Audinate Drops the InfoComm Bomb – Dante Now Routes 4K Video as well as Audio

A small one-paragraph blurb in the InfoComm 2018 Show Daily is the biggest story of the show – Audinate announces Dante AV. A perfectly timed article, “Making the Case for AV-0ver-IP,” in the June 2019 Sound & Communication magazine, written by Audinate’s Brad Price, reveals a bigger picture. 

The short story is this – Dante AV accepts up to 4K60 4:4:4 10-bit video and 8 audio tracks, routing AV streams over 1G IP as easily as Dante audio, all in sync with a master clock. Audinate makes the new Dante AV interface that’s inside, and other vendors add Motion JPEG 2000 encoding/decoding as well as pass-through RS-232 and IR. Network routing, discovery, master clock, and control is handled by Dante, with assured interoperability between suppliers’ transceivers. 

The bigger vision for the new innovation is presented with clarity in the article, written before Dante AV was revealed at the show. AV-over-IP has great potential, but as in the early days of network audio, manufacturers have created a mish-mosh of choice, an irregular, branded mix of codecs, networking schemes, control commands and proprietary features. Pixel Perfect vs PURE3? What does that even mean?

For the AV-over-IP to grow, a consistent standard is required. To meet the needs of both the AV and IP communities,  a standard must be set that answers requirements for security, scalability, interoperability, performance, and market adoption. An ecosystem made of many partners offers more options than domination by one brand, or niches owned by a few. 

For many reasons, AV-via-Dante can be a strong foundation for that ecosystem. After all, they did emerge as the defacto standard for IP audio – why not AV? 

Crestron is the market leader for many good reasons, but Dante-friendly Q-Sys programming is quickly gaining ground. Other major players will arise shortly – Yamaha is already an Audinate AV partner, with products in development. As Crestron plays well with other standards, they could incorporate Dante AV as well. 

However all this plays out, Dante AV should open the door to new innovation in AV-over-IP!

What is Motion JPEG 2000?

You’ve seen the technology in use with many AV over IP video systems, but what exactly is Motion JPEG 2000?

We’re familiar with JPEG images, found all over on the Web and on our phones and tablets. JPEG was created in 1992 by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, who followed up with JPEG 2000 in Y2K. As a new standard, it was glorious. Also known as JP2, advanced wavelet encoding could save images in a lossless or lossy version. While JP2 offered improved performance, it never gained acceptance – the difference wasn’t enough to challenge the popularity of JPEG.



ve seen the technology in use for many AV over IP video systems, but what exactly is Motion JPEG 2000?

You’ve seen JPEG images, found all over on the Web and on your cell phone. JPEG was created in 1992 by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, who followed up with JPEG 2000 in Y2K. As a new standard, it was glorious. Also known as JP2, advanced wavelet encoding can save the images in a lossless or lossy version. While JP2 offered improved performance, it never gained acceptance – the difference wasn’t enough to challenge the popularity of JPEG.

Going Into Motion

Acceptance was much improved when the group upgraded the legacy Motion JPEG to use JP2 technology. A Motion JPEG 2000 video stream is composed of a series of JP2 images at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second. The first adopters were archivists like the Smithsonian, who discovered they could compress videos at a 3:1 ratio without losing original quality. Video editors preferred MJP2 over MPEG, because it was easy to cut between individual frames. When you go to a digital movie theater, you’re watching a high-end version of MJP2.

Adoption for network streaming was a different story, as MJP2 streams are massive, and MPEG H.264 performs better for highly compressed streams. However, with the advent of dedicated AV 1G/10G networks, MJP2 has found a new life for AV over IP, as:

  • Video can switch between frames, assuring zero latency
  • Compression shrinks bandwidth to fit the network – 3:1 compression for 10G, 20:1 compression for 1G networks
  • The codec is free, with zero royalties

Motion JPEG 2000 by Any Other Name

Some products will list MJP2 by name, others may use the codec under a brand name, and some use a variant of MJP2. I suspect branded codecs are really Motion JPEG 2000 – what vendor would invest a million or so for a new codec that works the same as the free codec?

  • Crestron NVX Pixel Perfect – MJP2 with tweaked settings
  • Extron PURE3 – it’s not a patent, but a trademark for sending compressed streams (likely MJP2), audio and control through a network
  • SVDoE – “Proprietary” but compression ratios like MJP2
  • Atlona VC-2 – Britain’s BBC’s Dirac codec is similar to MPEG but uses JP2 instead of JPEG for the I-frame in the GOP. Dirac Pro (SMPTE VP-2), designed for broadcast production, can handle 4-8K video and encode video with only I-frames, essentially the same as MJP2.

Video in Transition- Hauling a 4K load Over a 1080p Bridge

New technology brings new challenges and solutions in AV design

The transition from 3:4 analog to 16:9 digital HD was reasonably painless. For meeting rooms and living rooms, HD screens had had little impact on room design – they were about as tall as 3:4 screens, with more horizontal real estate.

Converting analog video to HD was a greater challenge for twisted-pair video distribution. “Video Voodoo” problems arose as the precise kind of wire twist affected distance, resolution and performance. Those problems faded away with the introduction of HDBaseT, a chipset that converted digital video into packets. Think of HDBaseT UTP cable as an 8G bridge, easily transporting 3G 1080p video, audio, control data and Ethernet for up to 300 feet.

Enter 4K, an easy step for TV vendors, not so easy for twisted-pair video. That 8G bridge now has to carry a 10-16G load, more with 4:4:4 color and 10-bit HDR. Not happening, so something has to change – lighten the load, strengthen the bridge, or a bit of both.

Building the Bridge with PAM

PAM stands for Pulse-Amplitude Modulation, that expresses data using amplitude in a series of signals. PAM-5, used by 1G Ethernet uses values of -2, -1,0,+1 and +2 VDC to represent bits of data. Each of the four twisted pairs carry up to 125 mbps, summing up to 1G of data. 10G Ethernet, both HDBaseT and IP Switching, employs PAM-16, encoding 16 levels with added physics. The limiting factor in PAM technology is RF noise, as it prevents the receiver from sensing the right levels. This is a key factor in 10G Ethernet, as the level steps are much smaller. For this reason, shielded cable should be used for all 10G applications. 2.5G/5G Ethernet uses a lighter version of PAM-16 designed for Cat 5e/6 UTP applications. Of course, optical fiber is always the best carrier, as there is no RF noise to interfere with the signal.

It’s interesting to note that AV platforms we view as different – AV over IP, QAM digital cable, 8-VSB off-air digital channels, and HDBaseT – are all based on variations of PAM technology.

Compression – Lightening the Load

Full 18G 4K60 HDR video can’t travel over a 10G bridge, so the stream has to be compressed to fit. There are two technologies in use today:

  • VESA Display Stream Compression (DSC) in newer HDBaseT systems, creates a visually lossless stream, typically at a 3:1 ratio, reducing an 18G 4K60 HDR stream to 6G with little loss in quality. Examples include Crestron DM 4KZ and WyreStorm 18G HDBaseT systems.
  • Motion JPEG 2000 was designed for video storage, reducing files by 3:1 without losing original quality. With today’s higher bandwidth, the codec has a new application in AV over IP technology:
    • 10G IP Switching. Employs 3:1 compression to deliver mathematically lossless video. In use today in SVDoE and Extron systems.
    • 1G IP Switching. Employs 20:1 compression to deliver visually lossless streams over 1G Ethernet networks. Available from Crestron, WyreStorm, Extron, Kramer and many others.

VESA DSC has a key advantage – compression only affects streams starting at 4K60 4:4:4, other streams are uncompressed.

The good news is there are solutions in place for the challenges in 4K video distribution.

  • Sites with existing Cat 5e/6 UTP wiring can transport 4K video using 1G IP switching gear, and companies like WyreStorm and others have HDBaseT extenders that can transport 4K video over Cat 6, with some resolution and distance limitations.
  • New installations have many options for 4K distribution over Cat 6a/7a STP cable or fiber.

Finally, a Commercial-Grade H.264 Decoder

QIP-D sides

Ever look for a quality, affordable, commercial-grade MPEG decoder? The usual choice is the Amino H-150 – a not-very-good decoder that can’t be controlled or updated over a network, requires a keyboard and the secret password (snakes) to edit the playlist, only IR control, and no ability to control an attached TV. Support? Faggetabboudit!

The search is over – Contemporary Research recently released the QIP-D IPTV Decoder-Controller, and I’ve had a chance to test out a pre-release unit.

The Basics

Overall, it’s a well-made integration-friendly IPTV decoder that retails for $599. The unit can decode MPEG2, MPEG4 and H.264 streams in UDP or RTP format and supports closed captioning. The compact metal enclosure, a bit bigger than 7″ x 4′ x 1″, has a behind-the-TV mounting flange. The front has buttons for power, setup menus, volume and channel up and down, and an IR sensor. The back sports an RJ-45 Ethernet port that supports 6-watt POE and a port for an external 12V power supply. In addition to HDMI, there are audio de-embedder ports for optical PCM/AC3 SPDIF or analog stereo. A standard DB9 port sends RS-232 TV commands or receives commands from a control system. An IR port can connect to an optional IR extender or wired IR from a control system. There’s a USB port for firmware updates, but you can handle all that from Ethernet.

Tuning In

Streaming operation works much like a TV tuner; select a channel number or use channel up/down. Creating the list is way simple – download the free CR Toolbox. The app can scan your network for QIP-D decoders and show them all in a list and:

  • Create a channel list, adding a channel number, name, and multicast address
  • Select some or all decoders
  • Send the list – that’s it!

CR Toolbox can also access QIP-D Web pages, update firmware, and test operation using Telnet commands.

Taking Control

System integrators have several options for remote control:

  • IR Remote. Operate the decoder with a basic IR remote or multi-brand remote
  • Local control system. Connect from RS-232 or wired IR ports, or send Telnet commands through the room’s dedicated IP switch. BTW, AMX and Crestron integrators can use the same control module as ATSC-series TV tuners.
  • LAN control system. The QIP-D can listen to Telnet commands, or respond to network ICC-Net commands. ICC-Net is a published protocol that uses UDP broadcast commands. Each decoder can be set to a unique device ID, and responds when a command includes its ID. You can use your own control system, or use CR’s web-based Display Express software.

In addition, the QIP-D has an internal database of RS-232 TV codes to control TV power and in the future, inputs. CEC TV power control is also available.

Long story short, the QIP-D is an excellent commercial-grade MPEG decoder that plays well with all control systems.

Full disclosure – I am a past Contemporary Research employee.