The Sooner AV Distribution gets an Upgrade article in Sound and Communication is much more than a story about sports and technology – it reveals a new trend in stadium HD video distribution and integration – blending the best of digital RF, Ethernet, and control integration for a superb converged, cost-effective solution.
Over the past few years, consultants and sites pursued the use of IPTV to distribute in-house and subscription programs throughout a sports facility – it seemed to be the “wave of the future”. What they’ve discovered is the “wave” arrived several years ago in the form of digital TV channels. Digital RF channels carry the same MPEG streams as IPTV for a fraction of the cost of using Ethernet for distribution.
The WJHW a premier consultant company for advanced sports facilities, decided to use RF as the more efficient, cost-effective distribution solution for HD media and TV control. It’s what RF does best.
The savings allowed the site to use the IP network for what it does best – interconnecting customized, touch-panel integrated suites and distributing digital audio streams.
By leveraging the best of RF and IP technology, the site maximized their investment and gained high definition channels, improved audio distribution and enhanced their suite experience.
What’s behind the trend
Discovering that Digital RF is just a different delivery system for IPTV programs
For the past several years, there has been a move to employ IPTV technology for large-scale stadium video distribution, with the parallel misconception that RF is a dead science. Simply not true.
For most of America, virtually all cable and satellite content is delivered via digital RF channels. Got Netflix? A large percentage of Ethernet bandwidth is delivered to residential and commercial sites as data streams packaged in digital cable channels. There simply isn’t any technology that can carry massive HD video streams and IP data over long distances than digital RF.
Integration is simplified, as all TVs have and HD tuner, so there are no additional interfaces or network licenses to buy or maintain. RF systems are inherently robust and low maintenance; you can mix coax, fiber and coax wiring, operation is generally passive, and the RF system is back up and running in about a minute after a power loss. Latency is predictable and low, about a half-second delay for in-house video.
In contrast, Ethernet isn’t a great carrier of HD video streams stadium- wide. Signals must be regenerated every 300 feet and throughput is always limited by bandwidth. Sites that are currently employing IPTV typically experience latency of about 8 seconds between the field and the TV. As with a corporate network, the IPTV must be constantly maintained to operate.
For all its limitations, an IPTV video system will cost millions to install and more to operate. RF delivers the same content for a fraction of the cost.
Controlling TVs over RF
Distributing TV control over Ethernet or dedicated control wiring is complex and expense. Ethernet wiring is not free, and you need switches ever 300’ to regenerate the signals. Not very cost effective for TVs spread out thousands of feet. The same applies to dedicated control wiring – control networks are not made for long distances. For both networks, running copper wiring just for control isn’t feasible.
Contemporary Research has been controlling TVs through RF coax for about 15 years, in use at major venues such as the Superdome, San Antonio Spurs, the 76ers, Phillies, Willow Creek Church, John Paul Jones Area and many others. The architecture is simple to integrate and operate:
- RF Control Channel. An interface in the RF head end injects a micro control channel into the RF system. The signal travels within natural gap between channels 4 and 5, so it does not interfere with other channels. The channel travels through coax, Cat5 wiring and fiber along with the other TV channels. One Ethernet port can be used to communicate to over 4,000 TVs.
- TV Controller. A small controller is mounted to the back of the TV. It pics off the control data and sends the other channel s to the TV. TVs can be controlled by RS-232 or IR commands.
- Control Software. Our Display Express software serves easy-to-use Web pages for setup, control and scheduling. No programming is required; just add displays, channels and commands via the Web pages. Setup and control panels can be served to any PC, tablet or phone – no proprietary touch panels are needed.Our system is also compatible with AMX, Crestron, Control 4 and other control systems; and we have many sites that employ custom control solutions.
Wowing the Luxury Suite Owners
Skybox owners don’t care if the HD channels are delivered over IP or RF – the video looks the same for both. They are impressed if they can enjoy amazing integrated control of their suite through touch panels. With advanced control systems, they can control the room’s TVs , dim the lights, raise the volume – and control anything else connected in the room. The systems can be networked over Ethernet, so system-wide control and power management is possible as well.
- RF is the least expensive approach to distribute channels and control to TVs – with no loss of quality. In fact, the bitrate of digital RF programs is generally twice that of IPTV streams.
- RF is an excellent distribution network for sports facilities, as it needs no maintenance when the site isn’t in use.
- The trend in sports sites enhance the fan experience with a balanced investment in RF for HD channels, IP for personal networking and connectivity, and integrated control in suites.