AJA Video Systems: Critical Broadcast and ProAV Applications Using openGear

Hi, I’m Bryce from AJA. It’s our pleasure today to share a bit around openGear, which is an important platform for many of you in broadcast or live production.

AJA Video Systems has been around for 27 years. We worked with modular racks previously and joined the openGear group so we could help expand what the community is doing — and offer a platform that allows you to choose devices from various manufacturers with the knowledge that they will all work together in a combined fashion.

So let’s take a look at what that all means. openGear is an open-architecture, modular card and frame system, which means that you can choose cards from various vendors. Currently, AJA is providing up to 23 different openGear cards, all utilizing Ross’s DashBoard management software for control. Ross is the originator of the openGear platform, which they opened up to all of us. This enables us to bring you the best combination of tools for your particular workflow needs.

So, why openGear? Choice is really important. But it’s also about a unified control and management system, which rarely was available for previous modular rack frame systems. With openGear, all of us have a unified control platform that makes it very simple for users to mix and match.

Density. The point of a frame is to have up to 20 cards within a single frame. In AJA’s case, most of our cards use dual slots, so that would be up to 10.

Reliable and simple setups. You want less wiring, and you need power redundancy. That’s really key if you’re doing broadcast, OB trucks, or live production. And you need to be future-proofed. There are over 250 cards available with DashBoard support across the industry, and there are more cards coming every day.

So what are the components of openGear? Well, there’s the frame itself. There are the cards that vendors such as AJA provide. And then there’s the DashBoard control software. And the great thing about DashBoard is when we came to the table — with more than 27 years of experience with many converters — the software allowed us to integrate the control functions of our Mini-Config software. For us and other vendors, all of those vital control functions for our solutions can be integrated into the DashBoard control software.

The frame itself is obviously a very important key element here. AJA offers OG-X-FR, a 2RU frame that runs on a 600 watt power supply. Of course, it offers mix-and-match support for all sorts of cards, including IP cards, and optional SNMP control. And it is equipped with hot-swappable power fans and cards, so if anything ever goes wrong, you can move very quickly to take care of the problem. For all of us who deal with that in critical live environments, that is key.

DashBoard is a free and open platform. And that’s really important, as you can see on the left in this image. We do have controls, as you would find in our Mini-Config software. And then all of that can come together with software like Panel Builder, which enables integration of multiple devices from multiple vendors. That’s really key for combining all sorts of needs into one and controlling it very simply.

So what are AJA’s openGear solutions? Currently we’ve got six family categories:

HDMI conversion, which is both in and out to SDI.

Scanning converters. These are straightforward scanning converters that can take you from 4K to HD or up/down/crossconversion.
Scan conversion, which has been one of our most popular categories. And we’ll get into a little more detail there and show you some examples.

Optical fiber converters. Of course, everyone wants distance. You’ve got your frame in Iraq, you’re probably going to need to get across a facility, or if you’re in a truck you may be running pretty long distances to cameras, and so on. And then of course, frame sync to keep everything timed.

So we’ve based our cards on the same technologies used in our very popular Mini-Converters. You can mix and match them, as we’ve discussed. Our cards will fit in a variety of frames and have been out there for a while. They come with the appropriate reconnect modules. They occupy two slots, so that means that you’re going to get up to 10 AJA cards if you’re sticking with an AJA solution.

You have safe operating temperatures from 0 to 40 degrees Celsius, which is going to address most environments. And we have one of the most generous warranty programs in the business, with five-year warranties including advance replacement.

Let’s dive into these families a little bit. When it comes to infrastructure, our key items include our AMA cards, which are basically audio embedders and de-embedders. We’ve all had to deal with this: Bringing mixes into an SDI stream, de-embedding to get stuff to a mixer. And then of course, DA cards. Recently, we introduced the OG-12-GDA, which is a 2×4 converter.

And the point here is that you need to now work with 12G, largely to simplify a course for 4K and ultra HD workflows. So you can use a single cable, whereas when you’re working with 3G, you may need to use a combination of SDI cables.

Within the HDMI family currently, we’ve got the HII5-4K plus, which is doing 3G SDI to HDMI 2.0 and can handle up to a 4K 60por ultra HD. And whenever AJA says 4K, just to be clear, that is the full DCI standard. So you’re going to be able to handle your broadcast, film production needs, and live production needs. Then, of course, you can bring in HDMI 2.0/3G-SDI, which works great in a lot of live AV environments where you need to utilize affordable prosumer cameras.

In terms of frame sync, we have the OG-FS mini. This is a synchronized 3G-SDI input-output. As you’re going to be combining a lot of elements, having a frame sync in the mix is key.

And the great thing with openGear is that we can utilize the frame itself for a single reference, which would then work across all of these cards you’ve seen here — the mass of cards combined together.

Scaling. If you’re working with 4K, in many scenarios you may have 4K sources, but you’re still usingHD monitoring. So this is a very popular card for that need and also for broadcast, where you might be coming off of 4K sources and you need to get it down to HD to mix into your production stream. We also have the OG-UDC, which is up/down/crossconversion that networks between the various HD formats, as well as SD. A lot of the world is still dealing with SD legacy equipment in various scenarios, so to be able to bump that up gracefully to HD is really key.

Scan conversion. These are some of my favorite products. What we have here are our ROI cards. So ROI is normally thought of as “return on investment,” which they are. But you can also think of it as “region of interest.” So the idea here is that you might be taking sources like laptops with presentations, video, or maybe a breaking piece of news on YouTube, and you need to grab that portion of a web page and convert it to full HD at a particular frame rate for your production workflow. These ROI cards are the cards for you. We’ve got a DVI input if you need it, or an HDMI input, with these two cards. And when you go into DashBoard, you’ve got an interactive UI. If you look at the little screen panel, you see a source for instances, maybe 600×400 orsomething. And if you need to get it to 1920×1080, for example, of course it will do all that scaling.

You can grab that portion of a screen and move it around — grab exactly what you need from your desktop, whatever your source might be. And from there, you can lay it out using the Monitor Matrix controls for video wall applications. So taking this as an example, here we have DashBoard, which is running on your laptop, for instance, across the LAN. You’re controlling all these cards, and as you can see we’ve got all our sources at the bottom. And you can lay out all these elements into a video wall or get them out to SDI devices or HDMI devices. It’s really convenient. The density here is key. Of course, having a rack frame modular system like this means it can be racked up in your flight cases and go wherever needed.

Optical fiber. Again, because you’re in a rack frame scenario, you’re almost always going to have to convey video transport and all your transport across great distances.

So we have LC single-mode cards here, which are known as R-FiDOs. Transmitters, receivers, and the TR means transceivers are going in both directions, of course. And even dual-channel versions of the LC cards.

Here’s an example with the transceiver. You’d have five inputs and outputs on this combination cable here. And you’ve got your 3G-SDI, in and out all on the same card. So master of convenience or reclock to make sure that things stay in sync. And then moving on to our straightforward single channels. We’ve got the OG-FiDO-T you’re seeing here in a receiver, and you can easily move your signals up to 10 kilometers. And the great thing is on the receiving end, you’ve actually got two outputs going on. And if you’ve got an input, let’s say coming from a camera, then you can always loop that back out if you need to go to monitors. In this case, we’ve got the dual channels. Again, a massive amount of convenience on a single card. These are some of our most popular cards. It’s going to really help you with that density need, right? If you’ve got up to 10 of these cards and that’s up to 20, so it’s going backwards and forwards.

We also support multi-mode. So R-FiDOs that have got the -MM. MM stands for multi-mode. Of course, the convenience of multi-mode has made it very popular for pro AV scenarios, also in broadcast environments where a lot of flexibility in cable is required. So a lot of convenience there. When you bring this all together, and this slide shows you an example of what a lot of people are dealing with in the current environment, which is you’ve still got events going on. They might be coming from multiple venues because we’re practicing social distancing. But your OTT or your streaming out is going to be a big requirement. So in this particular scenario, what you’re seeing is up to four cameras, all with FiDO transmitters, and those are the mini converter versions.

Then going into the openGear system, where we’ve got our openGear cards acting as sort of receivers, all combined in the same chassis. In this case, you could be embedding analog audio from mixes, from all sorts of different sources. And then going out the back end, you might go to something like a IO-4K plus. When connected by Thunderbolt to an iMac for instance, with Y cross, it means you can do your livestream there. If you’re needing to deal with HDR workflows in the midst of all this, you can be outputting to a FS-HDR as well, converting between the various HDR formats. Going between HDR and SDR and even recording all of that. Those are that Ki Pro Ultra Plus. So what you’re seeing here in action is use of the openGear platform as your central hub to get things in and out.

Obviously, we’re going to give it a little bit of a company push. Why buy AJA? Well, we’re known as having some of the most reliable products in the market, we’ve had 27 years of experience, and we continuously refine things.

We also have a great warranty system, up to five years with a 30-day DOE policy. In terms of partnership, we also have worked with tons of partners. openGear group, with openGear.tv, is just one example of that. And, of course, support. Even in these trying times, we’re up and running. If you have issues with your openGear products today, feel free to reach out to support at aja.com.

For more information about our solutions, you can always go to our family page. And of course the openGear group runs the website, openGear.tv. You want to go there for more education and when you’re looking for DashBoard software. And to see all the various options you have for choices from all of us as a group of vendors.

Do we have any questions I can answer?

We have one here regarding the ROI HDMI, if it’s compatible with DP?

So display port. We do have a mini converter for the ROI display port, at this time. Just to give you an idea of where we’re going with our cards, we will offer a DP card at some point. e’ve got the advantage of AJA history in hindsight. So AJA’s strategy with openGear cards is to continue to look at our best-performing mini-converter cards. We will continue to offer more and more cards for that. The issue with DP, of course, is that it doesn’t necessarily carry audio, so it’ll depend on the standard. So right now I would suggest that perhaps you wait on that end.

Someone asked, What about 12G over fiber?

As you saw, we have the 12G DA card at the moment. We’re bringing our most successful cards forward, so we’ll be continuing to bring that kind of platform to the openGear platform. Those are products I can assure you that we are working on for the future.

For the scan converter, how many screen support for matrix view?

That’s going to depend on how many cards you have going, right? So with each card you’re going to place a video source to a particular portion of the screen, or to a particular monitor within a group of monitors. Within a single openGear frame, that means you’d be getting up to 10. From there you can always have a second frame. You can keep multiplying throughout that process.

Bryce, can you explain the workflow of openGear with the video wall and multiple inputs? A bit more.

Sure. I’m going to go back to the slide here. In this particular case, what you’re seeing is 10 sources, right? And you’re going to be able to take those out the back end and place them wherever needed. And as you saw through the control panel, up here. Here’s your monitor matrix. You’ll be able to apply that particular source to wherever you need it on a screen. Right? So that would be a combination of placements. And hopefully that answers the question. It’s fairly straightforward, which is great.

For control and monitoring, does it work with any web browser and does it use Java?

In terms of the DashBoard software, you download that from openGear.tv. And you can indeed control that over your laptop, which is connected to the LAN. When it comes to AJA controls, you can access things through a web browser for configuration and control as well.

Can you let listeners know if AJA intends to create and release future OG cards?

We’re finding openGear has become more and more popular over time. I think due to the fact that this is an open system that involves many vendors. So yes, we continue to invest in the platform. And when it comes to data software, etc., we’re moving alongside everybody else and making sure compatibility is all in place.

With regards to the new DashBoard, the new interface, are AJA cards compatible and working well with this?

Yes. For those who are not familiar, if you’ve been running DashBoard software for a while, you’re going to want to go to openGear.tv and make sure you’re now running the latest software. So 9.0, I believe it is, was released very recently. It has a whole new interface, which has a slightly classier, more modern look. And then what you’ll find in terms of your interface settings is you can choose between that, or what’s called classic.

So all of our cards will work perfectly fine with the new software, except for one little caveat. In terms of the interface, since the new interface is a darker interface, it works perfectly fine as one would expect with all of our cards, other than when it comes to those ROI cards we had just been talking about. For the moment until we get out and update there, you’ll want to change back to the classic look, simply because we got a lot of doc texts and so on that we need to take care of.

Are the SFPs included with fiber cards?

Yes. If you’re ordering a particular openGear card, yes, you will be getting SFP with it.

Can you tell us about a recent installation that would be interesting to the listeners?

We’re aware of a few scenarios at the moment where feeds are being handled in medical scenarios. There’s been a great need, even prior to this particular crisis, for hospitals, for instance. Especially training hospitals have been wanting to combine more and more equipment so they can effectively go out of the chassis into a streaming device like our HELO. There are so many scenarios. Broadcast trucks have been using them for a long time. We do a lot of sports, which you might expect. We’ve been involved in everything from the Super Bowl to some of the sports events that are being postponed until next year. Also live concerts. So it really is a flexible platform, and I think you’re going to find if you do local broadcast stations or larger broadcast centers.

And I suspect over time, as houses of worship have discovered during this time period, that there’s a great need for visual communication. I also expect to see openGear grow in those environments as well.

Does the openGear frame standard network card work fine with all AJA openGear cards? Or are there cards which require the advanced networking card?

So I believe we’re utilizing largely the standard card at this point in time. If you have further questions on that though, please do send a question to AJA support. We always like to get feedback. And if you have a particular need that’s going to help out development teams.

Bryce, can you talk a little more about trucks and changes in trucks or live event technology?

That goes a little bit beyond just openGear. I think there are two key trends. One is that everybody’s trying to save fuel space, and energy, right? So the less equipment you have to haul around, the better. What this means is that openGear has become more and more popular because of that density, right? Within a single rack after 10 or 20 cards, depending on the manufacturers of cards.
From there the second big thing that’s been going on is obviously the combination that HDR and SDR needs. As many of you know, AJA has been a leading vendor in the HDR space. We make some pretty surface conversion tools, analysis tools, etc. So in the early going, there were intended to be two separate trucks, to deal with HDR and SDR. That’s what we’ve seen in the last 12 months, especially. And we’ve done a lot of work in this area, combining the need for HDR and SDR, and giving you a combined workflow within even single products like the FS-HDR.

So openGear frames might be a source, where all the cameras have been plowed through and then moved through into the FS products, dealing with HDR, to simultaneously deliver SDR and HDR needs. Because even within the HDR landscape, of course, you’re going to have a need for HLG for some elements, and PQ for another. And our products will handle both.

Someone would like you to explain a little more about our HDMI-to-SDI card.

In terms of its core functionality, it is doing exactly what it suggests, which is effectively utilizing an HDMI source and ensuring that you get it to a SDI signal. Its most popular use case is for prosumer cameras. But not just cameras; there are a range of cheaper playout systems that might be using HDMI as the output feed. And then you need to bring it into an SDI environment. That’s often the case when you need to feed a switcher. So there’s a range of reasons you utilize that particular device. You can, of course, even pull off a straightforward signal on occasion from a computer or a desktop. But you really want to set up timings for that, which is key, right? Different parts of the world are going to have different frame rates they need to support. I would suggest you look at the ROIs instead.

We have one last question here. Which are the formats to convert. And what else can we do?

That’s a pretty big wide open question.

AJA’s core strength is that we are a bridge-building company. From 1993 when we started, the original work that John did on that first converter that went to NAB in a shoe box, was to get from one format to another. We’re in an age right now where there are multiple needs and multiple forms of delivery and sources. What that means over time, as you can continue to expect, is that AJA will continue to produce, investigate, and look at all the various platforms, and figure out a way to get you from where you might be today to where things might be going.

As you may know, we already called it AIMS, which is ST 2110 stuff for IP workflows. We continue to investigate all sorts of possibilities when it comes to ethernet transport of video. There are a range of different standards, and we continue to look at them and to invest in routes that will help you move between these different connectivity types.

It’s an exciting world right now. Our streaming products, as you might imagine, are selling like crazy. And of course, getting you from one place to other is exactly what we do. So without saying too much more there, what I would suggest is you visit aja.com. Over the next few months, we will be rolling out a range of exciting new solutions, some in areas that you have not seen us in before. So I think you’re going to find that this changing world just keeps plowing on, and we will do our best to make sure that we’re getting you from point A to point B.

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