AJA Video Systems – openGear Live & Online Sept 29, 2020

Bryce:
Good afternoon. Good to see you all. Nice to be here. I’m joined today by Bob Huddleson, who is our Senior Engineering Department Manager. And we’re going to be looking at a few things that are out from AJA, and always find it helpful to also talk a little bit about where do we come from, why are we here, why open here. So for those who might not know AJA, we’ve been around almost three decades now, and it really started with some basic connectivity, getting a computer signal to video signal. And I believe our first NAB involved a card in a shoe box, right? And since then, we have continued bridging in any way possible to try and bring professionals the connectivity they need to move them from pipeline to pipeline to explore the newer technologies that keep emerging, some of which we’ll be looking at today, which sort of crosses the SDI and digital audio space in this case.

So, we’ve been doing this a while, and it really comes down to something like openGear’s, a platform, right? Being an ecosystem where our offerings can co-exist with offerings from other vendors you’ve been hearing today, and seamlessly operate. So, having things like common dashboard software support is really huge. And in terms of the types of products that we’ve been into, we initially moved over a lot of our infrastructure products. That means DAs, some basic FS tools, frame sync tools to make sure you can keep things going, audio embedding. HDMI-SDI conversion tool sets across our mini converter line have been some of our most popular mini converters ever, and that need continues. And in the OG space, there’s a lot of place for it. As we’ve all seen, HDMI in the space has became very common, even for high-end professional work. We have a big range of our fiber connectivity, cards going on in the openGear format, and scaling and conversion.

So, scan conversion is a big part of it, and that’ll be one of the products we’re going to look at today in terms of our ROI format. So, ROI stands for regional interest. So last Thursday, we had the joy of bringing two new announcements to the market. The first is the OG Roy SDI, and basically what that’s doing is it’s taking an SDI signal, allowing to extract a portion of that signal, and then deliver it in whatever format you want, whether it’s 720 or 1080, get it to … And this is a big thing because so many environments today, whether it’s pro-AV live concerts, maybe you’re dealing with vertical screens and you need to shift your original horizontal format into that space, or for broadcast, when you’re extracting elements, maybe from some older footage, you want to get rid of some elements of screen that you don’t want to show your current audience.

There are all sorts of reasons that you want to extract a signal. So, that joins our family. We have … It’s upwards. Just to be clear, you’re bringing in 3GSDI, and you can simultaneously output to SDI and HDMI. And this joins our other OG ROI cards here, which support DMI inputs as well as HDMI. So whether you’ll be starting from computer sources or a pure baseband video signal, like SDI, this really is the card for you. But, I think the exciting news is what we’re going to look at now. So, I’m just going to run through a little brief presentation, and then Bob and I can discuss this a bit more. Yeah. So, if you’ll just bear with me as we bring up our presentation.

I want to confirm that everyone can see that okay. We’re looking good? All right. So, Dante. For those of you not familiar with Dante, what is it about? Well, it started with a company Coordinate, and what it offers you is uncompressed multichannel, low latency, really high resolution digital audio. So, we’re not talking compressed audio. This is to work with your professional workflows, and you’re able to work with it across switch ethernet networks, using the standard TCP IP protocols. There are over 450 manufacturers that are really involved in this ecosystem with a huge range of products, over 2,500 as of today. So, there’s a massive adoption globally, one of the reasons we wanted to be involved with it. And of course, again, this is high quality professional audio, right? So, it’s uncompressed. And the great thing in terms of its audio over IP approach is that it utilizes ubiquitous one gig ethernet.

So whether it’s your standard computer you’re working on right now, it’s not an expensive networking system to get involved with. And it also offers primary and secondary ethernet channels so that you have some redundancy, so that you ensure that you’re able to continue working, even when that occasional blip comes along. Right? So, our purpose here was bridging something AJA has been involved with for a long time, which of course is SDI. And in this particular case, we’re talking 12G SDI, which is really exciting because 12G SDI means you have the 4K and Ultra HD across a single cable. So, it’s the world’s first 12G SDI to Dante audio embedding and disembedding product. So, this is a really big branch product. And so, it’s working both ways. You might be sending signals that have come across your SDI infrastructure to your Dante audio IP network.

So, disembedding from the card from your video source, moving it into mixers, moving it over to monitors, and moving it to audio work stations, or you could be going the other way around where your sound guy has been doing a whole bunch of mixing, getting the audio just where it needs to be, and you want to marry it into your SDI video infrastructure so that it can move the other way. So, this means it can handle 64 channels per card. So, realizing we’ve got 16 channels of SDI per SD, or embedded SDA audio per SDI port, there’s two independent SDIs in and out. Sorry, two independent ins and two independent outs. So, 16 channels of audio per means you’re doing 64 at a time. And the great thing here is this is a industry standard openGear card. So of course, to reiterate, the whole point of openGear is as many manufacturers, you may already have a frame, so you’d be able to take our card, or take a couple of slots, and connect it effectively with all the other infrastructure that you already have inside that frame.

AJA offers its own frame, the OGXFR, and of course, we can take cards from other manufacturers. So again, it’s that whole point of a community ecosystem. So if you go load the frame up, you could have up to 10 of these Dante cards inside our frame, which means you’re dealing with 640 channels of Dante audio bridging in a two RU space, which is pretty incredible. And that really is part of the point of working with things like audio over IP, right? There’s a huge amount of density. It’s the fact that you can operate and route things all at the same time. So there, we see our two SDI inputs, two SDI outputs. And alongside that, of course, those one EE ethernet ports I was describing before. So, the primary and secondary offers us some redundancy. Security is always a good thing. And here’s an example of mixing this inside a frame with range of different kinds of cards. And that really is the point of openGear, is these are hot swappable. So you can be in the middle of an operation or a project can change.

So we can mix all of those in together, Ross DashBoard software again, completely compatible. As you can see on the left-hand side of this image, there are a number of cards inside this particular frame right now. And of course, you can embed. You’re effectively doing your basic controls through the DashBoard software. So, you can control it. You can monitor the cause performance. We all like to see those little green lights. That means everything is going on perfectly okay as planned. And of course, DashBoard software itself means you can access it across Windows macOS, or Linux, right? So you’re not locked into a particular platform. Now in terms of routing it, this is where the Dante software kicks in. So, what you get with Dante is not just this uncompressed audio, and it’s great lack of agency, right?

You effectively have a very simple, almost sort of spreadsheet operation here where you can wrap where the channels are going, and then you can name your particular products. So if you’re doing a real life workflow here, you would come in and name some of your destinations and literally call it my favorite mixer, my front of house, my front of house speakers, wherever those destinations are going to be. So, it’s easy to do channel routing. There’s automatic device registration. One of the complaints that there sometimes are about IP workflows is that it can be difficult to register a device, ensure that it’s showing up, everybody recognizes everybody else within the Dante system. This is actually a very simple process. So, we make things. And then the question is, why did we make it? Who’s it for? Well, of course it covers a very wide range of things.

And during this era of COVID as well, we can easily add remote production into this mix, right? So whether you’re doing live events and you’re trying to set up environments, and this type of implementation is just as valid for larger companies, et cetera, wherever you’ve got space that you’re moving audio and video around. In today’s current environment, you can be moving audio around a stadium. It can be picking up mics off the field, getting them into the system, and wanting to embed them into your SDI video signals. Production facilities. Right now, you’ve got many people working on projects. It’s not like we all come to close, just because the difficulties in the world. We’ve got to get on with stuff. So, you’re going to have a lot of sound operators, folks working from home and creating videos for AJA. I work with voiceover artists out of LA, right?

So the point is, how do you get the signal across? And Dante is great for that. Because again, you can just route your audio from that source over IP, and then integrate it into your SDI signal pause using a product like the Dante 12 GAM. And on set right now, this is also going to be a big deal because we’re trying to minimize the amount of people that have to physically be on top of each other.

You still need to move those signals around. You want to combine the best of point to point technology, which is, what, something like 12 GSDI offers you. And then, you want to be able to easily work with an IP network. So in the case of a house of worship, and this is just a broad example we’ve put together, you can see in a case like this, you might be routing cameras into your typical SDI routers. Then, you would get them down to the frame. And at that point, you’d be using your Dante software tools to route and configure where this all goes. And then once it’s embedded, you can always send it back out to the router and record it. There’s all the finished audio attached.

I’ll give you a second to just look at that, but it’s very clear that there is a ton of flexibility, whether you’re sending audios to amps, for something as simple as that, to drive audio on site, including it with your video, breaking it back out for your video. So, it’s very much a two way street. It’s a really open system. And I think as a lot of folks in the video world who may not have played with Dante to this point, identifying the kind of flexibility options that the Dante ecosystem opens for all of us may actually make you rethink some of the routing you’ve been doing with these tools. It’s definitely going to make it easier for you to work with folks across the country. You can be in a closed system. You can be working from switch to switch.

And the great thing is that the redundancy and the jump points … I mean not the redundancy, the latency, is really, really small. And so whether you’re coming from an environment where someone’s done a really high quality audio mix may even be at 96 kilohertz, the card will make sure that you get it down to that 48 kilohertz that you need for your SDI outputs. Right? So, ton of flexibility here. So, it’s very exciting. As always with Aja, you’ve got a really long warranty. You’ve got five years to go here. So, there’s a lot of security when you get into converter cars from AJA. And it’s a really reasonable price for everything it’s doing. So, available to order. It’ll be shipping within the next couple of weeks, but it’s very exciting for us to bring this to market for you, and we’re really looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

I don’t think we have any preconceived ideas of just which markets this is going to grab. We know pro AV is already a big market for it. We know a lot of people in the broadcast space have been looking at how they can integrate something like digital audio over IP into their workflows. And as with many of our products, I’m sure we’re going to find out that folks have found out a lot of other ways to utilize our tools beyond what we initially envisioned. So, it’s pretty exciting stuff.

As part of our larger ecosystem, in terms of all the ecosystems we play with, you can learn more about our 12 GSDI solutions, because I want to make it clear that the Dante card is joining a very large growing family of 12 GSDI solutions that AJA offers. And of course, that will lead to a little more simplicity when it comes to AKA solutions. May not be something you’re dealing with today, but you know how it goes. We’ll find our space. So you can take a look at our solution pages. Bob, considering what we’ve seen here today and where we’ve been, what initially prompted this jump into the openGear platform in particular? And what do you really think are the advantages for our users, and what’s the client reaction been like?

Bob:
Yeah. Well, thanks Bryce. That’s a great question.

The openGear platform addresses a real market need of consolidating various terminal equipment functions from many manufacturers into a common rack mount frame. So, having a common terminal equipment frame brings real value to our customers as they can mix and match functions from AJA, as well as other vendors, to build up system functions.
So about five years ago, we were looking to either create a new frame or find a better solution. And the openGear frame worked out well for us. With over 130 openGear product manufacturers, it gives our customers lots of solution options. And with over 40,000 frames in the field now, according to Bill, there’s a lot of slots out there and we can provide additional value to our customers that they can, say, add a card to one of those systems from AJA without having the cost burden of purchasing a new frame necessarily.

In addition to industry wide compatibility though, the frame itself has many attributes, including the small 2RU form factor of the 20 cards in a frame, hot swap capability, optional redundant power, forced air cooling, remote status and control over ethernet. And additionally, due to the openGear’s front rear card mechanical design, it’s really given some life to the product.
You’re not locked into, say, a particular technology because of the way, say, a connectorization was done. So with openGear, front and rear cards can advance with technology, much as we’ve seen with 12 gig SDI and now 25 gig ethernet for IP video. And it gives us lots of flexibility for the future. So, I see the openGear frame lasting a long time and bringing a lot of value. And another example, like you’re saying with our Dante bridge product, here we go again with adding a new technology to a frame that was created, maybe, I think it was about 14 years ago, the original openGear frame.

Regarding your question of how our clients have reacted to our partnership with openGear, it’s been very popular. We received lots of requests to build new cards, more than we can build, but it’s clear that our customers like this decision and this path we’re going down. And based on our website stats, openGear tracks really well with our mini converter products that have been around for many years, 25 years. And the openGear products are popular across a wide range of applications, from broadcasts and live events, house of worship fly packs. It’s perfect for fly packs. When you need to have various functions, you can put them in a rack mount chassis and have it all cabled and set up. And probably a key this year has been remote productions due to the pandemic. openGear is a nice choice.

Bryce:
Yeah. So on that topic, we have AJA for anyone who’s followed us for a while. We’ve probably got a couple of hundred of mini converters. Are we going to try and move all those across, or are you, as I suspect in terms of the way we’ve been going, is it more a matter of identifying which tools have really been successful and see constant demand, and trying to bridge those into the openGear format? And I imagine, everyone talks about remi production, but it’s also that practical point to point distancing. Do you expect to see an increase in the fiber options available on the platform?

Bob:
Yeah. Well, respect to fiber, we actually currently have, as you know, a number of fiber converters for the product and are looking to grow that portfolio as well. We’ll have some more announcements later in the year on that. But, I think there’s probably three main parameters that sort of drive when we decide to put something in the openGear frame. One is if we have a very popular mini converter, that’s an easy one that some people would just prefer to have that in a rack mount frame. Two, there are some functions that just work out better in a rack mount frame than say a mini converter that might be sitting on a desk or velcroed somewhere. And third, I think is a big feature of the openGear frame, is remote control via ethernet. And some of our mini converters have lots of controls and kind of controls you might be touching on a daily or weekly basis. Having that control easily done over ethernet remotely is a great feature.

Bryce:
So, let’s talk a little bit more about the current announcements. So when it comes to ROIs, I tried to point out some advantages of having a scan converter for SDI sources. Are there any other reasons why you think it’s key?

Bob:
Yeah. The ROI products we introduced, I think around 2013, they’ve been very popular. They originally allowed you to bring an HDMI signal into an SDI environment. And with the dual scaler capability of separate input and output scaling, along with frame rate conversion, it could take a signal off of the computer screen, and a section of that screen, and bring that into my environment and use it in my production. So, it’s a nice little card. And then over time, we’ve added additional interfaces, including display, port support, and more recently, a SDI direct support in. And that was … We had requests from production facilities from broadcasters where they had SDI camera feeds that needed to be adjusted and maybe rotated 90 degrees and scaled so they could be displayed on portrait home monitors, or actually in the production studio behind false windows and things like that. So the latest product, the OG ROI SDI card for openGear, provides exactly that feature. SDI in and SDI out with the dual scaler in the middle.

Bryce:
But just to emphasize one thing that folks may not get, that does mean that you are actually capable of changing the frame rate with this card as well when required.

Bob:
That’s right. And of course, it’s required coming off of a PC, for example, into a broadcast environment. But yes. The card will take an external reference, and we’ll do frame rate conversion from whatever source you have, that display port source or that HDMI source, or you’ll get a SDI off-rate source wild feed, and bring that into plant time.

Bryce:
Excellent.

Cindy:
Can I ask a question? We have someone asking about Dante. Bill asks if there’s a plan to offer Dante running in AES67 mode, and further, what about a fully compliant AES 67, which Dante doesn’t offer?

Bob:
Yeah, well we’re phasing this in. So, the initial product will support the Dante network, and it’s fully compliant with Dante. And we have the capability to enable Dante under AES67 as well, but we plan to do some solicitation of our customers and see what the needs are and see to what level we support that going forward.

Cindy:
And for folks who already have openGear frames, is the new Dante card that you’re offering, is that compatible? I’m just wondering a little bit more about that and why you chose to work with Audinate.

Bob:
Well, yes. The OG Dante 12 GM card is compatible with OG frames. The OG3 and the OGX, fully compatible with those frames. And I think that the choice to work with Audinate is pretty clear. They have quite a technology with Dante, and a lot of installations around the world, tons, and we’ve been getting requests from customers for years to do something with product. So, this is a good first step. It’s a bridge product between the Dante world and SDI. It’s a 12 gig card, so it will work at SDI rates from SD, HD, three gig, six gig, 12 gig, lots of video formats supported. And we look forward to doing more with Audinate.

Cindy:
I did see a comment from someone saying, yes, house of worship have been really looking for this Dante technology for years now, and really happy. And you mentioned that, Bryce, that this is a good fit for so many applications, and including house of worship.

Bryce:
Yeah. Very much looking forward to how this is going to be implemented, as I said. I think even between all the live sports, all the remote workflows today, having, again, as I said on that panel earlier, the ability to have a central chassis, like an OG frame, where you can mix and match these tool sets per project, and just the ability. I think one thing to say about Dante that some folks might not quite get is even if you’re a creative and you’re sitting there doing post-production, you just need to use virtual sound card software from Dante, and just plug into your ethernet port, and it becomes your IO into this whole universe. So, you can have folks that are actually working at home today, doing their basic sound work, and routing it into this whole infrastructure. So, I think it’s going to be really exciting.

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