Skip to main content

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 the signal.

AJA Video System’s UDC 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 digital world.

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 producers.

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 USB connection.

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 Converter.

Blackmagic Design’s Teranex 2D Processor 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.

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.

Blackmagic Design’s Teranex 3D Processor 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.

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. 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 marketing.

Cobalt Digital Inc.’s 9901/UDX Cross Converter Card 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.

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 loudness metering.

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 Ltd.’s MC-100 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.

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.