Managing Content

Taking A Look Inside The Evolution Of Digital Media Playback Adagio Digital Media Server (ADMS) enhances the experience of digital media playback because it ag
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Taking A Look Inside The Evolution Of Digital Media Playback

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Adagio Digital Media Server (ADMS) enhances the experience of digital media playback because it aggregates and delivers any type of media or format from virtually any source. A 200-disc Blu-ray changer was recently added to the system.

Rewind 10 years. CDs and VHS were starting to give way to MP3s and DVDs. The popular way to bring security camera feeds, satellite channels, and AV content to various locations in the home was a structured wiring backbone.

Today, media assets are digital and they reside everywhere in the home and in the clouds (media server, PC, Internet). Distribution itself is accomplished via traditional matrix switchers or more sophisticated systems.

What are the products and systems that manage and playback high-def digital media legally, with no signal loss or degradation? Which systems bring digital media distribution to small-scale projects and budgets?

AGGREGATING CONTENT
Crestron marketing communications director Jeff Singer says that his company’s Adagio Digital Media Server (ADMS) enhances the experience of digital media playback because it aggregates and delivers any type of media or format from virtually any source: it’s own internal hard drive, NAS drives, home computers, the Internet, and directly from content providers like Amazon On Demand, Hulu, Vimeo, Meta Café, YouTube, and Joost.

“You can play uncompressed, protected HD content, and even rent or purchase new content directly through the ADMS,” he said. “Distribution is handled through Crestron DigitalMedia systems.”

Crestron has developed DigitalMedia, an HD AV distribution system that uses HDMI and allows any mix of AV sources to be distributed throughout the home from a centralized rack. The DM-MD8X8 is a popular model in the line, probably because it is field-configurable to handle up to eight AV sources, of virtually any type.

The ADC-200BR 200-disc Blu-ray changer and CEN-NAS-4TB NAS drive are the latest additions to ADMS. The ADC-200BR can be cascaded to hold 1,000 discs, the CEN-NAS-4TB features four hot-swappable 1TB hard drives with RAID 5 protection.

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embedded data (HDCP, EDID, and CEC) or transmit full 1080p/60 video long distance.

Crestron believes that USB is a smart platform since dealers must integrate systems with the latest HDMI to handle the latest surround sound formats like Dolby TrueHD and protected iTunes content. Wherever the content is—traditional audio sources, balanced or unbalanced, or files streamed from the Internet—the DMMD8X8 will maintain signal fidelity over Fiber or twisted pair.

When it comes to HDCP, Singer clarifies that traditional switchers cannot manage the digital embedded data (HDCP, EDID, and CEC) or transmit full 1080p/60 video long distance.

WHERE TO BEGIN?
Digital media is as broad as the topic of “history,” so, where do integrators start when thinking about buying their next system?

First, ask the right questions: what does your client want? Do they need touchpanels everywhere in the home, or, do they prefer one centralized location? Does your client want digital audio or source-music from iPods with full access to metadata?

Another important consideration is if the home is new build (perhaps not this year), or is it a renovation? Consider cost, sound quality, reliability, flexibility and upgradability, and expandabiity.

Remote Technologies Inc. (RTI) is promoting its two-way compatible devices like the T2-C, which make it easier to access sources like the iPod (iPort), Escient, and Kaleidescape products.

Tight integration between the T2-C and thirdparty devices is the result of the two-way addition, and residential installers can therefore program real-time feedback from A/V and lighting systems, thermostats, multi-room audio, media servers, and other electronic systems on a remote or in-wall controller.

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Remote Technologies Inc. (RTI) is promoting its two-way compatible devices like the T2-C, which make it easier to access sources like the iPod (iPort), Escient, and Kaleidescape products.

DIGITAL DEFAULT
Since digital audio sales will continue to grow, a digital media and multi-room audio system with some sort of iPod control is wise. It’s also a great way to bring high-quality music into every room of the house, while taking advantage of existing content libraries, for entry-level customers.

ELAN has changed its AV switching philosophy with its new “g” line of products. Whereas in the past they kept “the brains” and switching of the system in one box, now they’re splitting up those functions. The company’s new TS2 touchpanel was built on ELAN’s Olé XL architecture, but with a newer higher rez screen and embedded software based on technology from sister company HomeLogic. Widgets will allow weather, stock quotes, to integrated through a more “app-centric” style of design.

Another first for ELAN is the introduction of an on-screen display interface in the “g” line. Whether it’s the top line controllers or base model it gives homeowners the ability to sit back on the couch and manage their digital media.

Speco Technologies knows the value of PCbased content control. Its “a-live” system lets homeowners play the same song file or audio playlist in up to six zones simultaneously from the same PC without sharing restrictions.

SpeakerCraft has been enthusiastic supporters of digital media as sources even before the iPod’s debut. SpeakerCraft’s ERS-1.0 iPhone/iPod Touch Interface has shipped since 2008 and offers multi-room control in a fun GUI.

The big news for SpeakerCraft in 2010 is Nirv, a new multiroom control system shipping Q1 that leverages just one Cat-5 cable and radically simplifies system programming and operation. Marantz has its own strategies for digital media playback, including the SR6004, which can stream music from Bluetooth enabled devices (laptop, iPhone, etc.). Its internal upconverter recreates lost frequencies in compressed audio—one of the biggest drawbacks to digital media. The SR6004 also contains a USB input for playback from an iPod, iPhone, flash drive, or hard disc drive and will upconvert music from those sources as well.

The SR6004 also includes surround sound codecs (Dolby Pro Logic IIz, Dolby True HD, dts-HD Master Audio) and features Audyssey Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume and MultEQ Auto Calibration.

When it comes to digital media playback in a multi-room system, NuVo offers a good, better, best approach. Why? To ensure value at every price-point, they say. NuVo says its Essentia is the perfect solution for a client that needs an elegant solution, but is working with a limited budget.

There is panoply of other products that make digital media playback a reality for consumers. Media servers, AV switchers, distribution systems, flat-panel TVs that instantly stream web content, Blu-ray players that stream web content, products designed to reduce the switching lag associated with re-authenticating HDCP, touchpanels, and controllers. HDMI extenders from companies like Gefen simplify the process.

EASE OF USE
Kaleidescape believes its company’s system lends itself perfectly to the integrated environment of digital media playblack. For most consumers, it isn’t about 1080p, it’s about ease of use and the entertainment.

Now that Kaleidescape stores and distributes audio and video, it is a logical next step for project upgrade.

Utah-based Axonix built the MediaMax HD, a server to deliver whole-house AV content in high-definition and Blu-ray. CodexNovus based in Champaign, Illinois, also makes the quality of HDTV imagery and multichannel audio mission critical.

NO NEW WIRES
In a rapidly changing industry, it is critical to stay abreast of hardware and software breakthroughs. No company knows that better than Russound.

According to Michael Stein, senior director of research and technology, as industry continues the march toward full IP implementation, connecting devices and users to a virtual “cloud” of content and control is the ultimate manifestation of high definition media storage and access.

Though Russound and other companies in the CEDIA space still support the development of new servers, Stein says that the fact is that traditional server concept is quickly giving way to the seemingly limitless amount of high-definition content that will be made available through a variety of venues.

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ELAN has changed its AV switching philosophy with its new “g” line of products.

"High-definition audio and video is slowly but surely being made available through IP access rather than having to store it locally,” he said. “For our part, we designed the new Collage system to be a flexible, scalable pathway to these growing IP capabilities. As technologies quickly expand we’ll be able to give consumers access to high-definition audio and video that will be made available through the virtual cloud.”

The Niles GXR2 modular multi-zone receiver is another piece in the digital media playback puzzle. At the heart of the IntelliControl ICS system is the GXR2, which uses interchangeable source card modules and features “plug and play” configuration, allowing simultaneous listening and control of a variety of music or programs to different rooms or zones throughout the house. The receiver accommodates any combination of up to six modules, including XM Sirius satellite radio, Apple iPod, AM/FM, and HD radio, the DMS4 Digital Music Server, and legacy audio sources such as cable/satellite television, CD and DVD. With additional GXR2s, the system is expandable to up to 30 zones, each with fully independent choice of source and control.

The DMS4 accommodates both lossless and compressed recording formats including WAV, MP3 (320k constant bit rate and two variable bit rates of 192k and 128k), and WMA (two constant bit rates of 128k and 69k) files.

Margot Douaihy, a contributing editor of Residential Systems magazine, has covered the systems integration industry for 10 years.

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