as TBCs, frame syncs, encoders and decoders that used to occupy several rack spaces are now available on plug-in cards.
With this change to multiple functionalities on a single card, the user interface has become of prime importance. Our search for the best products for our application led us to Ensemble Designs, as they offered a unique user interface that made setting device parameters and making level adjustments very convenient.
The Ensemble frames provide an option for adding network connectivity and local control functions via a small touchscreen control panel. This control panel can be ordered as a front panel door option, a tabletop unit or rackmounted version. We use both control provisions—network connectivity for control availability throughout the plant, and a control panel located in rack islands for local adjustments. Ensemble's Avenue control software allows us to check the status and make adjustments on any frame, no matter where it's located in our plant. The ease of use and functionality of the Avenue control system was a big factor in our choice of Ensemble Designs gear for our digital buildout.
BACKPLANE CHANGES NOT NEEDED
Ensemble provides a rear panel that is already fully populated with connectors. To add a control card, you simply plug it into the dedicated CPU slot; the RJ45 LAN and RJ11 control ports are already standard on the frame. Each of the 10 available card slots comes with 10 BNC connectors, as well as a dedicated 15-pin HD connector. The BNC's handle any analog or digital signals, and the multiconductor connector can be used for analog audio I/O, control signals or GPI/O functions. This makes it easy when additional functionality is required—you just order a new card and don't have to worry about ordering or installing a backplane connectors. Ensemble provides a ready-made label to slip over the connector set for identification. Also, all Avenue cards, no matter what type, fit into the same frame, allowing us to intermix cards without purchasing different frames, power supplies or control cards.
Another feature that I really like is that the Avenue conversion cards were designed by engineers with broadcast experience, and the cards work as broadcasters expect them to. I expect format conversion cards to pass ancillary data and perform 608/708 CC transcoding, and the Ensemble cards do without any exceptions. Video processing quality is excellent, and is suitable for any mission-critical application that might come along.
Ensemble Designs was quick to respond to my installation and application questions and their equipment all met my system design requirements very nicely.
Steve Paugh is a project engineer at WISC-TV. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information, contact Ensemble at 530-478-1830 or visit www.ensembledesigns.com.