Crestron NVX Training

Duke is considering deploying Crestron’s NVX network-based AV solution in a unique active learning/gaming environment, so we sent a few members of Duke’s AV community to attend Crestron’s NVX Design and Application (DM-NVX) and DigitalMedia Networking Certification (DM-NVX-N) classes. This was a unique class as it was highly compressed to accommodate our group’s schedule and needs.

Why NVX?
Crestron’s NVX platform is an AV over IP solution that replaces the need for more traditional 8×8, 16×16, 32×32, 64×64 and 128×128 DM switchers. NVX is more flexible, scalable, and brings AV into parity with modern IT practices. In essence, it’s the future of hardware-based AV.

The class started as many Crestron classes do with general introductions, some background on the devices, where to start when researching help (psss, it’s Crestron’s website)… and from that point on, we were thrown head first into the deep end of networking. Yes, very little of the class had to do with traditional audio or video. We covered the OSI model, IP addressing, subnet masks, port numbers, IP transport protocols, hubs, switches, routers, and DNS. For those that have a networking background, this was a nice refresher course. But, for more traditional AV folks, networking can sound like a foreign language. I won’t bore you with the details, but the first slide deck was over 180 slides, and the information was dense. After being bombarded with all of the information for roughly six hours, we took our first test. Most everyone passed on the first try… even if it was by a single question.

After the test and a bit of time to recover, we started a hands-on exploration of the hardware. We started off by connecting one NVX directly to another NVX, setting one as a transmitter and the other as a receiver. After a few minutes, we had a very basic AV system! The next phase was to connect the two NVX units to a local switch. That took a bit of switch configuring/setup, but again, it was easy. As we started the second day, we connected our local switches to a core switch, so we could share any of our NVX transmitters to any of the receivers. While more complicated, it wasn’t that difficult to configure. During the final hours of the last day, we chatted about programming for the NVX and how and why you may want to consider a DigitalMedia XiO Director, a Virtual Switching Appliance Crestron offers to simplify programming for more complex NVX setups. We had another test, and the class was over.

A few takeaways:

  • NVX, or AV over IP, is here to stay and AV groups should get comfortable with the future
  • While AV folks don’t need to throw away their old skills, networking is a core part of the future of AV
  • Start befriending your networking folks… today
  • IP over AV has a range of network security concerns, so you should also befriend your networking security folks
  • The future is exciting and complicated. Lean into the new way of doing things (or at least understand them)

 

 

NewTek Connect Spark Review

The good folks at NewTek were nice enough to send Duke’s Office of Information Technology a demo unit of their new Connect Spark. The Connect Spark is a difficult device to explain to someone that has never produced or recorded a multi-camera live event. In the past, you’d need to run at least one cable from each camera to feed video and audio to the switcher before capturing and streaming that content out. Those cables had length limitations (~15 meters for HDMI and ~100 meters for SDI), not to mention being rather inconvenient. With the Connect Spark, instead of running AV cables throughout the event space, this unit leverages the local wired or wireless network to stream content either directly to a computer or an NDI capable video switcher (more on that in a bit).

Out of the box, the device is rather simple to setup and configure from the perspective of an AV professional with reasonable networking chops. I downloaded the accompanying app and was communicating with the device within minutes, able to make adjustments and confirm settings as needed. I was then able to stream that content to a local computer for importing into Telestream Wirecast (and a number of other streaming applications). Beyond that, the device could also be streamed to a Network Device Interface (NDI) capable video switcher.

In academic environments, this device could easily be deployed in large event spaces to simplify the cabling necessary to support a large multi-camera event. Also, due to the flexible/modular nature of the hardware, this same equipment could quickly be redeployed in a different location with different cameras and minimal technician involvement. Beyond that, it frees up the production team to work anywhere with a connection to the network backbone. So, in theory, you could have videographers in one building filming an event, and the director and production team in another building working their magic.

Network Device Interface (NDI)
I mentioned NDI above. NDI is a royalty-free standard developed by NewTek to enable video-compatible products to communicate, deliver, and receive broadcast quality video in a high quality, low latency manner that is frame-accurate and suitable for switching in a live production environment, or so says Wikipedia. So, this device works wonderfully with NewTek’s very popular TriCaster… but it also works with other NDI switchers such as Panasonic’s new switchers or web based virtual switches.

The Gotchas:
It wouldn’t be a DDMC article if it was all positive. Most, if not all, of the “gotchas” with the NewTek are outside of NewTek’s control. First, if you have a complicated network topology, you may experience issues. For example, in some situations, I wasn’t able to communicate with the device as it was on a different subnet or vlan. Again, not a problem if you understand your network… but for a technician that has no idea what a subnet or vlan is… it could be a show stopper. I was quickly able to quickly work around this issue, but you may need to work with your networking folks to get this all to work seamlessly. Second, if you don’t have a robust network, you may experience dropout issues, specifically when using somewhat inexpensive switches. While the device worked perfectly on our enterprise network, I experienced minor issues with my (admittedly old) home network. Infrequently, I’d see a dropped frame or hesitation. Again, I don’t blame this on the Connect Spark, but be aware that you may want to upgrade to a more modern router/switch if you are on older equipment.

Overall, I really enjoyed the device, and it underlines the coming “AV on IP” reality for AV folks.

 

 

New Progressive Download Capability for Warpwire

One of the cool features we rolled out out in our last major Warpwire upgrade is an option for progressive download. This work has grown out of our involvement with Duke global programs, such as our campus at Duke Kunshan University. Specifically, we’ve noted that in situations that combine low bandwidth with high network latency, we can reduce video buffering and significantly improve the end user experience by delivering the files via progressive download rather than the standard HTTP Live delivery method Warpwire currently uses by default.

warpwireSecurity

 

We’ve updated our Warpwire FAQ (https://duke.service-now.com/kb_view.do?sysparm_article=KB0017639) to reflect this new capability as well as to include minimum technical requirements for using Warpwire. I’ve clipped the relevant info below:

What are the minimum technical requirements for using Warpwire?

Network Speed:
  • Viewing videos at 360p requires 1.0 Megabit per second
  • Viewing videos at 480p (SD quality) requires 3.0 Megabits per second
  • Viewing videos at 720p (HD quality) requires 5.0 Megabits per seconds
Latency (sometimes called “ping”):
To stream videos effectively via Warpwire’s default method (currently Apple’s HLS protocol), your network latency (“ping”) should be no greater than 150ms.
Test your network speed and latency (“ping”) here: http://www.speedtest.net/)

My Warpwire videos keep buffering. What can I do to improve performance?

If your videos keep buffering (i.e., showing three moving dots on top of the video), test your network connection for bandwidth and latency via http://www.speedtest.net/). If your bandwidth and/or latency are close to our minimum recommended thresholds, switching the media libraries to Progressive Download may help. To do that, contact the OIT Service Desk (oit.duke.edu/help) if you own the Media Library or Libraries containing the problem files and provide the name and URL of the Libraries in question. If you are not the owner, contact that person (the person who shared the files with you) and request that they contact the OIT Service Desk to switch to Progressive Download or make other arrangements to share the file/s with you.

Please note that if you do not have a bandwidth of at least 1 Megabit per second, your best option may be to request that the owner of your Media Library or Libraries move the files to Duke’s box.com site where you can download the videos and view them on your local hard drive.