Crestron made a big splash by announcing its third-party 4K UHD certification program during Integrated Systems Europe 2014.
After the initial excitement about the 4K needle moving forward, however, commercial integration professionals were probably left wondering a couple of things:
1) Exactly who is Crestron to green-light other manufacturers’ solutions by putting them on a “this works” 4K approved products list?
2) How relevant is any of this 4K ecosystem oversight to the commercial market in which most verticals seem view 4K UHD as a residential hot topic?
I got answers to those questions during a recent tour of Crestron’s “Experience Center” and DigitalMedia Lab at its Rockleigh, N.J. headquarters.
Burned by HDMI
Walking through the 4K certification chamber in Creston’s DigitalMedia Technology Manager Justin Kennington pauses to point out a $200,000-plus Christie Digital 4K projector that’s on site for testing.
“At first I think when we announced this program we were met with a little skepticism from other manufacturers,” he acknowledged. “Who do you think you are? What do you mean you’re going to tell us if our stuff works?”
Things quickly changed and manufacturers, such as Christie, began sending products in for testing once “we got a few of them in and started publishing things.”
To understand why Crestron took it upon itself, you have to understand the punches it took during the earlier days of HDMI, back when “HDMI kind of worked,” as Kennington puts it.
In the massive, multi-million-dollar DigitalMedia Lab research and development facility there’s an enormous FCC approved certification product testing RF chamber for blocking out radiation—a step that most manufacturers outsource, but Crestron doesn’t want to derail its testing processes. The ominous chamber which costs “a couple million dollars” provided the backdrop as Kennington explained why Crestron takes 4K testing upon itself.
After about five years of building DigitalMedia HDMI switching and distribution products, “we’re about to hit 3,000,000 IO ports” including fiber, HDBaseT and HDMI, he said.
Creston’s DigitalMedia Technology Manager Justin Kennington talks 4K at 2014 ISE:
“We have a ton of experience and we were the pioneers taking the arrows out there in 2009 when HDMI kind of worked, but a lot of integrators struggled with it. A lot of manufacturers struggled with it and there we were with this expensive box in the middle between the Sonys, LGs and Samsungs of the world.”
The expensive link in the chain tends to take the brunt of the blame when a multi-product solution doesn’t work perfectly—even if the problem is with, for instance, the TV.
“Two things have changed. The industry has gotten a lot better at HDMI,” Kennington said, acknowledging that problems still occur. “But it’s a lot easier than it was five years ago. No. 2, now we’re moving to 4K; things are getting faster again.”
There’s also that matter of 3,000,000 ports.
“If something really goes wrong that’s going to be a huge expense to us, to the industry and we don’t want to have that. So this is what led our thinking to this 4K certification program. What’s happening is if all the gear gets faster again—the sources, the displays – we’re going to as an industry, I’m afraid, digress a little bit back to a world where, well, it doesn’t work as perfectly as it did at 1080p a year ago.
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