by Clay Stahlka

The common alternatives are HDBaseT and Crestron Digital Media (DM) solutions.  These are both proprietary solutions that require their own cables, switches, and endpoints.  Video over IP solutions utilize existing infrastructure such as network cables, switches, and routers and simply use a network encoder at the source, and a decoder at the display.  This saves a lot of cost in labor and materials to accomplish the same task.  Further, if we dismiss video over IP systems that require the use of specialized network switches, we can further reduce the overall cost of deployment.

Next, if we send the video over an IP network with Jumbo Frames enabled, iGMP sniffing enabled, and sent via Multicast, we can greatly increase the efficiency of the data throughput, to not over-burden the network resources.  This way, multiple streams of video over IP can comfortably co-exist along with the normal network traffic with no disruption of any of the essential network services.  And in some cases, off-the-shelf “smart” televisions can decode the stream without the use of additional decoding hardware.

Then, if we need to switch a source to a specific destination, we can just accomplish the task in software located on any computer on the network.  Acting just like a hardware matrix switcher, this software allows you to send any source to any display or displays on the LAN.  In some cases, the software can even matrix the video across a multi-display video wall.

Finally, if we employ QoS (quality of service) on our managed network, we can insure that all the network services can peacefully co-exist on the LAN without any performance degradation.  Even if you are asked to create your own private parallel network to handle video services, a managed 8-port switch such as the Netgear GS108T can be had for around $145.00.

While you can never dismiss the value of a point-to-point solution, like the traditional video extender products, once you have multiple streams going to multiple displays, and especially if you need to switch them from place to place, A video over IP solution will usually be the most cost-effective solution on the market today.