The Analog Sunset – What Does It Mean for Your Digital Signage Extension Infrastructure (Part One)

IT’S HERE. The analog sunset is a global change, and the term itself has become increasingly popular to describe the transition from the audio/video industry’s support of analog video, or analog and digital video signals, to only digital video signals.

sunset CAIn the digital signage world, more and more players are no longer supporting analog outputs. They are all transitioning to supporting HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort outputs and as such, create huge challenges for any digital signage deployment involved with extension or distribution of signals. Most screen manufactures still support a VGA input; but that too is in peril over the next year or two.

So what are the choices you have when you still need to extend your video from a player to a screen in your digital signage network? You have several alternatives that all carry some sort of challenge, in terms of performance, complexity and price. Let’s start off by looking at doing as little as possible and end with the more complex solutions.

First of all, you can try and eek some additional life out of your analog distribution & extension gear by using newer players with a DisplayPort output and attaching a DisplayPort to VGA adapter. Doing this, while it may save you some money now, is only a stop gap measure until you need to replace your aging screens. It lets you keep your existing infrastructure, maintains your extension/distribution out of band and supports the content resolution you have built for your current deployment.

Your second choice is biting the bullet and moving your extension and distribution to digital signals. You will need to replace your unshielded CAT5 cable with shielded CAT6 and you may need to add additional players to compensate for the reduced distance you get when extending digital signals. You also need to be aware of the necessity for HDCP handshakes that didn’t necessarily exist in your analog devices. In this solution, the HDBaseT protocol has been the solution of choice. These HDBaseT devices, both for extension and distribution, pass video, audio, RS232, IR, power and sometimes data across a single CAT6 cable. There is a plethora of devices that support this protocol and more information can be found at the HDBaseT Alliance website. It is especially important, to the designer of a digital signage system, to make sure that equipment being specified is certified.

See Part two of our series – posting 1/28/2016

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