Interview: David Margolin, Kramer on 'boundless AV'

Ahead of InfoComm 2018, Paul Milligan spoke to David Margolin from Kramer on all things AV over IP and streaming resolutions of 4K, 8K and beyond.

Kramer is one of the stalwarts of the  AV  world, every integrator on the planet has  used  a Kramer  product.  But  rather than settling into an easy life as an elder statesman of the proAV sector Kramer is adapting to the  future, specifically how streaming will  change the world we work  in.  

Kramer has been in the AV over IP business for the last couple of years and at ISE in February it joined the SDVoE (Software Defined Video Over Internet)  Alliance  as  a  contributing  member.   It  is  a  consortium  of  technology  providers committed to standardising the adoption of AV over IP systems.  So why did Kramer decide to align itself with the SDVoE? “We really want to find  a  broad  technology  consensus,  with  lots of  people  around  one  standard,”  says David Margolin, VP marketing, Kramer.

One thing Kramer is wary of  being drawn into, via its membership of the SDVoE, is a ‘bandwidth war’ on the merits of 1Gig versus 10Gig infrastructure. It’s keen to support both says Margolin. “If we could get higher quality over  smaller bandwidth then that would be amazing, but that would only last for a limited time because everyone is looking for 8K.”

Kramer is too and revealed to InAVate it will be showing “something related to 8K” at InfoComm 2018.  “We are pointing ourselves towards 8K.  When you talk about 4K you want to be practical and have  a  product  that  is  in  a  reasonable  price range without long latency, so 1Gig is fine.  But if you are looking into the future 8K over 1Gig is not practical for specific applications.”

Again Margolin is keen to stress this does not mean Kramer is abandoning 1Gig, “We want to have the option that whoever spec’s the AV can find whatever they need in Kramer, with AV over IP it’s no different. With SDVoE people will say we have chosen a side (10Gig). In reality we are investing  in  products  that  support  10Gig,  but we also understand the need to support 1Gig. If customers don’t want high latency they can use 1Gig Kramer streaming.  Everyone wants the maximum quality 4K60 4:4:4: and is using every type of compression to do it.  We are using H.264 and also have the ability to do H.265.  Currently 10Gig  technology  will  fit  better  solutions  that require zero latency and no compression. We also offer 1Gig technology in the maximum quality, but there are compromises – more compression power and more latency.”   

At  the  moment  the  market  is  split  between manufacturers providing both 10Gig  and  1Gig products, and those specialising in one. “Some have chosen to support  1Gig  because  the infrastructure  is  not  in  place yet  (for  10Gig), but I think it’s an  excuse. 10Gig is the way the industry is going, in the  long  term 10Gig is going to be everywhere, and I’m sure those companies  concentrating on 1Gig are already developing their own 10Gig solutions.”

If  Kramer  is  preparing  itself  for  a  streaming future,  in  what  market  sectors  does  it  see streaming proving popular? “The key applications are everywhere,” says Margolin.  “If you want to take AV outside of your environment it’s a great thing.  AV  over  IP  is  not  just  about  extension technology, it’s much broader than that. You can see it in digital signage, when you need to push video across large distances in big deployments with a lot of outputs and a lot of sources. You can see it being used in education for distance learning.    You  can  also  see  it  in  high  quality, no  compromise,  applications  like  healthcare, when  you  need  the  highest  quality  with  zero latency.  It can also be used in mission critical applications, like control and command centres and  the  military,  the  applications  are  endless.  We see it coming from everywhere.”

Kramer  is  fully  committed  to  an  AV-over-IP future, despite its long history in analogue.  In order to do this it acknowledges it has to work with integrators to get 4K/8K systems adopted much  more  widely  than  they  are  now.    It’s strategy to do this is based on three tenets says Margolin.  “The  first  is  technology,  the  second is  education,  the  third  is  work  methodologies.  Firstly, how do we get traditional AV people to cross to the other side, to cross the IP bridge? Some of it is very challenging as it includes some skills not included in traditional AV.  We have the Kramer Academy training programmes, and we have an extensive certification programme, which is happening globally right now.  Training is a key enabler, without it we can’t push our technology as much as we like but we wouldn’t be able in reality to generate sales because the market wouldn’t be ready.”

It is all part of reacting to a changing world says Margolin, one in which IT has become the central  technological  pillar.    “The new owners in the proAV  marketplace  are  IT  people, it could be in a hospital or a  corporate or a university, but IT people own AV technology in those organisations.  IT people expect that AV technology is handled, managed, and supported in the same way it is with IT deployments.  This is  not  as  simple  as  it  may  sound,  because  AV tends to be something that is considered to be local.  If you have something that is not working in a meeting room (a PC for example), the IT team will connect remotely and fix the problem, with AV it becomes more challenging because if those installations are not enabled for remote support it becomes a problem.  

“We need to create tools that are catered for the IT professional and are completely aligned with  the  work  methodologies  that a standard IT person would expect to support like network PCs, telephony etc.  We are helping the integrator to cross that IP bridge, and we want to create a safe path to IT.”

As an umbrella term for this seismic shift in the  AV  industry  Kramer  has  coined  the  term ‘boundless  AV’,  and  Margolin  explains  its meaning: “It’s taking the AV experience beyond the  physical  limitations  of  the  space  and  the distance.    It’s  breaking  the  barriers,  creating  a boundless environment, and pushing AV to any distance.”

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