If your clients have more than a single TV, here's everything a design-build pro needs to know about distributed video
Oct. 17, 2023 - Distributed video is, simply put, the ability to send signals from the same source to multiple displays. Here's a very primitive example: If you've ever subscribed to a cable or satellite service, you may have encountered a situation where you needed multiple receivers or a "splitter" to get a signal to different TVs.
As AV technology progressed, a system of receivers, transmitters, and AV switches made it possible to tackle larger projects with more displays and sources. Without getting into too many technical details, those systems inevitably reach a point where adding more displays and sources requires the addition of a lot more hardware.
With current distributed video tech, the setup is much more straightforward and scalable — and the devices and switches that are taking the source and sending it to those television sets can be tucked away in a space where it's hardly visible. The technology that makes this all possible is dubbed "AV over IP," Audio-Visual over Internet Protocol — all the content is sent via category cables. IP switches allow for more inputs and outputs to be added to a system without the need for adding many bulky devices.
DM NVX® AV over IP is one aspect of the Crestron Home® platform.
"An AV-over-IP solution is a much better option than traditional video distribution options," says JoAnn Arcenal, Crestron's director of business development. "The technology's come a long way."
AV-over-IP has advanced to the point where the video it's delivering is referred to as "lossless," which means that when pictures and sound are broken down into digits that can be sent over cat cables, they're put back together to deliver the exact same content that was sent. There's no loss of signal quality when the movie, show, or game hits your eyes and ears. Additionally, with top-quality AV-over-IP solutions, there's no "latency," meaning you're seeing the content with no lag from reception to display (which is especially critical if someone in the family is a fan of video games). You're seeing exactly what's being broadcast or streamed as it occurs.
A great example of this: DM NVX® AV-over-IP technology from Crestron.
The DM NVX Solution
Because the technology was initially designed for commercial applications — from boardrooms to ballparks to bars — it had to be as robust and reliable as possible. That means that when the solutions are deployed in a residential setting, the end result will be top-notch.
The image your clients will see is a brilliant 4K video that can send a variety of content to different displays at the same time. Is the homeowner a huge sports fan who wants to see multiple games on a video wall on a football Sunday? Done. Are there gamers in the house who need the screen to react instantly when the controller's engaged? No problem.
As we mentioned previously in our post regarding whole-home audio, Crestron's amplification and speaker solutions deliver audiophile quality from a nearly invisible footprint. For example, a recent addition to the speaker line, the Ultimate IC3 ceiling speaker, is "a great example of integrating the design aesthetics alongside the audio experience. The speaker provides a full-range audio solution while only revealing a tiny three-inch grille — all the magic takes place behind the sheetrock."
The User Interface
Like other systems in a connected home, there are options when it comes to controlling a distributed video system — from touch screens to dedicated remotes to voice control, these solutions are designed to be incredibly intuitive and easy to learn. "You can call up a specific episode of a specific season of a specific show that you want to see with only the spoken word," says Arcenal. What's more, a whole-home ecosystem such as the kind offered by the Crestron Home® platform also ensures a consistent aesthetic down to the smallest details.
Some Benefits of Distributed Video
It's flexible. A centralized system that can handle multiple endpoints means that it's an easy matter to add or drop displays from the mix as clients' needs change. Does the kids' bedroom now need its own television? As long as the cabling is already in place (which is very inexpensive when pre-wiring for future expansion is handled at the planning stages), getting the signal from the source is very easy.
It eliminates the need for AV furniture. With an equipment rack (sometimes referred to as a "head end") in a central location, there's no need for consoles or credenzas to house receivers, cable boxes, and so on. "A professional installer can make the most out of small spaces when it comes to those racks, too," Arcenal adds.
It provides a consistent experience throughout the home. When distributed video is part of an integrated system, picture and sound quality doesn't differ from room to room. Controls are consistent throughout the space, too — they'll be familiar to the user no matter what room they're in.
It can handle more than entertainment. Need a look at a security camera? Want to integrate a picture-in-picture look at your video doorbell you can see while the TV is on? Done and done: AV-over-IP switches can handle as many sources as you can throw at them.
The System in Action
Arcenal recalls a system that a retired couple had commissioned for their estate. "They just wanted functionality," she says. "They wanted to be able to host their family — kids and grandkids — and they wanted to keep the family's entertainment options as simple as possible." The size of the project demanded a top-quality AV-over-IP solution. "If we were doing that via traditional AV distribution, we would have contended with a dramatic loss of fidelity and loss of quality over that entire space." Without a solution such as DM NVX AV-over-IP technology, multiple racks would have been required to send video signals throughout the sprawling property.
The Crestron Knowledge Base
Design-build professionals should feel confident when the client conversation turns to entertainment options — or any other system. Crestron provides a support system for every piece of a residential solution. "We do have a dedicated business development manager that can help the design-build community find and refer certified technology professionals who are able to handle these installations based on the geography of the project, the timeline of the project, and the scope of the project." Arcenal notes that Crestron goes to great lengths to ensure that a technology integrator is the right fit for the job. "Also, we make our sales support services available to them so that we can actually put together a certified bill of materials for our video system, our video distribution, our audio distribution systems, and really any of the systems that we're able to integrate," she says.