Cable and Connectors Keep Evolving

Bittree’s monitor row coaxial patchbay combines a two-row WECo or Mini-WECo patch panel with a separate monitor row in a space-saving 2-RU unit.

SEATTLE—The hi-tech equipment— cameras, servers, switchers, special effects and graphics machines—tend to get all the attention when groundbreaking new gear is introduced. The items used to connect those devices together—cables, wires and connectors—seem like they’re just the same-old, same-old.

But a closer look at this glue that holds a facility together shows that there are changes going on there as well.

According to Tony Kernagis, marketing director for Lake Cable in Bensenville, Ill., the company’s new Stealth Special Ops 311 Hybrid Fiber Camera Cable attacks three big needs of the remote truck industry: ruggedness, lightweight and compact.

“It’s smaller, stronger and more lightweight than any of the other SMPTEs out there,” Kernagis said. “At 7.8mm in diameter it’s designed to be a replacement for the current 9.2mm diameter cable.” That allows a considerable increase in the length of the cable to fit on a reel, taking up less space.

“[It’s been] tested for short distance at a NASCAR race in Michigan, at the Michigan Speedway, and at the Super Bowl for extended distance,” he added. “And LEMO actually developed a connector just for this cable, because they didn’t have 7.8mm connectors. So we worked with them and they actually built it custom for this.”

DawnCo, which specializes in satellite equipment, has introduced a new dish to receiver cable it calls DAWNflex. “Using DawnFlex instead of the standard RG-11 cable, you lose about one-third less,” said John Joslin, director of sales and marketing for DawnCo in Orion, Mich.

In real-life terms, that can mean the ability to locate the satellite dish 500 feet away from the receiver, rather than something around 300 feet. Joslin said having the flexibility to locate the dish further away has become increasingly important as existing facilities find the buildings around them being replaced with taller structures. To run longer distances with standard cable requires installation of signal amplifiers, which introduce noise.

“DawnFlex is designed for the high frequency signals used between dishes and receivers, it handles signals up to 3 GHz, so it definitely covers satellite L-band.” Joslin said. “And it only has a loss of 3.12db per hundred feet so you can go up to 500 feet away.”


LEMO’s 3K.93C Motion Picture Connector
LEMO has made its 3K.93C Motion Picture Connector for a number of years, and the design was forward-thinking enough to be ready for 4K, according to Julie Carlson, marketing manager for the Swiss-based company’s communications and training market segments. “We do not need to make any changes to the connector at all,” she said.

The hybrid connector has a compact design with two single-mode fiber contacts, two power contacts and two signal contacts for HD camera interconnection systems.

Lemo’s market has expanded to companies such as RED which have promoted smaller, compact digital cameras. “We provide those types of cameras with our standard Lemo B Series connectors for power and accessories,” she said. “We have seen this industry rapidly grow over the last three years as we have a large demand for these specific connectors.”

Belden launched its own line of factory-terminated broadcast assemblies, a series of coax, triax and SMPTE tactical fiber and audio assemblies, that are terminated inhouse with standard cable up to custom length, according to James Anderson, product manager for broadcast & AV solutions for the St. Louis-based company. “So we can do anything from a five-foot assembly all the way out to 1,000 feet if you’re talking about tactical fiber assembly,” he said.

The cables can be terminated with Belden connectors or those from other manufacturers, depending on the client’s needs.

Anderson pointed out a couple of advantages to having connectors installed in Belden’s factory. “It allows us to use automated equipment where appropriate, which takes the guesswork out of the job, or do individual custom work, which is difficult to do in the field.” It also avoids paying high labor rates to field techs, he added.

Canare manufactures both the connectors and the cable for its Hybrid Fiber- Optic Camera Cable, according to Joe Castellano, who handles outside sales for the Totowa, N.J.-based company. “We do the assembly, and we have certain distributors, who are certified to assemble, that can install as well,” he said.

While he added that Canare’s connectors can mate with any other SMPTE connector, their connectors “are designed to work best together, so you can get the best spec, the best performance.”

One of the bragging points for Canare’s Hybrid Fiber-Optic cable is its bend radius, the minimum radius one can bend a cable without kinking it, damaging it, or shortening its life. The company touts it as three times more flexible than current models.

As the remote truck equipment has gotten smaller in size, truck builders have been able to cram more and more sources and monitors into the same space. But more equipment means more patching wherewithal. Patchbay and patchcord makers have responded by miniaturizing their products to save both space and weight. In the same rack space that used to house a 24- or 26-jack patchbay, manufacturers have come up with mid-sized 32-jack patchbays, and new micro-sized patchbays that provide 48 jacks in the same space.

The space savings are substantial, according to Bryan Carpenter, sales consultant for Bittree in Glendale, Calif. “The industry standard right now is two rows of 32, and the micro allows you to install two rows of 48 in the same amount of space. So do the math: You’re saving one-third of your rack space.”

Smaller, more compact patchbays presented some labeling problems early-on, said Carpenter. “But then Excel got very good at spacing on spreadsheets, printers got tighter with their printing, and we have the CAD files we can send to the client if they ask,” he said. “We can give them a spot on CAD for the spacing, and labeling can be done elegantly and professionally.

He pointed to Bittree’s worldwide presence as allowing it to be “on the job 24/7 around the world,” able to provide support wherever its products are in use.

Switchcraft MMVP 1RU patchbay with color chips
Steve Cooper, vice president of engineering at Switchcraft in Chicago, said that while the company’s micro, 48-jack patchbays have become popular with mobile truck operators, fixed facilities seem to still prefer the 32-jack mid-sized versions. “We’ve seen some trials on it, of going from mid-size to micro in fixed studios,” Cooper said.

Remote truck use is rigorous, he added. “For our micro patchbays, we manufacture our jacks that go in the patchbays with a rigid die cast material which allows mounting stability without plastic. They’re easy to mount, easy to replace if they have a problem.”

To help the remote truck crew identify what source inputs and outputs are available on an individual patchbay, “we use a snap-in colored button,” Cooper said, “which helps identify sections so individual sections can be more readily identified, the section they want to work on, or do some patching on, rather than have to look at the individual labelling on each device.”