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Making The Interface Work

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One of the big challenges in building broadcast and media infrastructures at the moment is the need to bridge between multiple worlds.

Until recently, virtually every signal was carried in a coaxial copper cable, terminated with the very familiar BNC connector. Now, a typical infrastructure will have a mixture of baseband digital audio and video signals together with realtime and non-realtime IP networks. And any of those signals can be carried on copper or fibre cables.

It means that systems engineers have to allow for conversion between different sorts of signals. These converters are not part of the signal processing; they are simply part of the infrastructure, a means of connecting one sort of cable into another. That, in turn, makes it logical to think of them as infrastructure products like cables and connectors.

One of the big advances in infrastructure technology in recent years is the SFP, the small format pluggable device. Essentially, this is a connector with some electronics on the back of it, which plugs into a simple frame to provide power. Assemble some SFPs into a box or a frame and it looks like a patch panel, but with the great added bonus of providing the interface between, say, copper SDI and fibre.

At Argosy, we have recently brought on board the BarnMini range from Norwegian specialist vendor Barnfind Technologies. We were very impressed by the BarnMini – it looked to us like the Swiss army knife of converters. Pick the right set of SFPs and you can connect more or less anything to anything.
The top advantage of the BarnMini range is that they just work: plug, play and forget. There is no need to monitor or manage them – you just put them in the signal path and they do their job seemingly forever.

That simple fact is becoming increasingly important because a lot of large-scale installations – particularly big AV installations like immersive experiences – are being built on the assumption of zero engineering intervention. An operator will come in at the beginning of the day and initiate an automated start-up sequence, confident that everything will come up and the whole system will run unattended.

Using the SFP form factor means that a huge amount of functionality can be compressed into a very compact space, allowing engineers to specify comprehensive signal exchange with fail-safe redundancy. They also require very low power, making installations very green, too.

We know that our customers are building systems involving copper, fibre and Cat6, because they are buying the cables and connectors from us. We can now add a simple means of converting between them all. BarnMini is easy to specify and easy to implement.

Author: Chris Smeeton, Argosy

This article is also available in the May edition of Broadcast Film & Video.
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