Buying Guide: Video processors
Buying Guide: Video processors
Becky Abel discusses the factors to consider before buying a video processor and planning for the future
Inputs and outputs
The first thing to take into account is how many inputs and outputs you need. Most hardware processors are built to order, giving you the flexibility to choose the amount of I/Os on your unit. However, if you buy a processor with just enough I/Os for your current workflow and you want to expand in the future, you could run out of ports and be forced into buying another one. If you can, buy a processor that not only has the I/Os to support your existing video system, but with spares to cover your future requirements.
Some video processors will offer additional features such as the ability to embed or de-embed audio, colour correct signals and scale. David Chua, regional technical manager at Kramer, states: ‘A processor can also achieve various functions such as the ability to control the aspect ratio, upscale or downscale resolution, frame rate conversion, brightness/contrast/sharpness/saturation adjustment, videowall processing and multi-window processing.’
‘A video processor is required in a range of production scenarios, including converting signals with the least latency possible,’ says Bruce Button, director of product marketing at AJA Video Systems. ‘One example of this would be running an SDI camera feed to a video converter and outputting HDMI signals for video screens or monitors. Buyers should seek a reliable and capable video converter or frame synchroniser that can handle a wide range of production scenarios, whether it be for SD, HD, 4K or multichannel HD or SD processing within a single unit.’
Sources and displays
When researching video processors, consideration into both ends of the signal chain is also important. Most processors will need to be connected to both the displays and sources, so remember to think about what the video processor will be linked to in your setup. Make sure that the processor is compatible with both and be aware of how the system and the display units are controlled. Before purchasing and installing a video processor, keep in mind how and where it will be used. Ask questions such as ‘How many sources and displays am I using?’ and ‘Where will they all be set up?’
A video processor has many features, goes by many names – video controller and video server are two examples – and is essential in any video signal chain. Its main feature is to process a video file from a source such as a tablet or computer so that it appears on video displays, including LED screens and projectors. With any large investment, it’s important to conduct some thorough research before you make a decision. Here are some factors to consider when looking for the right video processor for your HOW.
Button recommends: ‘As a starting point, it’s best to draw up a list of your sources and destinations, as well as the conversions that will be critical for your workflow, to help you make the best decision possible.’
‘With regards to existing video infrastructure, in many cases the existing video system may be completely analogue and, while melding the two systems may be possible, it may not be feasible,’ adds Kim Coblentz, pro AV sales engineer at Aten Technology. ‘Or the combination of the two systems may require many additional parts, which can create additional failure and cost issues.’
Types of video processor
There are three types of video processors: a black-box, video-card and over-IP. A black-box processor has a fixed number of inputs and outputs and is suitable for a simple video system that occasionally needs changing. A video-card processor contains video cards equipped to a PC/server frame and is more suited for systems requiring added flexibility as they usually provide more power and content resolution. However, setting up a video-card processor will require a lot of trial and error as the number of video cards needs to match the PC. An over-IP processor also uses a PC/server; however, it uses a standard IP network to communicate with displays. Each of these processors have their advantages and disadvantages, so investigate each type before purchasing.
You also need to consider where you will be installing the system and how easy or difficult this may be. How long do the cables have to be to connect to one another? Do they need to be hidden away so that no one trips over them? Many installations can be difficult due to the worship venue’s architecture. There may be parts of a venue that cannot be replaced or difficult for installation, such as the ceiling or decorated walls. There are solutions to these issues but it’s best to bring in a systems integrator either at the beginning of the process or even before the purchase so that they can recommend where the processor can be best installed and how to go about it.
Look to the future
Don’t just think about how the video processor can be used over the next few months. Think about the future growth of your house of worship. If you need to purchase another source or display later on, will it work with the processor? If you’re adding more displays or sources, will the processor have enough inputs and outputs to cope?
Price is, of course, always a factor,’ comments Coblentz. ‘But a bigger consideration needs to be made to ensure the unit is going to meet all the specifications of the church now and in the future. If a decision is made on cost alone, then the system may need to be changed and the cost could be significantly more than if all the factors had been taken into consideration before deciding the project’s initial pieces and parts. It’s important to think about the future growth of the church, the church member base and future video trends. Don’t just consider how you will be using the system now; be sure to consider the future and your possible needs.’
Button also discusses the importance of investing in a product for the future: ‘Existing infrastructure generally requires that you look for solutions that will future-proof your workflow,’ he says. ‘Products that can bridge your state of operations into the future, with capabilities that extend and enhance your current infrastructure, are ideal. Our range of converters are specifically designed to help you retain previous investment while ensuring your workflow is brought up to date and well positioned for future needs.’
Due to the importance of a video processor, hopefully some of the factors listed in this article will help you find the right one – not just for your HOW’s current needs but one that will remain useful in the future.