Digital Video Distribution Gear Finds Footing

With the recent ubiquity of multi-zone audio systems, it was a matter of time before video management entered the national conversation. At CEDIA EXPO in Indianapolis, a flock of manufacturers finally delivered some top-shelf video servers and hubs.
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With the recent ubiquity of multi-zone audio systems, it was a matter of time before video management entered the national conversation. At CEDIA EXPO in Indianapolis, a flock of manufacturers finally delivered some top-shelf video servers and hubs.

ReQuest Multimedia, Kaleidescape and other industry heavyweights used the CEDIA stage to introduce first and second generation ethernet-enabled digital video controllers.

John Reine, president of ReQuest Multimedia (www.request.com), stated that his company's foray into the video realm was a natural move. "Our dealers have been asking us for a video control product for years," he said. ReQuest, most colloquially recognized for its popular Audio ReQuest music server, debuted its new flagship video product, the VRQ 1.

According to Nick Carter, ReQuest's executive vice president, "Every dealer wants a DVD Library solution. We're excited to deliver an elegant solution that addresses DVD and SACD at 1/10th the cost of the competition, while offering top performance and massive capacity of up to 1600 DVDs."

ReQuest's leadership in the music server category puts them in an ideal position to confront the video problem. Integrating and automating Sony's new DVP-CX777ES 400 DVD changer can incorporate video management into the functionality of AudioReQuest.

The VRQ 1 digital video controller is a modular add-on component that provides the interface for up to 1,600 DVDs-via Sony's DVP-CX7777ES. It will begin shipping this winter for $2,500 MSRP. Though ReQuest's audio and video products share similar interface sensibility and programming, its new video product offers no form of content storage. Rather, it communicates with up to four Sony changers on a home network. Each Sony DVPCX777ES is available for about $800 MSRP, according to Sony.

The Mountain View, California-based company Kaleidescape (www.kaleidescape.com) is taking a slightly different approach with its debut video data manager. Its new product, the Kaleidescape System, offers full DVD content storage (a mammoth six terabytes) with a proprietary interface, Movie Guide and instant metadata access; users access any movie in their collection from any viewing zone in the home. It stores up to 400 films and offers bookmarking and search functionality by every conceivable category.

Ray De Paul, Kaleidescape's VP of product management, stated that DVDs can be ripped easily then instantly played, and that interface settings are configurable to user preference (including a sophisticated parental control key).

In terms of image integrity, the Kaleidescape System imports an exact copy of the DVD file onto the server, including the copy protection. No additional compression is applied, therefore no quality is lost.

The same bits (including copy protection) are streamed over the ethernet to a Kaleidescape Movie Player in the home. Due to bandwidth constraints, approximately seven movies can be played simultaneously off a single server, but with the installation of multiple Servers and Movie Players, integrators can create numerous playback zones. The Kaleidescape System is now shipping.

Escient (www.escient.com), most noted for its FireBall music server, is taking a serious stab at video management with its new DVDM-100 library and jukebox. The protean DVDM-100 changer is a media management system that provides a graphical on-screen user interface and controls up to 1209 DVDs and CDs stored on three Sony, Pioneer or Kenwood changers.

Video content management, though still a fledgling category, is benefiting from the progress made by existing A/V content distribution platforms.

Residential control systems magnates Crestron, AMX and ELAN, for example, offer fully integrated and/or modular systems for configurable distribution of A/V content over a Cat 5e network. Another company to watch is Hauppauge Digital Inc.
(www.hauppauge.com), the manufacturer of WinTV. While they are not servers, Hauppauge's new line of media receiver products are designed to receive digital media from PCs via local area networks, and then decode and display the media onto TVs.

The first model in this line, MediaMVP, is an ethernet set-top decoder device retailing for $99. It will enable TV sets to access PC-based music, video and Pictures via ethernet-enabled home local area networks.

"People are starting to use their PC for all of their digital media," stated Hauppauge's CEO, Ken Plotkin. "Now, from the comfort of the living room sofa, anyone can access and enjoy videos, MP3 music, family photos or other multimedia files on their TV set, without physically going to their PC. MediaMVP will also be great for setting up music and picture slideshows for parties."

Any hard drive that's available on the network is eligible for access to media stored there. The product is suitable for home theater systems as well as plasma screens, LCD monitors, and conventional sets. It supports MPEG-1/MPEG-2 videos, JPEG and GIF digital pictures and MP3 music files. The initial MediaMVP model supports wired 10- and 100-Mbit/sec ethernet local area networks; other versions to be introduced in Q4 will support wireless WiFi (IEEE 802.11b) network connections. MediaMVP also runs on the Linux open-source operating system, enabling it to support numerous upgrades.

Xabler (www.xabler.com) is also offering a server designed to connect to any RCA output from a VCR, security system, camcorder, etc., with no custom connectors required. Users will be able to see networked ethernet cameras and Xabler's own video server in one integrated user interface. It works with any browser video server interface without the addition of extra plug-ins or Java Applets.

Xantech, ADA, Russound, Sonance, Niles, ChannelPlus, Leviton and ELAN also offer robust audio and video distribution solutions with varying price points.

Margot Douaihy is managing editor of Residential Systems.

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