Over the month of August 2017, we have been involved in a very interesting project which has involved the complete installation of a large Crestron system to replace an existing control system as well as the video distribution system. The systems feed audio and video, along with control of heating and lighting etc. to around 50 audio zones and 25 video zones split across a number of buildings on the estate.
The project was a very exciting and interesting project with a number of challenges that the team had to overcome.
This article focuses on the possibilities and opportunities that one particular technology offers. This was our first project featuring the new Crestron Digital Media NVX product range and was a very rewarding and eye-opening opportunity to understand the possibilities that this new technology can offer installers.
NVX was announced at ISE, though we had considerable detail on it at Crestron Masters in 2016. The basic premise is the ability to stream video at 4K60 4:4:4 on standard, scalable Gigabit Ethernet networks. This replaces traditional video matrices with devices that can be both a transmitter or receiver (not concurrently, but can be switched in software) and these run on standard Gigabit infrastructure.
This project did feature traditional Digital Media in the main house, but the power of NVX was harnessed to bring video sources into the main system from outbuildings (NVRs etc.) as well as to deliver sources from the central racks to outbuildings, often several hundred metres away.
The setup of the NVX transmitter/receivers is very straight-forwards and establishing streams between them is the simple matter of giving them a URI to look at (either programatically or via the web-interface for testing). Or so we thought....
We were working with a very good network engineer with many years of experience including considerable expertise with multicasting and IPTV.
We had all read the considerable documentation that Crestron provide on the design and configuration of the network infrastructure.
Getting a stream up and running was really easy. However, getting two streams up and running caused our network to bog down and go a little haywire.
Thanks to Shane at Crestron ATSG, we soon worked through the issues and get the switches (Cisco SG500 on this project) configured and we were up and running.
The switching performance on NVX is really quite incredible; very fast indeed.
Whilst we could not compare traditional DM and NVX side-by-side, the video performance on the NVX zones was exceptional. When NVX was displayed at the ISE show in February, I remember being a little underwhelmed by the performance (the footage with the tiger) compared to traditional DM. By the time I saw the product again at Crestron Masters 2017 in May, the performance was so much better and was all but indistinguishable from the traditional DM.
The configuration of the NVX products was very simple and the web-interface Crestron have developed is very powerful.
Overall impressions are really good and truly this is the future for large-scale video distribution. It's a real change to not be constrained by the traditional limits of 8*8 or 16*16 etc.; your client needs a 9*17 system? No problem!
The big takeaway we had was that there is a real need to bring on-board a really good network engineer on projects involving NVX. The network infrastructure is key to the success of the project and whilst the switches do not need to be exceptionally expensive (Crestron have configuration details for reasonably modest switches such as Cisco SG300), having someone on-board that can diagnose and resolve the issues you might see is critical (there was a lot of Wire-Sharking going on when we hit any challenges!).
We couldn't be more pleased with how this first deployment went and now feel very confident in the product. We are now looking at a number of projects where DM-NVX is the right solution for the installer for reasons of scalability as well as the video bandwidth available.
To make the process of installing systems with NVX even more attractive, Crestron have recently announced a considerable price reduction on the range. If you have not looked at the pricing recently, do log-in on your dealer account and have a look!
Overall, NVX is a huge step forwards for our industry and offers a very different approach to that we are all used to. So long as installers have access to good network engineers and everyone reads the documentation available (at least three times to spot all the requirements!), then deployment will be relatively pain-free (yes, we had pain, but we are now all aware of a couple of the quirks and will not face the challenges in the future).
If you are considering a project where NVX might be used and want to see if we can help you deliver the project, please do get in touch here.
Equipment list for the video systems:
- 1 of Crestron DM-MD16*16 with the below cards
- 13 of DMC-4K-HD-DSP input cards
- 3 of DMC-STR input cards
- 6 of DMC-4K-CO-HD output cards
- 1 of DMC-STRO output card
- 5 of DM-DGE-200 receivers/graphics engines
- 7 of DM-RMC-4K-100-C receivers
- 2 of DMF-CI-8 NVX card chassis with the below cards
- 12 of DM-NVX-350C/351C (3 acting as receivers, 9 as transmitters)
- 13 of DM-NVX-350 (3 transmitting, 10 receivers for TV zones)