AVoIP: Positive Networking

AVoIP is the preferred method of distributing audio visual content for many.  With numerous benefits, it can be the perfect solution for the end user’s needs. But what happens after installation and something goes wrong? Here, Jon Dew-Stanley, Director UK and Ireland Technical, Services and Support at Midwich explains why important decisions regarding the network should be made at the start of the project to ensure efficiency.

AV over IP (AVoIP) has seen a significant rise as the chosen method for distributing audio and video.

Often coined as the ‘everything everywhere’ solution you can see why.

A report published in January 2019 by consulting firm Futuresource stated that year-over-year shipments of AVoIP solutions had increased 60%. And this doesn’t seem to be wavering.

Offering an easier way to deliver audio and video signals to traditional methods involving dedicated video hardware, matrix switches and cabling – there are many benefits.

AVoIP is established as the way forward for distributing high quality AV signals using standards-based protocols across IP networking infrastructure at any scale (unicast and multicast) and at significant cost advantages.

And, essentially, any application with a video source and a video destination is suitable.

These advantages make AVoIP appropriate for many uses including corporate, higher education, retail, government, meetings and events.

Not to mention, it’s flexible and easy to adapt to changing needs unlike traditional AV system components where you would need new cable runs, additional switching hardware and the possible downtime caused by physical changes required to the site to accommodate the alterations.

Described as ‘the future of AVoIP’, the Software Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE) standard is the next step and offers superior-quality AV signal distribution, with minimal latency and design flexibility.

Its only challenge remains the high bandwidth requirements to produce these results.

Using dedicated IP networks – specifically the standard Ethernet networks deployed by AV integrators to ring fence audio visual equipment away from corporate infrastructure – SDVoE distributes audio and video at high quality without the need for compression and must yet break through the glass ceiling for integrated adoption within existing network infrastructure.

As the industry embraces AVoIP, there is one question that can hinder the effective deployment of a system.

‘Who is responsible and takes ownership of the network?’

This important question can be lost in the excitement of a new project but should be one of the first things considered when discussing AVoIP between an integrator, end user, IT network provider, distributor and even manufacturer.

Depending on who is involved in the installation will determine who is responsible for what aspects and, ultimately, what level of service the end user will receive if a problem arises.

Like the convergence of AV and IT, a collaborative approach between all parties in the project team is best practice and will ensure a high quality of service and continuity assurance.

Although the split from AV to IT is clear (the point at which the data leaves the encoder or enters the decoder), there remains some confusion and unease surrounding the issue of responsibility.

All too often, the responsibility of network design and/or commissioning is passed to someone, be it the integrator, end user, IT network provider, distributor or manufacturer, who often cannot take ownership alone.

This can cause problems and may result in the end user not being able to use their system while help is sourced or responsibility is debated.

By having the discussion early, building a partnership with stakeholders and creating a service contract, problems can be avoided.

Furthermore, specifying the right network and products that fit with the client’s brief is paramount and should be discussed prior to the project starting.

Ensuring scalability and flexibility at the beginning will also reduce problems later.

With an array of AVoIP products available on the market, it can be hard to know which product is the best solution for the desired result.

NETGEAR, a trusted provider of IP network switches, helps AV pros transition away from traditional matrix switcher AV distribution systems by using standard Ethernet switches - their affordability and ease of management make them an attractive alternative.

Although Tripleplay’s IPTV is not AVoIP, it’s important to note due to its ability to use common networks to transfer AV signals and TV channels across an IP network. It has been widely adopted as a result of its maturity and flexibility but can be an issue if the application requires higher quality, real time or low latency AV distribution.

In this instance, the likes of Analog Way would fit the bill. Used mainly in live production environments for the wow factor, its SDVoE products allow for high definition, high quality, HDR multicast video output on a 10Gb network without the need for compression.

In a majority of cases, products like AMX’s SVSi and Atlona’s OmniStream are used because they offer scalability, high performance and cost-effective AV distribution.

With more than 10 years’ experience in AVoIP, AMX is arguably the market-leader at providing a variety of AV solutions at different capabilities and price points.

Their SVSi product is well established within the industry at delivering compressed signal at high quality (HDR 4:4:4) in a multitude of settings and configurations.

But like with any new technology, advances are occurring all the time with manufacturers developing innovative and better quality products.

As a distributor, we know that a collaborative approach to AVoIP is the best solution.

With this comes a duty by all parties to understand what is required, what products are best suited, to undertake necessary training to ensure knowledge and to build effective relationships to help monitor and maintain the network.

AVoIP can be complex so here at Midwich, we offer technical support, training and enhanced warranties via MiSupport.

Our engineers provide regular AVIXA certified training programs on design, installation and deployment at our academy.

Furthermore, to execute a successful delivery, Mi Support on-site assistance ensures anyone delivering AVoIP solutions can do so with our specialist network engineers right by their side.

By working collaboratively as a whole project team, undertaking training and utilising expert advice from design to conception including technical support, you can ensure that your next installation is successful and any problems are understood and rectified efficiently.