8k Ain't Going Away
In much the same way many integrators had approached 4K, 8K is being treated in a similar manner. With game consoles seemingly the only tangible sources for anything 8K-related thus far, plus their nearly singular reliance on direct connection (and ideally with an Active Optical Cable at that), there isn’t much to suggest installation infrastructure should be prepared for 8K pathways. But don’t allow lack of content to bleed into lack of foresight.
For far more than a decade, content acquisition in Hollywood has been at 5K & 6K, elevating in the past half dozen years to 8K and even higher. Initially, it provided non-animated special effects more pixels, so guy wires, harnesses plus other movie magic trickery could be “digitally erased” with no compromise to image fidelity. Now, remastering is doing for movies what it did decades back for musical catalogs - giving the public not a different version of their favorites, rather an unchanged better version.
In Hollywood workflows, 8K masters will eventually lead today’s 4K hits (Top Gun: Maverick comes to mind) into being re-released in a very near-future tomorrow in their original 8K splendor to even an even more-amazed audience. Consider a platform like Kaleidescape. While I have no information indicating anything of this sort may be forthcoming, what is to prevent them from developing an 8K player for 8K titles they secure for exclusive use in their store? It’s likely not even a whole-step away, given their relationship with the content creation community. Previously, I have written how Dolby’s ambitions parallel future specifications already established. Dolby doesn’t drag Hollywood around by the collar, but almost. Their roadmap includes 12K, 120fps, uncompressed color, and 10,000 nits.
For many of us here at AVPro Edge, our association with the Imaging Science Foundation is approaching nearly three decades and it is no stretch to say we grew up in the video business while growing the high end video business.
Murideo 8K signal generation and analyzation test equipment is being used around the globe by technology leaders such as Dolby Laboratories, is ever-present in the product development departments of TV manufacturers, and dedicated calibrators rely on our gear daily. The Fox & Hound has proven to be an invaluable trouble-shooting aid for the residential and commercial integration communities, as the newest 8K version routinely pays for itself in labor savings.
The AVPro Edge 8K Product Line-up
AVPro Edge product development did not remain static while much of the industry stared 8K in the face wondering what to do next. 8K displays from major manufacturers have in place the processing power to actually improve facets of 4K signals (four times as many pixels to smooth diagonal transitions) but aside from professional cameras, 8K was essentially absent from the landscape. Still, we pressed forward.
Our class-leading 8K HDMI matrix switchers, 8K HDMI distribution amplifier, 8K downscaler, and upcoming 8K HDMI fiber optic extension kit represent important landmarks not only for AVPro Edge, but the industry at large. It is our declaration that 8K ain’t going away.
The focus AVPro Edge has placed on 8K leading up to 2022 has enabled our 8K products to become a mainstay for us throughout the year, and though 8K may still be in its infancy, the maturity in AVPro Edge’s 8K engineering is on display daily around the world.
This article was written by Michael Hamilton
The wait is over for the game-changing next generation of MXNet. AVPro Edge’s MXNet 10G AV-over-IP ecosystem arrives ready to meet the design challenges for upscale commercial and residential applications head-on. Based on Software Defined Video-Over-Ethernet (SDVoE) interface technology, MXNet 10G uses a 10Gbps Ethernet network as a bridge between system endpoints and the software platform comprising audio, video, USB, KVM and control signals.
AVPro Edge is an adopting and contributing member to the SDVoE Alliance and deep in the heart of many MXNet 10G products are SEMTECH’s BlueRiver ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) technologies. The ASIC consolidates a host of features and formerly individual component platforms into an alliance-only, readily-available form factor, avoiding supply chain issues associated with designs based on FPGA (field programmable gate array) architecture, currently in excessive worldwide demand and foreseen to long remain so. An indirect “green” feature of MXNet 10G devices is to be had as they run 75% cooler than FPGA designs, reducing the environmental impact large-scale systems might otherwise impose.
MXNet’s core concepts for system stability, interoperability with all connected devices, and deployment ease have been implemented into MXNet 10G, along with familiar features. MXNet 10G’s system performance enhancements include imperceptible, ultra-low latency HDMI 2.X distribution, effortlessly transporting signals of up to 4K/60Hz 4:4:4 artifact-free, with multi-channel audio codecs plus control information. A/V signals may be distributed point-to-point, matrixed from any encoder to multiple decoders, and configured for multi-viewing or multi-window video walls. KVM, USB 2.0, and control signals such as CEC, IR and RS-232 may be openly routed from any input to any output.
AVPro Edge manufactures every component of our MXNet 10G ecosystem in our own facilities, including network switches and network PoE switches, Transceivers, and the Control Box featuring our in-house developed Mentor system configuration and control software. Unlike other “assemblers”, we control our products from end-to-end.
WHAT MAKES MXNET 10G DIFFERENT
AC-MXNET-10G-TCVR - Transceiver Encoder / Decoder: Inarguably, the most versatile product in the AVPro MXNet SDVoE ecosystem is the AC-MXNET-10G-TCVR, a single SKU, dual-use configurable, advanced modular AV-over-IP encoding / decoding IP streaming solution.
AC-MXNET-10G-CBOX - Control Box: The AC-MXNET-10G-CBOX serves as the central control unit for the SDVoE AV over IP ecosystem. Connected to the MXNet 10G network system switch (or a third party multicast capable switch), the AC-MXNET-10G-CBOX maintains communication with all MXNet 10G transceivers to manage multicast data distribution, audio/video switching - including matrix routing presets, and command destination mapping for RS-232, IR or USB extension control signals.
AC-MXNET-10G-SW12C: An industry-first design to traffic both data and POE through 12 common ports; a single CAT-6a is all that is required for power and data on this network switch. Onboard are six 10G/25G SFP28 ports, which are backward compatible with SFP+ ports and can function with SFP+ optical modules or SFP+ DAC cables (please note: the 25Gbps data rate is not supported). These ports can be used to connect up to six, MXNET-10G TCVR SDVoE transceivers.
AC-MXNET-10G-SW24Q and AC-MXNET-10G-SW48Q: These managed switches support MXNet 10G installations. AC-MXNET-10G-SW24Q is stackable, with 24, 10G SFP+ ports plus two, 40G QSFP+ ports, expandable to 8 additional endpoints using break out cables. The AC-MXNET-10G-SW48Q is also stackable, featuring 48, 10G SFP+ ports, and six, 40G QSFP+ ports to increase endpoint capacity with breakout cables to an additional 24 endpoints, for a total of 72.
Apple has announced their next generation Apple TV, released November 4th, 2022, supports native 4K/60Hz content in Dolby Vision. Its predecessor processed Dolby Vision 4K content at 24fps for film-related content, and 30fps for video-based material.
Let’s draw a distinction at the outset:
As of this writing, the only applicable practical use for Dolby Vision 4K/60fps is for the Apple iPhone 14 camera in video mode (and perhaps other brands), which have acquired content natively at that frame rate. But what might that setting in the new Apple TV impose upon distributed video systems?
With the noblest of intentions, integrators always seek to do what they interpret is best for their clients and this invariably includes attempts at delivering the best system image fidelity from the latest generation of assorted source devices, in which Apple TV figures prominently. In systems (or signal pathways which use supplemental products, like HDMI extenders) where bandwidth is design-limited such as AV over IP, care must be taken to avoid attempting to send signals that exceed bandwidth limitations.
Without video calibration training, it is hard for integrators and end-users to resist temptations to select settings, which numerically, depict what are perceived to be the best (read: biggest) possible. When perusing a device menu, initial inclinations may be to choose RGB output instead of Y’CbCr, thinking perhaps since all display types are RGB, selecting RGB represents a synergistic match. At the content creation level, or at least for signal transfer between studio-level professional devices, this presumption would be correct, as the signal would remain bandwidth uncompressed. For most devices classified as consumer level, RGB output, where found, may prove to be less fortuitous than envisioned. An explanation is forthcoming, however let’s proceed to one more parameter first: Chroma Subsampling.
Here again is where Big Number-itis may creep in to afflict integrators. In the menu tree of a source device, it is natural to presume that 4:4:4 must be indicative of best performance. If working in Hollywood post-production, that presumption is valid. But after Hollywood post-production, in content distribution, 4:4:4 is no more…it ceases to exist, except in highly extraneous isolated circumstances (Kaleidescape may be the most notable example, where content is capable of native delivery).
All media delivered at the consumer level, whether live broadcast via television, CATV, and satellite, or from streaming, are all transported in Y’CbCr, 4:2:0. Professionally, 4:2:0 is generally considered to be a transport and storage format, containing color information plus the black & white signal, yet is highly efficient in terms of bandwidth consumption. Not all devices can or will comfortably handle 4:2:0, instead performing upconversion to 4:2:2. Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray are prime examples. Content on the disc is stored at 4:2:0 however, the disc player performs upconversion at playback. Broadcast is no different. Cable boxes and satellite receivers input signals at 4:2:0, then upconvert to 4:2:2 for output (though some EDID readings may show boxes issued by some providers upconvert to 4:4:4).
All display technologies (CRT, plasma, LCD, DLP, OLED, Micro LED, and LCOS) are RGB devices. Prior to displaying content, upconversion into RGB is necessary at some point in the signal chain.
Let’s refer back to UHD Blu-Ray. Content is still sub-sampled at 4:2:0, but unlike Blu-Ray, the enormous storage capacity allows for 10- and 12-bit color depth, plus a wider color gamut (P3 or BT. 2020) with High Dynamic Range (SMPTE ST 2084). Until HDMI Version 2.0, introduced in 2013, HDMI did not support 4:2:0 chroma subsampling. Even with HDMI 2.0, most players continued to upconvert to 4:2:2, while some offered 4:4:4 as an option.
It is at this juncture where we start to confront the central dilemma: Where is the best place to perform upconversion? In distributed systems, especially those with AV over IP limited to 1Gbps bandwidth, two interplaying factors arise. First, what does conversion better, a $129 streaming box or the $3,000 top-end display? Secondly, what is necessary to ensure the signal gets to the display?
While Apple TV, Roku and similar sundry devices all look good, is their true function designed for best image fidelity or to provide the most content? Satellite is perhaps the quintessential example of quantity over quality.
For Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray players the past two decades, discs with test patterns were available to determine whether the player did a better job of upconversion, or if it was the display. Ultimately, the signal requires conversion into RGB for an image to appear.
Given the refinements incorporated into today’s displays, there is no compelling reason in this era to presume a display from a major manufacturer will not provide the best upconversion into RGB, so let us address getting the signal to the display.
A premium source product directly connected to a display from a major manufacturer is not the subject of this writing. The venerable Oppo 205 set to output RGB, or the aforementioned Kaleidescape, may give any well-designed display’s electronics a run for its money. But a configuration such as that (direct connection to the display) is obviously impossible with distributed video/AV over IP systems. The focus here is optimizing source devices for distributed scenarios.
As outlined previously, settings with the highest numbers may not likely deliver the best image fidelity with distributed video systems. For example, by selecting RGB output, the source product will perform all upconversion, forcing the largest amount of data through the pipeline, leaving the display with literally nothing left to do except create the image – from the ingredients delivered to it. In this mode, nearly all image processing within the display is bypassed, recognizing the RGB signal as having no need for upconversion, sending the signal into the display controller (different display types require controlling measures, such as LCD flat panels with multiple screen imaging tiles, or LCOS and high-end DLP projectors with three imaging panels). Presuming the pathway was capable of faithfully transporting such a heavily bandwidth-laden signal, minus infrastructure degradation, upconversion quality is entirely dependent on the capabilities of the source device. Intermediate, gradient permutations will yield varying results. Instead of RGB, sending Y’CbCr at 4:4:4, the display merely needs to convert Y’CbCr into RGB, avoiding color scaling. If Y’CbCr 4:2:2 is selected in the source device, the display will need to perform upconversion scaling of Cb and Cr into 4:4:4 and then convert this to RGB.
In almost every instance, the optimum scenario is to select 4K/30Hz Y’CbCr, 4:2:2 for a signal containing all the original information, yet consuming the lowest possible bandwidth, especially for content that includes dynamic metadata (which is layered on top of transport and not embedded inside the signal).
What about 4:2:0? While it represents the original signal by definition, and the latest versions of HDMI support it for transport, odd combinations of settings for most of the equipment in a signal chain is required for pass-through without some degree of difficulty.
For mixed-generation systems containing legacy displays, pre-HDMI 2.0 displays will not be able to process 4:2:0 signals. 4:2:2 is better preferred as default chroma subsampling.
NextGen systems with 8K signals (using 8K-capable matrix switchers and/or 8K extenders) the scenario is different, as these source devices will eventually contain uncompressed content.
To date, only gaming consoles are NextGen sources, on which games present different challenges (for example, Variable Refresh Rates) and in typical residential settings are direct connected.
In summary, the best practice for distributed video systems is to configure source device output at the lowest denominators possible, for ease in signal transport. Upconversion should be done by displays which in nearly every practical sense, perform this process with better precision than when configured outboard and upstream. You will eliminate infrastructure headaches from attempting to force signals that are on the bleeding edge of eclipsing system thresholds, with ultimately zero loss of fidelity to the original signal. Resist the urge to configure sources using their largest bandwidth settings…you may find your troubleshooting time plunge to near zero.
AVPro edge is pleased to announce the December 2nd, 2022, release of a new driver pack for Q-SYS systems that provide front-end control to our MXNet 1G systems and for use with our upcoming MXNet 10G SDVoE platform.
This new driver, based on a fresh control approach, caters to large system scalability for matching device totals the MXNet ecosystem is capable of. Commissioned by AVPro Edge from Control Concepts, this driver differs substantially from the single plugin monolithic architecture of the current driver, which remains suitable for residential application use but may become increasingly problematic when device totals grow exponentially with large scale systems.
Internal analysis coupled with insightful, valuable feedback from many of our commercial integrators contributed to the development of this Q-SYS control update. The new driver pack hosts a suite of multiple plugins (which must be linked together to form a functional system). Support documentation may be downloaded at:
This documentation also includes a small demonstration program with an accompanying help document included in the ZIP file, which may be used for reference.
AVPro Edge engineering is confident you will find this new driver will alleviate issues large-scale, hybrid MXNeT / Q-SYS system deployments were beginning to experience.
MXNet 1G Ecosystem Latency Testing
The following tests were performed and recorded by Austin Dirks, AVPro Edge AV over IP Engineer.
Based on the following testing, we have determined that system latency with MXNet 1G Ecosystems will equal 1 frame or at 30fps = 33ms or 60fps = 16ms. See chart below and supporting testing photos.
Lenovo T480 HDMI output to AC-DA12-AUHD-GEN2. DA12 OUT1 -> MUMONDUAL Monitor #1. DA12 OUT2 -> AC-MXNET-1G-E -> AC-MXNET-SW48 -> AC-MXNET-1G-D -> MUMONDUAL Monitor #2.
Lenovo T480 outputting 1080P60HZ RGB 8Bit as well as 4K30HZ RGB 8BIT. Ran a stopwatch on PC from https://www.timeanddate.com/stopwatch/. Took 4 images for each test, images taken from iPhone XS Max. Decoder output scaling set to PASSTHROUGH. Data was calculated using BLACK text on the stopwatch.
ASPEED V1 Chipset:
1080p60Hz RGB 8BIT
4k30HZ RGB 8BIT:
ASPEED V2 Chipset:
1080p60Hz RGB 8BIT
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