A splitter duplicates the incoming signal into two or more versions.
A good splitter should:
Try the Gefen 1:4 3G-SDI Splitter.
Remember to avoid HDMI 1.3 splitters. HDMI 1.4 can go up to 4K and 12-bit color.
Try the excellent Sewell 1×4 HDMI Splitter v1.4.
You could go to 2 devices or more, depending on how many monitors you have on set.
For 2 monitors, try the Gefen EXT-DVI-142DL 1×2 DVI DL Splitter.
For up to 8 monitors, in full 1080p60, try the KanexPro DVI and HDCP 1×8 Splitter.
Again, we see very few options for DisplayPort, being a new technology. For a 1×4 splitter, try the Atlona Technologies 1×4 Mini DisplayPort Splitter.
In networking language, this is called a Router. You could go the consumer-way, which is to get a decent Gigabit Router.
Or you could also use a switch, like the Cisco-Linksys EG005W Gigabit 5-Port Workgroup Switch.
Just make sure you invest in a gigabit (10/100/1000) device for the optional uncompressed video. One useful feature about some HDMI systems is that it allows ethernet as well.
Extenders or Repeaters
Consumer-grade protocols like HDMI are not intended for large cable runs. On a set, though, you might occasionally find yourself needing to feed monitors a hundred feet (or more) away.
An Extender amplifies the signal so it can travel farther. The great advantage of the HD-SDI standard is that it can go up to 300 feet (100 meters) without an extender or repeater.
Instead of the regular (usually coaxial) cable, one could always opt for the more expensive fiber optic cable, which will provide longer runs.
What if you want to stretch HD-SDI over 300 feet? You’ll need something like the Gefen 3G-SDI Extender which can stretch up to 1.25 miles (2 km):
HDMI, with the best cable, can go up to 50 feet. Usually, though, the average is less than 20 feet.
For this reason, you have the option of running HDMI over CAT5, like the HDMI – RS232 Over CAT5 Extender, or opt for a wireless device, as we’ll see in the streaming chapter.
DVI, at full 1080p resolution, can probably be stretched up to 15 feet.
Try the Gefen DVI RS232 Extender N.
At full bandwidth, DisplayPort is rated for a maximum of 6 feet.
Converters, Vision Mixers and Production Switchers
Often, you’ll want to convert data from one form to another (transcoders or converters) and then route it to many devices (splitters), which might be far away (extenders).
When in such an environment, you’ll also appreciate having the ability to switch between multiple streams to select the one you want – for whatever purpose it may be. It could be for monitoring or testing purposes, or any other. Such a device is called a Production Switcher or Vision Mixer.
In essence, it’s the reverse of a splitter – you have multiple streams coming in and one stream going out; and the switcher allows you to choose which one you want.
For an excellent all-round switcher, try the Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher.
The next level up is something like the NewTek TriCaster Studio which is geared for live telecast with an in-built titler and keyer.
Go even higher with the NewTek TriCaster 8000.
For top of the line, check out the For.A HVS-5000 system:
Switchers come in all kinds of permutations and combinations, depending on the industry you are in, and the kind of workflow you have. I have given a few examples so you see the scope of the technology involved in live broadcast.
On a simple production set, a switcher will allow you to route your video feeds to multiple devices without the extra burden of a data station. However, if you’re working with RAW files, then these switchers are useless.
I’ll repeat what I mentioned in the Data Management chapter – RAW files need capable software, and debayering is more of an aesthetic exercise than a technical one. In this case a data station makes more sense.
I’ll deal with stand-alone converters in more detail in the chapter on streaming.