Routing switchers

This year's NAB offered some interesting new products from several routing switcher manufacturers. It is hard to say that anything in this mature business is revolutionary, but several manufacturers offered new generations of products. Some capabilities first shown last year became deliverable, and others introduced by a limited set of manufacturers became more widely available. IP networking for control has become almost a requirement for major control system products, and it became harder to find analog routing on anyone's new product list, with notable exceptions.

Grass Valley, formerly Thomson, and formerly Grass Valley, has added fiber and analog I/O to the Trinix line of digital routing switchers. Trinix comes in flavors as large as 512×512 in a single frame and offers wide-band switchers as well as I/O limited to SDTV applications. When fitted with analog inputs, a group of up to 16 inputs out of 32 on an input card can be analog, limited by physical space. This allows Trinix to work in mixed analog and digital environments without path finding from analog matrices. Fiber I/O is also available now.

Grass Valley is releasing the latest version of its Encore control system with enhanced capabilities, including the ability to use SMS-7000 series panels on Encore control, as well as the ability to natively control SMS matrices. Its Acapella line has additional offerings and comes with a subset of Encore (Prelude) embedded to allow control to extend using the same panels as Encore. Those control panels can be converted from Prelude to Encore by flash upgrade. Acapella offers up to 32×32 in one frame and can be configured for independent 8×8 matrices as well.

PESA held its first NAB press conference in 10 years, having recently been acquired by a private equity group, QuStream. It announced an analog router with an incredible 500MHz bandwidth, ideal for high-resolution display routing in command and control centers.

Also new this year were the Cheetah 64NE and 64XE frames. The 64XE is expandable to 64×128, with the flexibility to offer multiple outputs or converting output cards in the matrix. It also can offer redundant crosspoints, which PESA calls “Watchdog,” in a 64×64 format. Both of the new frames offer HD-SDI, SDI, ASI, analog video and AES/EBU capability. The 64NE is 1RU smaller, but is not expandable. PESA also offers fiber I/O on these switchers, as well as a totally photonic router series in sizes to 24×24. That router switches light, not electrons.

NVISION introduced two major products. The NV5256 is a TDM machine control router with bidirectional ports. Intriguingly, it offers the ability to interface to both RS-422 and RS-232 control circuits and convert between the two. In a first in machine control routing, the 256-port system can be expanded to 512 by adding a second frame connected using TDM Expansion buss ports built into the system.

The NV7512 digital audio router offers a full 512×512 synchronous audio matrix in just 14RU. The back plane density is achieved using high-density coaxial connectors typically used in the telecom industry (descriptively called “1.0/2.3”), allowing backplane density four times that possible with BNC connectors.

The new switcher offers balanced and unbalanced AES, time code, analog audio and MADI format digital audio. Four frames can be connected together to form a 4096×4096 mono matrix in less than two racks, assuming you could get the wire into the floor.

Utah Scientific showed its newest additions to the UTAH-400 line, including a 64-port data router that occupies only 4RU. By connecting four frames together over a high-speed buss, up to a 256-port switch can be assembled. I/O is on RJ45 connectors. As with a number of other manufacturers, UTAH now offers fiber-optic I/O. Each card carries eight signals on fiber, which allows considerable flexibility in configuration of systems, especially larger systems. The fiber I/O uses LC connectors.

Pro-Bel introduced the Sirius Gold series of routing switchers. Sirius Gold offers frame sizes to 512×512 and an array of interface options, including, of course, HD and SD. The newest technology touted in a paper given at NAB by Pro-Bel's CTO, Neil Maycock, is Sirius Fusion, which extends the I/O set to include networked video and audio over conventional IT networks. By combining non-blocking conventional routing with compressed networked video over IT infrastructure, Sirius Fusion adds interesting capabilities. One possibility is to link distant frames together for wide area network tie line management and path finding.

Leitch continued to expand its routing line, introducing a new line of small routers with advanced features. The Panacea Clean/Quiet Switch offers 16 inputs with two outputs that permit transitions between inputs (plus six additional outputs without transitions). Cuts, dissolves and fade to black transitions can be done with embedded audio undisturbed. With a logo inserter added downstream, some master control needs may be solved inexpensively. The switcher is capable of switching either HD or SD signals. Audio transitions are a “soft cut,” eliminating disturbing pops and clicks.

Quartz is now delivering the Xenon routing system first shown at NAB2004. Xenon has the unique ability to add signal processing modules to the frame, including keyers and multi-image processors.

At NAB2005, Quartz showed a dual quad split option, which allows any input to be shown in one quadrant of a combined output. Because the signals are SMPTE 259-compatible, they can be routed to conventional monitors. Also available is a module that allows overlays (keys) to be done on individual outputs. Signal processing is available on blocks of up to eight outputs. Xenon can be delivered in two sizes, with 128×128 in 8RU. HD and SD are supported, as well as AES and analog audio, analog video, RS422 and time code. Future Signal Processing Technology (SPT) modules in development include Dolby audio processing and further features for master control lite. Quartz also announced a deal with Sony for distribution of its QMC master control switchers.

John Luff is senior vice president of business development at AZCAR.