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OT: Control VTR via ethernet

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Chris Blair
OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Jul 31, 2009 at 2:32:14 am

I know this isn't the right place to post this, but I figured Bob might have some insight and he moderates this forum.

I've read a little about a couple of products that allow control of pro VTRs via ethernet. DNF Controls makes one and there's another company that makes one too (can't remember the name). They basically utilize a serial device server that has multiple RS422 or RS232 serial ports, and one or two ethernet ports. You configure it as an IP address on your LAN, configure the serial ports to match the protocols of the VTR, then install com port redirector (or something similar) software that allows you to assign a virtual com port to the VTR. When you go into your editing or VTR control application on your PC, you just select the virtual com port and away you go.

The DNF devices are very pricy, so I talked to a company that sells serial to ethernet device servers about doing this myself and they said they sell these devices to thousands of companies that set them up to control virtually any device that can be controlled via RS422 or RS232...mainly manufacturing facilities that need control over computerized robotic equipment and the like. The device has complete control over every single RS422 or RS232 setting, so if you know the protocol parameters of a VTR, you SHOULD be able to make it work.

Well....should is the operative word. I bought one of these a year ago and have been trying on and off all that time to get it configured. The manufacturer (Sena, website is http://www.sena.com) has been helpful but naturally they're clueless about professional RS422 protocols. Sorry for the long setup, but I was wondering if you had ever heard of, thought of or seen a facility doing this. It seems like a no-brainer. Connect a bunch of video decks to a device the size of a small ethernet switch. Plug it into your LAN. Configure it as a server with it's own static IP, then connect to any deck from any computer on the network (as long as you have a software control app, which we do through our VelocityQ software utilities).

I know I could buy an RS422 router and then use DB9 to RJ45 converters and run connections long distances to remote PCs, but I thought, I've already got the ethernet cabling run to all my computers, why can't I just tie into that? Any thoughts on what I'm trying to do?



Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Bob Zelin
Re: OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Jul 31, 2009 at 2:49:14 am

I don't know the answer to your question. I was an "early adaptor" of using CAT5e cable for RS422 VTR control. I was shown this trick by Milestek in Texas. To date, all my RS422 patch bays are CAT5e coupler patch bays. I use standard CAT 5e cable, and use Milestek RJ45-9 pin adaptors. This works flawlessly. And if a cable fails, just pop in another CAT 5e cable.

Now, these days, Blackmagic makes the wonderful Videohub product line. The smallest unit is $4700 at B&H, and offers not only the ability to control 16 RS422 ports (just using CAT 5e cable with the adaptors), but lets you use your normal computers to control this, without the need for any special control panels. In addition, its a full on HD-SDI router, with 16 HD-SDI inputs, and 32 HD-SDI outputs.
So if you want a computer automated solution that uses CAT5e cable - this is it. $4700 is an incredible low price for this solution, and it is damn reliable.

But if money is an object (and it always is), the manual patch bay with the CAT5e coupler panel is only a couple of hundred bucks, and works wonderfully.

Bob Zelin




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Chris Blair
Re: OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Jul 31, 2009 at 3:15:26 am

Thanks...I've looked into the Videohub (about a year ago), and the typical patchbay solutions. Doing it via existing ethernet just seems like it would be such a no-brainer. What intrigued me about it is the ability of anyone in our facility to control a raw tape and log and transcribe it for later digitizing without tying up an edit suite (where we typically log/transcribe tapes). Plus the ability to have any of a half-dozen computers connect to the VTR by just initiating a little software utility from their desktop.

The other device that does this (besides the DNF unit) is the Nexio Ingest Server from Harris. It actually looks a lot like the device I bought (except larger) and it controls up to 16 VTRs via ethernet. They actually call it the same thing (a device server) in their .pdf brochure and they describe the hookup exactly like I have mine hooked up.

So I know it's possible...it's just a matter of getting everything configured so the device server "talks" to the VTRs. Thanks again. If I get it working I'll post back.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Eric Hansen
Re: OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Aug 1, 2009 at 10:07:33 pm

i'm working with a producer on a facility thats going to have the Blackmagic Video Hub. a really cool piece of hardware with great software. can't wait to see it in action. but i'm also a huge fan of the manual patchbay. you can't beat the price.

as far as your log and transfer workflow, on my first Xsan installation we had 4 suites, one of which was the "capture/print to tape suite". we had about 50 HDCAM tapes that needed to be logged, but only one deck. so we captured entire tapes at DV codec and logged on laptops, creating subclips of the master clip. then we could go back and recapture at higher res with the completed logs. later, we just captured straight to DVCPRO HD and hooked the laptops up to the gigabit network for logging. they were logging right off the Xsan via the office network. this was about 2 years ago, and my first experience with editing over ethernet. that company still uses a variation of this workflow today for logging.

e

Eric Hansen, The Audio Visual Plumber - http://www.avplumber.com


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Bob Zelin
Re: OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Aug 2, 2009 at 1:35:42 pm

Eric -
you should discuss the Blackmagic Videohub on the Blackmagic Forum.
I have installed one 72x144 BMD router - it is FANTASTIC. I am hoping to be installing another one of these at another facility very soon. Don't forget to put in parallel patch bays. Remember - one power hit, and the entire facility goes down ! Routers still don't negate the need for patch bays (unless you have great faith).

Bob Zelin




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Chris Blair
Re: OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Aug 3, 2009 at 7:35:22 pm

Eric,

We have 2 capture stations (which are also edit suites), and we have another identical NLE suite along with 1 additional Blackmagic based suite. So it's not really a problem we're trying to solve since we almost always have suites available to edit, composite etc. regardless of how many tapes we need to log and capture.

It's more a matter of adding enchanced functionality. A good example would be a producer who needs to log b-roll footage. It would be great for them to sit at their office workstation and be able to control a VTR to watch see and pick footage based on real time codes, rather than having to tie up an edit suite to do that. Or the ability to control a deck and capture directly into the Decklink suite and use the Blackmagic codecs for a project instead of having to capture to our velocityQ format, then transcode for use on the Blackmagic. Plus, we could then also even use the 3rd VelocityQ suite as a capture station since that suite could control the decks via ethernet instead of RS422.

We're just maxxed out when it comes to running cabling through walls and under floors etc. and adding several long, beefy RS422 runs, plus the necessary switches to route it all would require more hardware, more cabling and more work.

It just seems so logical to use an existing network of cabling that's capable of sending and receiving RS422 data (this is proven), that I'd really like to figure it out. I'm kind of anal retentive that way and just keep coming back to it trying to figure it out. I frankly can't believe more people aren't doing it since Harris Corp and DNF controls and I've even found a couple more companies online (Vector 3 I think) that are using this method to control VTRs in TV stations and large duplication and satellite feed facilities.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Bob Zelin
Re: OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Aug 3, 2009 at 7:41:19 pm

and why won't you spend $4500 for the Blackmagic Videohub ?

Bob




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Chris Blair
Re: OT: Control VTR via ethernet
on Aug 5, 2009 at 3:41:57 am

Bob Zelin:
and why won't you spend $4500 for the Blackmagic Videohub ?


Valid question Bob. The answer is simple. The device server method is only $350 dollars and uses existing RS422 and ethernet cabling.

We already have an 8x8 Kramer SDI matrix switcher as well as an 8x8 Kramer component matrix switcher, so we can already route almost any audio and video signal we need to any of the 4 suites. Those two cost us roughly $2500 plus probably another $1000 for cabling. So doesn't make sense to spend another $4500 right now considering that.

The ethernet machine control isn't something that we HAVE to have. Just something that theoretically does work and I'd like to implement it.

I've emailed a few engineers at companies that make these RS422 to Ethernet devices, and they all say it's possible and a couple were even aware of the Harris device that uses it. They said it's just a matter of getting all the settings matched correctly on the device server with those that the pro VTRs use for RS422 communication. If you get one setting wrong (out of about a dozen), it won't work.


Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Neil Sadwelkar
Even more OT: HD/SD-SDI and Control VTR over ethernet
on Aug 7, 2009 at 3:24:28 pm

For a slightly different solution, consider the Pipeline from Telestream. ($ 1950 for SD-SDI version). It connects to one VTR via SDI and RS-422 and then to a network via CAT5. Anyone on the network can now access the VTR, capture, control the VTR. It won't do uncompressed SD, but captures as DNxHD, DVCPRO HD, ProRes SQ, DV IMX & MPEG 2 - all over GigE.

There's a HD version PipelineHD dual, and a Quad SD version permitting connection to 4 VTRs. Both $ 9,950.

Not sure if this addresses your query, but it's an interesting way to share a VTR without a router. And best of all, it works with iMacs and MacBook Pros and doesn't need all systems to have any capture hardware.

These devices may not be very popular with post, but I believe the broadcasting and re-purposing industries use them. Mind that there's a latency in playback through the Pipeline, so its not exactly like a capture card and can't probably be used as a monitoring solution during editing.

-----------------------------------
Neil Sadwelkar
neilsadwelkar.blogspot.com
twitter: fcpguru
FCP Editor, Edit systems consultant
Mumbai India


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Eric Hansen
Re: Even more OT: HD/SD-SDI and Control VTR over ethernet
on Aug 7, 2009 at 5:33:30 pm

hey Neil, that's an interesting suggestion. those sound like cool devices.

but for $2000ish, you can get a Blackmagic HD-SDI card for $300, which will soon get a free software update called Media Express 2.0 that offers remote deck control (i'm not exactly sure how it works but i think its similar to what Chris is looking for). then get a used G5 Quad or used base Mac Pro which can be controlled using Screen Sharing and is fast enough to capture HD ProRes. i've shown a few of my clients the Screen Sharing in Leopard and many have adopted it as a way to monitor captures going on in other rooms. i'm using it right now to monitor HDCAM captures going on in another suite.

just another suggestion

e

Eric Hansen, The Audio Visual Plumber - http://www.avplumber.com


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Chris Blair
Re: Even more OT: HD/SD-SDI and Control VTR over ethernet
on Aug 8, 2009 at 1:21:41 am

I had read a little about it on the Telestream site while I was researching this, but it's primarily used as part of a broadcast ingest station for trafficking TV spots. We just weren't looking to spend $2000 to implement wider machine control. I could buy RS422 switchers and RS422 cabling for probably $850 and accomplish what I'm trying to do, but it's not exactly elegant in that everything has to be manually switched.

I was looking for the ability to just change a virtual com port on your PC and "bam" be controlling a device. That's how the devices basically work, they fool your computer into thinking the VTR is a computer device on your network.

What got me interested in this was seeing one of these in use at a TV station (don't recall the brand of the thing), but they were able to switch to and from and control 16 different decks from any computer interface in the building. It was very cool and the device that controlled it was about the size of a small VTR. The engineer said it did exactly what I'm looking to do, which was convert the decks RS422 signal to appear as a device on your ethernet.

But the Pipeline device is cool too. So another good option for people out there.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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