By John Halksworth
There are many things we all wish post suites were: simpler, more efficient and easier to work in are just three of those things. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make all of these improvements and make post suites even more functional using even less hardware? By incorporating an IP-based high-performance KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) system into the post suite, engineers can add enhanced functionality, scalability and cost savings to their existing workflows.
IP-based KVM turns a single screen into a portal to all computers, none of which need to be in the same physical location as the screen and input device. This allows computers to be moved to another location — be it another room, floor or building — it really doesn’t matter. The key thing is that a user only requires a single keyboard, video and mouse to control any number of remotely located computers. There are several environmental advantages associated with this technology — removing heat, and noise from the workspace being the most critical. Allowing preventative maintenance, saving space and increasing flexibility are just a few more.
Better flexibility and functionality
Maintaining suite occupancy is critical in the post environment, as this means revenue. This is where IP-based KVM technologies can help, allowing a facility to reconfigure suites at the press of a button, or customize a series of suites to handle a specific production.
The idea of the “cookie cutter” suite has really caught on, allowing a facility to roll out standard sets of interface equipment, monitors and audio and then re-function the suite in less than a second. One minute it could be NLE, then grading, CGI, VFX, audio and so on. What’s more, users can duplicate connections to multiple suites allowing collaborative, rather than silo-based, workflows across large productions.
The user is at the center of all great technology deployments for creative industries, and there should be no lesser expectation when it comes to the choice of connectivity. If users have to spend time thinking about the connectivity, they aren’t spending time thinking about the thing that pays the bills. High-performance KVM must be absolutely transparent to the user, and when control takes place, it must be fast and critically intuitive.
By selecting an IP-based solution, we further exploit intuition during roll out and management. IP has been, and will be, around for a very long time, so expertise already exists in most businesses. The concept doesn’t change here. Adding devices to a network is very straight forward, making scalability truly fluid. This differs greatly from traditional setups where the cost of increasing the system by just one end point is significant, and needs additional equipment installed by engineers with specific knowledge of the proprietary technology.
As IP continues to be adopted throughout the post workflow as a standard transport layer, organizations will be able to enjoy a great many advantages, including lower costs, scalability, interoperability and functionality. IP-based KVM, particularly high-performance IP-based KVM, is an excellent use case of how post pros can reap the benefits of this technology and provides the ideal platform to expand the use of IP further across organizations in the media production industry.
Questions From Users
[Editor’s Note: After receiving this piece we reached out to some users to find out what they want to know about KVM. They submitted the following.]
What are the limitations?
An IP-based KVM solution is limited only by routing restrictions inherent in IP infrastructure. Single hops over copper can be 100m whilst fibre can offer almost limitless distances with the use of repeaters. The choice of standard IP also opens up your choice of technology vendor, allowing you to choose readily-available switching infrastructure from HP, Cisco, Dell and many more.
Does it support higher than 1080 video?
IP-based KVM will support resolutions up to 2560×1600 (dual link) today. As customer demands change, IP-based KVM will adapt to meet those requirements.
What about multiple displays?
Adder IP matrix technology currently supports dual-head configurations on a single transmitter/receiver. This can be increased to deliver an unlimited number of heads using multiple transmitter/receiver units. The flexibility afforded with the IP-based approach means that transmitters and receivers can be added to or removed from the network at any time with a variety of models available. There is also the possibility to allow 32 screens connected to four computers on a single desk with control through a single mouse/keyboard using an Adder command and control switch.
What about USB/FireWire/Thunderbolt connectivity at the physical station?
Currently, our IP-based KVM supports USB and RS232 connectivity. We do support a number of different connection protocols across the wider range of products.
What is required to set it up — a box at each bay plus a central server?
Typically, IP-based KVM can be perceived as a node-based system where a node is a receiver or transmitter unit. The logical setup of an IP-based KVM system is very simple: one transmitter per computer and one receiver per user. These all connect to a standard 1Gb/s network switch over network cable, fibre, or a combination of the two. You can even use two copper connections by converting the fibre to copper using a standard SFP module.
By using both ports, you benefit from the ability to setup redundant networks whose benefits are two fold. Firstly, the system can take advantage of both 1Gb/s connections to increase bandwidth to 2Gb/s, and secondly, if one network fails for whatever reason, the entire system seamlessly fails over to the remaining network. Using standard IP also allows the system to take advantage of technology inherent in IP SUVs as multicast, delivering the same connection to multiple users.
The final part of the equation is the manager. With IP-based KVM, a central management server (in our case A.I.M.) tells the network switch how to route its connections, and delivers the on-screen display to the user, allowing them to choose the target device they wish to connect to.
Can it tie in with existing networks or do users need to upgrade everything in their facility?
A benefit of the IP-based high-performance KVM solution is that it can operate fully over existing networking infrastructure. This means that there is little to no upgrading required where an IP network already exists. As a general rule, we do suggest the use of a network switch dedicated to the KVM system, simply to reduce the possibility of third party devices introducing unexpected behavior.
John Halksworth is senior product manager at Adder Technology.