Video Cables
Clay Stahlka
I get a fair amount of calls about transporting video signals from one place to another. Sometimes its video from a camcorder to a video control area in a church. Sometimes its video from a PTZ camera to a switcher or computer. And sometimes its sending video from a stadium or gym back to the control room in a college or high school. Either way, there are several considerations that you’ll need to address before you can recommend a solution. To fully understand what we’re up against, we need to agree on the most basic limitations of each digital video transport medium. (aka video cables)

Video Cable

HDMI

DISPLAYPORT 45′ DP

DVI-D 16.2′ DVI

HD-SDI 330′ BNC

USB 2.0 16.2′ USB

USB 3.0 9′ USB

CATx 330′ RJ-45

Distance

45 Feet

45 Feet

16.2 Feet

330 Feet

16.2 Feet

9 Feet

330 Feet

Termination

HDMI

DP

DVI

BNC

USB

USB

RJ-45

There are all kinds of extenders and repeaters that can stretch those distances. Some are more reliable than others. All of them require power on at least one end. These active electronics “extender” products all cost a fair amount of money. The more reliable ones cost more money.

Let’s examine a few sample projects and evaluate the possible solutions. (Prices shown are estimated street prices and may not be representative of your selling prices.)

Video Cables For Church Sanctuary Auditorium’s

 

Curch Auditoium Video Cables
A church needs three manned 1080p cameras feeding the booth where they will be switched via a production switcher and output to the screens (IMAG) and streamed online. The cable pathways between each of the cameras and switcher will not exceed 200’ point-to-point.

1. HDMI over HDBase T:

a. 600’ CAT6 cable with RJ-45 connectors $75

b. HDBase T transmitter and receiver for each cable run $1,200

c. Labor to pull cables and field terminate

d. TOTAL: $1,275 plus labor

2. HD-SDI:

a. 600’ 4.5GHz low-capacitance RG6-type coax cable with BNC connectors $500

b. Labor to pull cables and field terminate’

c. TOTAL: $500 plus labor

Analysis: Is there any compelling reason to spend over double the cost to extend HDMI when JVC Pro, Sony, Canon, etc. camcorders all are equipped with HD-SDI outputs? In these cases, using a 4.5GHz rated, low-capacitance RG6 coax cable like Belden 1694A, Gepco VSD2001 or West Penn 6350 provides a cost-effective solution in a field terminatable format. You can see that even though the difference in

cable cost is great, there is no additional equipment cost required to use HD-SDI. Remember, SDI does not support HDCP for transporting copy-protected content.

Video Cables For School Auditorium’s or Large Lecture Hall’s

Lecture Hall Video Cables
The school or university needs three unmanned PTZ cameras feeding the booth where they will be switched via a PC computer, controlled with a joystick controller, and output to the lecture capture system and streamed online for distance learning. The cable pathways between each of the cameras and switcher will not exceed 200’ point-to-point.

1. HDMI over HDBase T:

a. 600’ CAT6 cable with RJ-45 connectors $75

b. HDBase T transmitter and receiver for each cable run $1,200

c. Serial control over HDBase T

d. Labor to pull 3 cables and field-terminate

e. TOTAL: $1,275 plus labor

2. HD-SDI:

a. 600’ 4.5GHz low-capacitance RG6-type coax cable with BNC connectors $500

b. Separate control cables required for camera control $25

c. Labor to pull 6 cables and field-terminate’

d. TOTAL: $525 plus labor

3. IP:

a. 700’ CAT6 cable with RJ-45 connectors $88

b. 8-port Gigabit network switch $45

c. Camera control over IP (ONVIF)

d. Labor to pull 5 cables and field-terminate

e. TOTAL: $133 plus labor

Analysis: Doesn’t it concern you that more system designers are not turning to AVoverIP? In this case, the PTZ cameras are already equipped with network streaming outputs. Since the destination device is a computer, it is easy to integrate everything into the IP topology. Some higher-end video production switchers can ingest IP streams, although, in mid-level price points, IP stream decoders would be required. Additionally, the overall cost could be further reduced if the network infrastructure is already in place.

Video Cables for Large Conference Room’s or Boardroom’s

conference room video cables
The corporation needs two unmanned PTZ cameras feeding a room computer running Zoom or Skype for Business for web conferencing applications. Cameras will be controlled via the room control system. The cable pathways between each of the cameras and the PC will not exceed 100’ point-to-point.

1. HDMI over HDBase T:

a. 200’ CAT6 cable with RJ-45 connectors $25

b. HDBase T transmitter and receiver for each cable run $800

c. Serial camera control over HDBase T

d. Labor to pull 2 cables and field terminate

e. TOTAL: $825 plus labor

2. HD-SDI:

a. 200’ 4.5GHz low-capacitance RG6-type coax cable with BNC connectors $167

b. Two HD-SDI capture cards $600

c. Separate control cables required for camera control $25

d. Labor to pull 3 cables and field terminate

e. TOTAL: $792 plus labor

3. USB:

a. 200’ CAT5 cable with RJ-45 connectors $25

b. Two Icron USB extender sets $600

c. Camera control over USB (UVC)

d. Labor to pull 2 cables and field terminate

e. TOTAL: $625 plus labor

4. IP:

a. Unfortunately, most web conferencing software does not support network streaming cameras.

Analysis:

In a typical conference room, boardroom or training room, it seems that the most cost-effective method of incorporating cameras into a web conferencing system is via USB. Since there are now plenty of high-quality USB PTZ cameras available, it is merely a choice between picture quality, optics (zoom and angle of view) and camera cost. The highest resolution cameras will require USB 3.0, which raises the extender cost by several hundred dollars. In those cases, perhaps HD-SDI would be the more cost-effective choice.

These three example projects clearly show how the selection of the best signal transport solution can make a big impact on the cost and profitability of a given job. These solutions are all field terminations that are quite easy with the proper tools. None of these options require substantially different cable pulls. Labor should be similar for each option.

Don’t make the assumption that the cameras with the built-in cable extension solution always are the most cost effective. Add the camera cost to the above signal transport costs and carefully compare the totals. Since it doesn’t require any less labor to pull three CATx cables than it does to pull one or two dedicated cables through the same pathway, there is no labor savings in using the self-contained PTZ camera solution. This may surprise you.

What does this exercise tell us?

I believe that this shows that video over IP is always the most cost-effective infrastructure choice. Sometimes however, the equipment cost required to support IP video stream decoding may make this less cost-effective, as in the case of integration into a video production switcher. If the network administrator doesn’t allow AV on the network, it can be just as cost effective if you build your own discrete network using CAT6 cable and a Gigabit switch, like shown above. Just remember that unless you are using a router, you’ll need each device to have a static IP address in the same address range.

Where HDCP protected content is not a consideration, HD-SDI is a more cost-effective infrastructure choice over extending DisplayPort, DVI-D or HDMI signals. Whether you’re used to HDBase T or proprietary extenders, the cost of the transmitters and receivers defeats the savings in low-cost CATx cable.

Extending USB to 300’ is not cost-prohibitive as long as you choose a reliable extension solution from Icron, or a manufacturer that buys their OEM extenders from Icron. Low cost computer-based USB extension solutions seldom are reliable enough to use as a HD video transportation solution. Of course, USB 3.0/3.1 extension is more critical, and therefore carries additional cost.

While consideration must be given to the equipment selection, and what transportation protocols your equipment supports, the transport method (cable selection) will undoubtedly contribute to your bottom line. On the rare occasion that you need to run a signal over 330 feet, I recommend that you consider a fiber-optic extender solution. These are available for all video signal protocols as well as for USB 2.0 and 3.0 video. With single-mode fiber, you can extend high-resolution video over a mile in distance.

I hope this little exercise helps you put the various options in perspective. It may surprise you, as it did for me, and show you that HDBase T is not necessarily the wisest choice for all video applications.

For more information or to receive application assistance please contact your Starin team at 219-929-4127 or email myteam@starin.biz.