The Future of AV Distribution?

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

Are you familiar with SDVoE?

Written by Mark Tarbet, President Ridge AV

If SDVoE isn’t on your radar, you might want to check it out. It stands for Software Defined Video over Ethernet. It is the latest high-performance, software-based AV over IP platform for control and distribution of audio-visual systems using standard network backbones. If the AV prognosticators are correct, SDVoE may well be the future of all AV distribution.

What is the practical implication of SDVoE? In short, it replaces the entire “matrix” switcher scheme we have been using for decades to distribute audio, video and control signals around a facility. And it does it better.

Instead of large routers where everything is cabled to and from, you have encoders located at sources and decoders located at each destination device. All these devices are connected together using CAT* cable into a local area network using standard IT hardware. Audio, video, USB, control and other signals are all configured via software to transmit data to and from any other device.

Video courtesy of SDVoE Alliance via YouTube

The SDVoE Alliance has been marketing SDVoE as “The Matrix Transformed”. Because that is what SDVoE is, Matrix Switching on an entirely new level. Personally, I give them bonus points for the cool logo. But here are some key advantages of the SDVoE platform:

  • Fully interoperable platform of over 200 products from 45 member companies.

  • Encoders and decoders are dispersed and installed near sources and destination which frees up rack space and reduces cabling costs. These devices are available with connectivity for virtually any signal type or signal types.

  • It changes as your needs change. With Ethernet being bi-directional, every cable run can be either a source or destination.

  • Reduces costs in that you aren’t forced to use a “square” router (8X8, 16X16, etc), you only purchase the exact number of encoders and decoders that your system needs.

  • Frees your system to truly be future-proofed as it can grow to as many encoders and decoders as your network infrastructure can support.

  • Future-proofs your systems as it is not resolution or format oriented. HD, 4K, 8K can all be distributed across the network regardless of the signal type used.

  • Scalers handle scaling functions in about 3 milliseconds. Matrix based switchers either scale or have scaling receivers that typically add 1-2 frames of latency.

  • Audio and video signals are streamed independently which makes advanced routing possible, and with intricate clock synchronization, lip sync is never a problem.

  • Audinate is an SDVoE contributing member which means you can find the DANTE transport available on SDVoE devices.

  • Seamless USB integration means all manner of USB devices can function. From mics, to webcams and storage devices.

  • IT folks can finally see and manage AV hardware sitting on networks like they have always wanted. AV hardware is now speaking their language.

Among all these advances, perhaps the greatest advantage is cost. SDVoE systems are extremely flexible so they can be completely reconfigured via software only. While SDVoE costs continue to drop, there are very real cost savings to be had each and every time your needs evolve and change because the platform is so flexible.

Despite all that great news and AV advancement, there are some challenges and new costs to deploying an SDVoE platform. As you might imagine, moving around that much video will take up some rather respectable bandwidth and bog down network infrastructure. For example, Crestron’s NVX streams can consume up to 999 Mbps. This means it would be a terrible mistake to slap some SDVoE encoders and decoders on your office LAN!

The reality is the path down the SDVoE road begins with a new 10G “AV” network. Typically, this new network simply runs in your facility in addition to the existing network. And instead of loosely having IT staff involved, the IT staff is now intimately involved. Yes, AV and IT staff will be forced to work together.

No, it’s not time to panic. Your matrix switcher is perfectly fine and 80% of integrators are still spec’ing them in new AV systems. However, the advantages this platform offers over matrix switching likely mean your next new system could be on the SDVoE platform.

This article is an opinion piece by Ridge AV, LLC. Some specifications and features were pulled from the SDVoE Alliance Blog Posts.