It was no great surprise that Crestron launched their latest Digital Media product at ISE in February 2017. Nor was it a surprise that it was a streaming product, as the hints had been dropped for a long time.
What was a surprise was just how powerful the solution was and how far ahead of other solutions it is.
The devices are a JPEG 2000 encoder or decoder (which can switch between tasks, so might be used to stream from head-end sources, but could then also encode a local source and feed that back into the system (not at the same time)).
The headlines are 4K60 video with 4:4:4 colour sampling, support for HDR video and end-to-end HDCP2.2 all over standard Gigabit Ethernet.
That's big numbers down quite small streams. This makes for something that is very scalable that works on architecture that is familiar to many installers. This certainly does not mean a £50 Gigabit switch is going to be the right solution though and installers will have to be very diligent with their network architecture designs and ensure use of non-blocking switches (from manufacturers such as Cisco, Juniper and Extreme). The units have both copper and fibre connectivity so plenty of flexibility when creating larger systems (Crestron suggest a maximum number of around 7000 end-points. Certainly enough for any residential applications!).
The encoder/decoder units come in both a standalone enclosure and in a card version (with a corresponding card-frame capable of taking 8 cards).
Latency is very low end-to-end, so even live camera or multimedia presentations should not cause any challenges, even when compared with traditional 8G DM.
From the demonstrations on the Crestron booth (which are, like any other booth, carefully chosen to highlight the strengths of the products), I was impressed. The quality was high (though not as good as DM 8G) and the latency next to 8G was indistinguishable.
Virtually every manufacturer involved in the 'moving video about' sector of the industry had 4K over IP solutions on display. But there were some short-comings in many of the solutions and certainly those based on 10Gigabit networks are going to be difficult to scale onto larger projects.
Fascinating developments and a substantial shift in how we will think of 'matrix switching' in the future. No longer will we be tied to 8*8 and that dilemma of what to do on a system with 9 outputs required will be easily resolved with this much more open architecture.
I look forward to learning more about the products at Crestron Masters and working with them as they look to ship in May in Europe.